Book Review: Open Sorcery
Reviewed by Timothy Thomas
A daring fantasy that holds a provocative mirror up to our increasing dependence on technology
Open Sorcery pulls you in with a compelling premise: a world run by magic. Here, magic is not an exclusive privilege of the wealthy few or those whose genetic heritage enables them to work it. Instead, magic use is as commonplace and acceptable as technology use is in our world, dominating the lives of citizens in the personal, financial, and social realms. Author Rob Sheely takes readers on a journey that mixes fantasy with reality and homeless magical drug addicts.
Harrold and Harrold is one of the last remaining mom-and-pop (or, in this case, brother-and-brother) custom magic houses in Baxter’s Grove. They are holding out against magical monopolies like the Guild of Magic.
While other houses have fallen out of favor with customers and perished, Harrold and Harrold is still alive, but barely making it. That is, until Jack Harrold, son of founder Jonathan Harrold and Acting Sales Agent, strikes a deal that could be praised for its brilliance and ingenuity in every household…or so he thinks.
Tad, a fresh from the Academy apprentice spellbinder (those responsible for making spells functional), is given the Herculean task of fixing Jack’s client’s spell. The clock is ticking, and every day without progress results in increased pressure on Jack to deliver results. Unbeknownst to him or the rest of the house, however, the client is playing a completely different and dangerous game.
From the moment the reader opens this book, they are transported. Though in some senses parallel to our own, the world we are shown in Open Sorcery is very different; yet, Rob Sheely masterfully immerses the reader without making those contrasts the main event. The characters and the setting are built around magic, but the reader is made to feel like a resident, not a visitor.
Even though you know little about this new place, you don’t feel completely out of your depth due to the effortless way in which the world is built, the details sprinkled throughout like seasoning on a bagel: enough to be noticed, but not to overwhelm. Similarly, the character development comes across very naturally, especially in the first half. Although the story is told through multiple characters’ perspectives, frequently switching between them, I was not often left in want of more depth to the character. It seemed I perfectly understood them, their motivations, and their personalities.
The pace skips by rather quickly in the second half of the book, speeding toward a hasty climax. Along the way, it sacrifices the detail of the first half. Dialogue begins to feel somewhat choppy, less natural, and descriptions seem wanting. What begins as a story about one magic house fighting to keep itself alive balloons rather quickly into saving the world from the bad guys, and in the end, I’m left craving more of the initial small scale story.
Overall, Open Sorcery is a good read. Its intriguing premise alone warrants a look, but its captivatingly detailed world is what will keep you reading. Even with the changes in the second half, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and firmly believe Baxter’s Grove is worthy of multiple revisits.
Print Length: 371 pages
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