By: Derrick Smythe
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Derrick Smythe
CONTENT WARNING: Slavery
If this is Derrick Smythe’s debut novel, I am very much looking forward to what he has in store for the rest of this series. Mr. Smyth’s novel is more than impressive in prose, character development, world building, magic systems and an overall captivating story. If you are a fan of the character development of Joe Abercrombie, unique magic systems of Robin Hobb, and storytelling like Patrick Rothfuss, you will truly enjoy The Other Magic.
The Other Magic is a beautifully told story that centers around a young slave named Kibure in the land of Dorea. He is young, kind and gentle, but ignorant to any knowledge outside that of being a slave. Kibure harbors strong magic he neither understands or knows how to wield, but he is a target for capture because of his power. The story is told from the perspective of quite a few characters; Kibure, Grobennar, Aynward, and Sindri. Grobennar is a high priest of the god Kleros, and serves the God-king, Magog, and wields powerful magic. Aynward is the son of King of Dowe, and is heading for study at a university in the City of Brinkwell. Sindri is a disgraced priestess of Kleros who wields powerful magic, and she “rescues” Kibure wanting to “study” his power. The storylines of Kibure, Grobennar, and Sindri intersect. It is Aynward that the reader wonders about and how he fits in. It all beautifully comes together through the character development, action sequences and the backdrop of an amazing story. Some of these characters are outright bad, others are morally ambiguous, and others are good and kind. The details of character development in The Other Magic are as good as it gets. As I was reading and these characters were evolving, I was constantly comparing them to The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. They are that complex and so well done. As the characters all wind up in Brinkwell, Mr. Smythe leads the reader to putting together a puzzle. As each character’s point of view is revealed, so is their relationship to each other. The pieces come together in exciting action scenes and magical battles. The Other Magic is an amazingly strong debut novel and I highly recommend it.
The character development in this novel is among the best I have read. The intricacies of one are fully realized as the story unfolds. Kibure, one of our main protagonists is a slave. He unknowingly harbors very powerful magic, powerful enough that the God-king sends Grobennar to capture him. The reader can’t help but feel protective of Kibure as he lives a life of fear and hopelessness as a slave. He is ignorant of what he can do, does know how to use this magic, and he is very naïve. Having grown up a slave, Kibure knows no other life, which makes him an easy target to be taken advantage of, but naturally untrusting of others. His use of his power is beautiful and detailed;
“He felt himself straighten completely. Then he opened his slowly, resigned to allow his emotions to take control. His mind pulled away. He did not try to stop it. His body went numb, replaced by a deeper, nearly overwhelming sensation, as if he were suddenly connected to every particle of orange soil beneath his bare feet…I’m going to do something very bad…what do I care? I have nothing to lose…Kibure’s body quickly closed the gap between him and his master. Time seemed to bend as he moved, the seconds becoming hours, nothing going unnoticed…But as his closed fingers approached Zagreb’s body, a surge of-something-pure energy? – shot out of that very same fist…” Derrick Smythe, The Other Magic
Thus begins Kibure’s adventures, for lack of a better term. After this encounter with his slave master, he is marked for having dark magic. Enter Sindri, who tries to cast his magic from him, only to fail. Sindri knows she has found someone special, and plots to keep Zibure so she can study him. She is a character that wavers for the reader as her motives and some things she does make the reader question her morals. These are among my favorite characters. I always have a love/hate relationship with them, and I very much enjoy their story arcs. As a disgraced priest, through a series of events, she and Kibure find themselves on the run, barely one step ahead of Grobennar.
Grobennar is just plain bad. Nothing to hide-he knows it and revels in it. Once the favorite of the God-king, he is sent to find Kibure as the God-king fears his power. Grobennar is cruel, ambitious, and will do just about anything to once again be the best graces of Magog. What one feels for Kibure, you feel the exact opposite for Grobennar. It is the mark of excellent writing when it elicits such a strong response from the reader.
One of the main characters that was very interesting was Aynward. He is not a very likable character at times. Aynward is spoiled, arrogant, rash, and gets into quite a bit of trouble. He’s not an evil character, but as a parent, I felt at times he deserved what he got. I kept thinking, well if he was my child, he would be punished for a year. At least. Aynward feels that as a prince, he is entitled to certain treatment, and is dumfounded when many people don’t treat him as he feels he should. It is this arrogance and single-minded focus to “get even” with those he thinks slighted him that gets him into trouble. The reader will come to find how Aynward and his friend fit it to this story. Suffice to say, he is another brilliantly written character.
