Monthly Archives: December 2009

Spellwright by Blake Charlton


AuthorBlake Charlton

Pages: 352
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: March 2nd, 2010
ISBN-10: 0765317273
ISBN-13: 978-0765317278

It’s obvious from the very early pages of Spellwright that Blake Charlton is a child of late-eighties and early-nineties Fantasy. It’s full of dastardly villains, righteous youths and hidden destinies. Like contemporaries Brandon Sanderson and Peter V. Brett, Charlton is doing his damnedest to bring back the type of fantasy where the good guys are good, and the bad guys are bad (barring a few genuinely surprising twists in the final pages) and the fate of the world’s at risk of being overrun by demon hordes.

And that’s not where the comparisons to Brett and Sanderson end. Both of those novelists are known for their intricate, imaginative magic systems, which are not only cool spectacles and a catalyst for visceral battle scenes, but also intimately woven into the plot and world of their stories, and Charlton’s work is no different. Spellwriting, which gives the caster the ability to ‘write’ complex magical formulas–much like a computer programming language–and manifest nearly anything they can think of (including cognizant, living spells called constructs and golems), is at the centre of Charlton’s story, with the main hook being that the protagonist, Nicodemus Weal (who was once thought to be a hero from prophecy) is a cacographer, a dyslexic Spellwright who can neither write his own spells nor come in contact with another’s spell without causing disastrous results.
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Spellwright by Blake Charlton (UK Edition)

Well, apparently Blake Charlton’s UK publisher reads my blog. I tore his UK cover apart when it was released a few weeks ago, and just today, a new cover for the novel was released. It’s an improvement, for sure, but still not a cover I could ever fall in love with. For one thing, the art intern is still dressed up in a cloak, and casting some sort of magical ball that never appears in Spellwright, but at least there’s some sort of direction behind the artwork. Having just finished Spellwright, my biggest frustration (besides the poor photo manipulation, typography and general mish-mashed feel) is that the cover just doesn’t represent the novel as accurately as the US cover. But, I guess that’s the difference between commissioning Todd Lockwood art and hiring your art intern as a model.

Peter Watts, Hugo nominated author of Blindsight

If you buy into the Many Worlds Intepretation of quantum physics, there must be a parallel universe in which I crossed the US/Canada border without incident last Tuesday. In some other dimension, I was not waved over by a cluster of border guards who swarmed my car like army ants for no apparent reason; or perhaps they did, and I simply kept my eyes downcast and refrained from asking questions.

Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.

But that is not this universe.

Stay tuned.


I’ve crossed the US/Canada border many times. Sometimes I’ve breezed through, sometimes I’ve been made to feel guilty as fuck despite having done nothing even close to illegal. But, I’ve obviously never faced what Watts is now dealing with. Of course, there are two sides to every story, but give what friends of Peter have said (Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi, for instance), and the exceedingly forceful measures taken with visitors travelling into and out of the United States, I’m inclined to believe Watt’s side of the story. It’s not the first time we’ve heard a story like this.

If you’re so inclined, Boing Boing has all the details on how you might be able to help Peter fight against the (seemingly absurd) charges.

On Tuesday, I had the privalege to help host a chat between Terry Brooks, author of the Shannara series, and over 70 of his fans. It was a good time, and Brooks gave a fair bit of insight into his past as a writer, and what the future holds for him and his books. You might remember that he held a similar chat a few weeks ago with Christopher Paolini, which was overrun by trite questions about Paolini’s favourite snacks, or whether the next book in the Inheritence ‘trilogy’ will have more words than the previous volumes. This time around, Brooks gets hit with more interesting questions. If you’re a fan, it’s certainly worth checking out.

Walking The Tree by Kaaron Warren

Botanica is an island, but almost all of the island is taken up by the Tree.

Little knowing how they came to be here, small communities live around the coast line. The Tree provides them shelter, kindling, medicine – and a place of legends, for there are ghosts within the trees who snatch children and the dying.

Lillah has come of age and is now ready to leave her community and walk the tree for five years, learning all Botanica has to teach her. Before setting off, Lillah is asked by the dying mother of a young boy to take him with her. In a country where a plague killed half the population, Morace will otherwise be killed in case he has the same disease. But can Lillah keep the boy’s secret, or will she have to resort to breaking the oldest taboo on Botanica?

Another astonishingly imaginative novel from the acclaimed author of Slights.

I’d never heard of Walking the Tree (or Kaaron Warren, for that matter), before stumbling across it on the Angry Robot Books website, but damn if that cover didn’t grab my attention right away.

With artwork by Greg Bridges, this cover just bleeds with magical atmosphere. This is a great example of how good art let’s a cover speak for itself. It’s also exactly the type of cover I’d love to have on my novel, Through Bended Grass, if I’m ever lucky enough to see it on bookstore shelves.