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Thursday, 19 March 2020

Review: Spellhacker

Set in Kyrkata, a world where magic is a natural resource that people can tap into and use according to their talents, MK England’s second novel is a fast-paced adventure featuring lots of dangers and high stakes for the characters.

Diz lives on the fringes of society. A poor kid, she is housed with the other thousands of children orphaned by the magical plague that wiped out a chunk of the population a decade earlier. 

Not only did the plague kill people, it somehow slowed the magic flow, ‘maz’, to a mere trickle and turned it into a rare and valued commodity. 

Diz has a unique skillset. She and her friends are a formidable team, who together can break in and siphon the maz from the company that controls and limits its distribution. Diz know her magical skills are not strong, but she is awesome at hacking into security systems.

Although the team’s pilfering is limited to a small quantity, it is enough for the company to notice and go after them. Diz and her friends are forced to go into hiding, and along the way unearth some clues about the truth that the company is keeping from the population abut maz. Secrets that they believe they were close to uncovering when they siphoned off a new type of maz that nobody had seen before – and nearly killed them in the process.

Although this is an adventure story, it is also about trust, self-acceptance and family. 

As an orphan, Diz’s instinct is to push people away when they come too close. Her three friends are on-track to go to a fancy university in another town and leave her behind in Kyrkata – or so she thinks. So she starts to cool on them, even though she loves them all, particularly Remi. Although she would like nothing more than a close relationship with the talented Remi, Diz pushes them away whenever they need her. 

The use of the pronouns ‘them and they’ was deliberate in the previous sentence, as Remi is a non-binary gendered person. This book has the honour of being the first I have read featuring a non-binary character. Although I found those pronouns confusing at first, I ended up feeling that more such characters are needed in fiction and hope that Remi was the first of many.

Overall, a funny, fast-paced read, peppered with action. Despite one twist being predictable, it was an enjoyable novel.

Title: Spellhacker
Author: MK England  
Publisher: HarperCollins, $34.99 
Publication Date: 20 January 2020 
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780062657701
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult Fiction 

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