Sufficiently Advanced Magic (Arcane Ascension #1) by Andrew Rowe #SPFBO


sufficiently advancedSufficiently Advanced Magic is the fourth book I read from the nine finalists of the #SPFBO.  I enjoyed this, with a few reservations, and would definitely be interested in reading more in the Arcane Ascension series.

The book gets off to a good start opening as Corin Cadence is about to enter the Serpent Spire for his attunement trial.  Corin has been anxiously awaiting his trial.  Five years ago his brother entered the tower and never came out again.  Corin wants to find out why.

Survivors of the trials, and yes, they are the real deal with some of the participants meeting an unfortunate end, receive an attunement mark that basically bestows magical powers on the bearer of the mark.    Corin is hoping to reach the top of the tower to earn a boon from the goddess and find out what happened to his brother.  The tower itself is like a labyrinth of puzzles and traps.  Things shift unaccountably, walkways trigger deathly contraptions and taking the easy route is not really a good idea.

Now, it’s not spoilery to say that Corin survives the trials (otherwise this would be a fairly short story).  He receives an attunement although it’s not the one his ambitious family were hoping for.  This is a family that’s all about power and they were hoping that Corin would receive a mark befitting their status.  His survival of the tower is barely given a second thought when he returns home with an inadequate mark and one that means he will spend his life as an Enchanter.  I have to say for the record that coming up with creative ways of making simple things into weapons or protective items appeals to me much more than rushing headlong into battle and I found Corin’s attunement fascinating.

From here Corin goes to school.  Yes, this does seem a very well used trope but it’s a good one and no exception here.  I like magic schools and this one has plenty to keep the reader entertained.  On top of Corin’s learning, trying to improve his magical ability and gain friends there’s also an underlying story involving a message that Corin was given whilst in the tower.  I won’t elaborate further but not everything is as it first appears.

So, to the goodies first.

Magical schooling.  It’s a well used trope because it’s well loved.  I always enjoy this sort of setting and SAM is no exception.  Don’t be fooled into thinking this is aimed at a younger audience due to the school setting though because I don’t think that’s the case.

The writing is good, the dialogue is entertaining, the magical system has been thoroughly thought out.  Corin is a great character who you can’t help but like.  He’s not the usual ‘chosen one’ – something I breathed a real sigh of relief about.  He’s bookish and a bit awkward and he has some little quirks or oddities that just endear him to you.  Plus, he makes mistakes.  Who doesn’t make mistakes?  This makes him a lot more relatable and that plus his desire to improve just came across very strongly.  Put simply, he isn’t the best, he knows it, but he’s willing to do everything he can to improve.

There is no shortage of action whether it’s in the school or outside, there are plenty of fight scenes and a whole bunch of different critters and monsters are thrown into the mix which make for great entertainment.

I really enjoyed watching Corin’s struggles to make friends. He’s been out of the school scene since his brother’s disappearance.  His parents took him out of school to tutor him privately and make sure he was at his best before entering the tower.  Corin’s father is greatly disappointed in Corin.  His first son carried all his hopes and aspirations and Corin is a weaker and more bookish version who can just about avoid stabbing himself when armed with a sword.  Well, actually, that’s not entirely true.  Corin is, in fairness, quite adept at looking after himself but his father will never acknowledge it.

In terms of my niggles.

It feels a little like a book of two halves.  The first half loses a lot of pace due to all the explanation about the magic involved.  It feels like there’s a lot of information to relay and it becomes a bit much and also a little repetitive in parts.  It definitely slowed the read down quite a bit for me and although the second half picks up momentum it took a while to get to that point where I couldn’t put the book down.

The idea of Corin being on a quest to find his brother lost some of its urgency.  In fact I didn’t really buy into the quest to be honest.  It got lost in the background a little bit when Corin went to school and I never really felt any emotion from Corin in terms of his brother.

There was an element of predictability about some of the final twists.  This was due to the actions of some of the characters that just didn’t sit right for me when I read them.  This wasn’t a massive concern but there were just a couple of times when it brought me up short but obviously I’m not going to elaborate as that will lead to spoilers.

Overall, this is a very good read.  I thought the ending was excellent and a great set up for the next instalment.  It suffered a little in terms of predictability and pacing but it makes a very good start to series.

I’ve rated this a 7, which equates to 3.5 on Goodreads.

My thanks to the author for a copy of the book.  The above is my own opinion.