Spell Starter was one of my most highly anticipated sequels of 2020. Magical fighting rings, environmental destruction, and more? Caster is such a fabulous book full of quests for family and compromise. And so maybe my disappointment is partly my own fault for expectations? In general, I was just a bit disappointed by the lack of depth of some of the events. It has all these elements I loved, I just wanted a bit more of in the end. Keep reading this book review to find out my whole feelings.
Yes, Aza Wu now has magic back. But like all things in her life, it has come at a great cost. After the tournament, Aza is able to pay off her parents’ debt to Saint Willow. Unfortunately, the cost of the gathering spell she used to strip Finch of his magic has put her permanently in the employ of the gang leader. Aza has been doing little errands using real magic — collecting debts, putting the squeeze on new businesses in the district. But that had never been the plan. Saint Willow is nothing if not ambitious and having Aza as a fighter is much more lucrative than as a fixer. Especially if she can control the outcome. Aza is going to have to put it all on the line again to get out of this situation!
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
If you loved Caster, you can expect much of the same themes: family, environmental destruction, and ethics. Aza is faced with even more choices that have disastrous consequences. Now that she knows more than ever before, the true weight of her decisions and costs make themselves clear to her. Spell Starter is a story about choice. There are so many times we feel like we had no choice, where we are backed up against a wall, and we’ve got to ask ourselves, do we truly have no other choice? Do we just want the illusion of control?
My heart hurt for Aza in this book. Not only is there a constant sense of danger and manipulation, but also betrayal. There’s differences of power and skills versus a desire for spectacle and exploitation. Aza is haunted by a trail of bodies and hurts in her wake of harm and injuries she didn’t mean to cause.
Yet, I felt like Spell Starter has these kernels I wanted more from throughout the story. The environmental destruction of magic is a huge theme I was expecting more of due to its truly disastrous consequences. And while it was certainly touched upon, I just was craving a bit more depth and introspection about the future of the city. There were also some plot elements I felt like were wrapped up quite suddenly without a lot of space for reflection or introspection. In general, I felt like the whole thing could have used a bit more space to grow and expand. I don’t want to name other elements because I don’t want to spoil you!
If you loved that high paced action and thrill of the magic fighting, then you will definitely enjoy the adventure in Spell Starter. All in all, it’s not a terrible book or sequel, it’s just one that I feel could have used more depth. I do also feel like maybe I set myself up with such high hopes and expectations. Maybe also with my geeking out over the themes of the environment and our actions. (If you want a book that discusses that, check out Want!)