Wednesday, October 8, 2014

REVIEW: The Magic Teacher's Son (Magician's Gold, #1) / David Harten Watson

TITLE: The Magic Teacher's Son (Book 1 of the Magician's Gold series)
AUTHOR: David Harten Watson
AVAILABILITY: Amazon (Kindle e-book), Amazon (paperback)

Fantasy - High Fantasy/Young Adult/Children's

This book walks the line between YA and Children's. On the one hand, the protagonist is sixteen and deals with a lot of the firsts that mark YA literature. On the other hand, the tone is very innocent for the most part, as innocent as early Harry Potter books. There are a handful of sex jokes cracked between teen boys, but they are very mild and would easily go over a child's head. Therefore, I'm comfortable saying that this book is appropriate for young readers.

In the kingdom of Eldor, which resembles 1800s America, magic is commonplace. Magicians draw their power from silver and gold, with gold being used for more powerful magic. But as soon as they use the metal for a spell, it turns to lead. So in this world, gold is currency not just because it's a medium for payment, but because it's very useful. The wealthy can cast spells for the most trivial of matters, such as shrinking clothes to fit, while the poor must conserve their gold for emergencies, like healing wounds. Of course, gold is a lot common in this world than on Earth, which to them is as legendary as El Dorado. Speaking of which, that's the name of Eldor's capital - Eldorado.

Pran Gilamond is the 16-year-old son of the local magic teacher, who runs a one-room school for students ranging from Novices to Enchanters (who are the teacher's apprentices). Pran himself is a fourth-year student, a Conjurer, and dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magician someday. But he can't resist the temptation to check out Sorcery - black magic - and sneaks out one night to observe those among his classmates who secretly practice the illicit art, which draws power from bones.

Meanwhile, Eldor is deeply engaged in war against Marakna. And while Sorcery is illegal in Eldor, which only harnesses the white magic of the Magicians, the Maraknese have no such qualms. When Pran hears a prophecy saying that soon the gold will disappear from Eldor, leaving the kingdom with no magic to defend itself from its enemies, he fears the worst will come to pass. But there is hope - the prophecy also states that he will go to the mythical land of Earth and bring back gold to replenish his kingdom's stores. And so he sets out to find the three companions foretold to accompany him on this grand adventure.

This is honestly one of the best fantasy books for young readers I've read in a long time. Magic and mayhem radiate from every page – I was hooked from the very first. Now, I have a few confessions. First, I know Dave in real life - he's the founder and leader of a local writer's group I attend. Second, I was very skeptical when I agreed to read and blurb his book. It had recently been acquired by Pen-L but hadn't gone through editing yet, and I've waded through enough unedited manuscripts that have good ideas but bad execution to think this might be another.

Not so at all.

Pardon my French, but literally the first thing that went through my head when I started reading this book was "Damn, this is good s***!" I'm not kidding. I was incredibly impressed by Watson's world-building skills and narrative flow. The pacing manages to be fast and slow at once - he leaves enough hooks to make you want to keep reading, but also takes time to explore his world. In that sense, his book reminds me of the early Harry Potter books (although NOT because of the magic school aspect - plot-wise and idea-wise, the two books are nothing alike. I only draw comparison to the tone and feel. Contrary to popular belief, Ms. Rowling was not the first writer to invent a magic school! Ursula K. Le Guin did it in the 1970s... okay, back to the review).

Watson writes with an endearing style, allowing his descriptions to flow and his characters to speak for themselves. There's a charming innocence to The Magic Teacher's Son, which is a welcome relief from all the angst and anger of most young adult literature (and I know I'm guilty of adding to that tradition!). Which is why I think younger readers - children in elementary and middle school - will enjoy it immensely. Despite the looming danger, there's a certain joy that permeates every page, a delightful elan that makes this a lighthearted, fun read.

The Magic Teacher's Son has a colorful cast of characters, from Pran and all his quirks - from worrying too much to blurting out embarrassing things before a pretty girl - to the aforementioned pretty girl, Vitina, who is also a skilled Enchantress despite the common belief in Eldor that girls cannot do magic. And then there's Jelal, a mostly chipper yet emotionally unstable 12-year-old boy Pran befriends who turns out to be far more than he appears.

Suffice it to say, I enjoyed this book enough to read it twice: first the unedited version for a quick blurb, and then the pre-release ARC for this full-length review. And both times, I found it utterly addictive. Couldn't stop reading. You would've had to pry my Kindle out of my cold, dead hands. It was just so... fun. And the world-building is incredibly rich, so reading this book is like stepping into a portal to another world.

I would keep gushing over all the little bits and pieces I loved, but I'm afraid this review is already too long and you're probably rolling your eyes at my fangirling. Now, I only have one complaint: Where's the rest of it? The Magic Teacher's Son ends on a cliffhanger, leaving much room for the rest of the series to develop.

So come on, Dave, finish Book 2! Your fans are waiting...

David Watson has worked in a wide variety of jobs including U.S. Army Armor officer (tank platoon leader at Fort Knox), camp counselor, teacher, tax preparer, car salesman, traveling photographer, track photographer, solar energy entrepreneur, and computer programmer. Raised in Buffalo, New York, he lives in New Jersey now with his wife, two sons, and two cats. He's the Organizer of the Woodbridge Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Meetup, which he founded in 2008. David is currently an information systems analyst at NJIT in Newark, NJ. In his free time, he's an actor in a micro-budget horror movie being filmed in New Jersey, playing the role of a police detective.

1 comment:

  1. Mary, you may not have seen yet my guest post on Tina Closser's blog. I hope you'll give it a shout-out on twitter, and maybe on facebook.

    As I told you at Shore Leave, I'd be delighted to get a ARC of Tell Me My Name. As I told you I generally don't write reviews of fiction books, but I'll be very happy to make an exception here and make the effort to write a non-spoiler review.

    What's the situation now with your email? If there's any way to communicate with you (for someone without a twitter or facebook account), other than by posting comments on this blog, please let me know.