“A small part of Aynward knew that what Dolme said was true, and shame trickled in. Not liking the way that felt, he clenched his fists and fought against it…Aynward didn’t like to let such things fester, but he could not let go of this offense. He would not forget it. He continued to dream of revenge until sleep overtook him…” Derrick Smyth, The Other Magic
The magic system in this book was very well imagined. There are different sects that worship different gods. The main and seemingly most powerful are those that worship Kleros, get their magic from Kleros and work for the God-king, Magog. There are others that use atere magic, magic that exists everywhere, from the energy of all things. There is a price for using both. The more magic that is used, it taps into bone mass. Using too much can literally break the body. I love magic systems that have consequences and the wielder can just cast it about endlessly. Here, the toll it takes on the body is to decrease bone mass. Eventually, the priest or atere user must stop and regain strength. And here I thought if I didn’t drink enough milk, I’d get osteoporosis. This takes drawing strength from bones to a whole new level. Even the most powerful wielders are in danger when using too much magic.
The story takes place mostly in the city of Brinkwell, as all of the cast of characters converge there eventually. It is a vividly portrayed city of both wealth and poverty. The voyage that takes Kibure and Sindri there is an excellent sequence of events, but telling too much will be spoilers. It is the same Aynward as his travels are quite interesting as well.
The pacing and prose are excellent. As mentioned, the character development is first-rate. Each character’s description is detailed with unique personalities. This goes beyond the four main protagonists, extending to the side and minor characters. We really know these characters and feel differently for each. Some elicit strong emotions from the reader. I know when I care about the characters and what happens to them, then I am reading a great piece of literature. The prose is beautifully written, both characters and the worlds they live in.
“Kibure sat and enjoyed the glimmering stream as one of the moons reflected off the water. It looked almost as clear in the water as it would have appeared if he were staring right at it. He considered the value of such properties and moved towards the water in the hope of catching a glimpse of his own reflection, something he had rarely seen” Derrick Smythe, The Other Magic
Each chapter is told from the point of view of Kibure, Grobennar, Aynward, or Sindri. It is never confusing and flows seamlessly throughout the book. The pacing was spot on as character development was evenly mingled with action. There were magical battles, chases, and adventures on the water. There were many twists and turns in the story that the reader never sees coming.
As a debut epic fantasy, The Other Magic by Derrick Smythe, is more than an impressive addition to the genre. All the fantasy elements are in place. The character development is among the best I’ve read in fantasy. Each character, and not just the main protagonists, are richly developed with growth and complete character arcs. They run the gamut of characteristics, from outright evil, to kind, morally ambiguous, and spoiled. Each elicits a different response from the reader. The magic system is unique and well done. Wielding too much magic pulls strength from the bones, making the user vulnerable to literally falling apart. The prose is beautiful and paints vivid descriptions of what the characters encounter. The chapters are told from multiple points of view, but weave together the wonderful fantasy of a young slave, Kibure, who unknowingly can wield power that has made him a target of the most powerful men in the land of Dorea.. The Other Magic was a great read from start to finish and I highly recommend it.
Summary (from Storytellers on Tour)
The men secured the shackles slowly, hesitantly, but Kibure did not resist; he couldn’t. Whatever otherworldly power had come over him in those moments of passion had fled his body the second he realized what he had done…
In a realm where only clerics are permitted to practice magic, Kibure’s inexplicable use of power places him in grave danger. In a twist of fate, the rogue priestess hired to strip him of his power chooses instead to help him escape. Her reasons for doing so are her own, but something worse than death awaits if they are unable to evade the Empire’s most potent wielders.
Find out more about Derrick Smythe on his website at https://derricksmythe.com/
My sincere thanks to Mr. Smythe for a copy of The Other Magic, a map of Dorea, a poster of the cover, To Earn the Sash novella, and a signed bookmark.
My sincere thanks to Storytellers on Tour for an eBook of The Other Magic
Purchase The Other Magic on Amazon