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Spellwright    by Blake Charlton order for
by Blake Charlton
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2010 (2010)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Blake Charlton, who overcame childhood dyslexia and now attends Stanford University School of Medicine, injects a kind of magical dyslexia into his new fantasy series. It begins with Spellwright, whose action occurs mainly in Starhaven Academy, which is hosting a Convocation of wizards. In this world spellwrights forge runes in different magical languages from their own bodies, and release them to work magic, often in animated forms like gargoyles.

The action starts with the first lines: 'The grammarian was choking to death on her own words.' A golem - whose creator triumphantly announces that he possesses 'the emerald and so Language Prime' - kills a prominent Starhaven spellwright after torturing her for the identity of one of the academy's cacographers (students who misspell what they touch, creating dangerous errors in their magic).

The story's hero is Nicodemus Weal, a young cacographer of mysterious origins apprenticed to blind Magister Agwu Shannon, and (before his disability developed) believed to be the Halcyon, prophesied to save the world from a 'final struggle between demons and humanity', the War of Disjunction. Nicodemus encounters Deirdre, an emissary from the druids and the avatar of a goddess. She warns Nicodemus that he's in great danger and offers to take him to her goddess's ark in the hope of lifting his curse.

Sentinel Amadi, once Shannon's student, leads the investigation into the first murder - and others that follow - and suspects both Shannon's and Nicodemus' involvement. Shannon works desperately and secretly to save his student, from political perils as well as the murderer. There are attacks and rescues, betrayals and escapes. Nicodemus discovers his connection to the potent emerald held by the golem's creator, and learns Language Prime.

As this episode ends, Nicodemus, a dying Shannon, and debilitated river goddess Boann flee to a private haven in Heaven Tree Valley, where Nicodemus trains in warplay with kobolds and they prepare for a new quest. Spellwright is a powerful beginning to an imaginative new fantasy series.

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