Wednesday, April 18, 2018

REVIEW: The Boy Who Went Magic

Originally published last year in the United Kingdom, The Boy Who Went Magic by A. P. Winter is a middle-grade fantasy adventure that follows the adventures of a young orphan boy named Bert who gets caught up in a plot involving an evil prince, a sky pirate with metal limbs, and a whole lot of magic. Check out my review after the jump.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of The Serpent's Secret courtesy of Scholastic.
Opinions are my own.

Bert is a young boy who's lived in an orphanage longer than he can remember, with no friends and the most ordinary life. He's told that magic is just a myth. But then a chain of strange and inexplicable mishaps causes Bert's life to spiral out of control -- only to be rescued by Finch, a plucky girl-adventurer with metal legs. Soon the two are sailing across a sea of clouds with the mysterious Professor, pursued by a royal prince who's desperate to get his hands on Bert at any cost. For magic is all too real and even more powerful than imagined -- and Bert just might hold the key to bringing it back to the world...

I went into this expecting something along the lines of Harry Potter. What I got was, surprisingly more of a Fullmetal Alchemist vibe, which may just be because the anime is on my brain since I just watched it last month. But the anime vibes don’t stop at metal legs. The way the magic and spirits work, not to mention the way the world is described, pull you into a sorta historical fantasy that is very reminiscent of the stories of Amestris and Ishval from Fullmetal Alchemist. The world feels very steampunk, evocative of the 1800s but in a post-magic world where the main form of transportation is airships that look like normal 17th century ships but suspended in the air by blimps - the one on the cover looks just like the ones in Final Fantasy 6, so there’s your other Japanese pop culture vibe.

The book does a great job with its characters. Despite the epic fantasy story, we only have a half-dozen or so major characters at play. My favorite is Norton, Bert’s only friend from school who seems rather bored with the adventure and just along for the ride. The main villain, Prince Voss, is a young man tortured by his own ambition for power. For some reason I was picturing Prince Lotor from Voltron - I don’t know why I got so many anime vibes from this book. We spend a lot of time developing the characters and their relationships. A big part of this is in due to the fact that, for an adventure story, we only have a handful of locations. Instead of jumping from one crazy episode to the next, we’re given moments to breathe and get to know our adventurers.

The worldbuilding was an interesting part of the book and, at first, I didn’t know what to make of it. We open on a school field trip to a museum, which feels like it should be a fairly normal, modern setting. But then we start hearing about magical wars in made-up countries, royal families signing away their power, and apparently, sword fighting is a big part of the school curriculum. Constantly being told that magic was a myth while we were being introduced to a fairly magical world took a while to get used to. Once I started imagining this as an anime it started to click in my head.

The Boy Who Went Magic is a lot of fun and a really interesting take on magic - I’m actually upset we didn’t get to see more mages so we could’ve explored all of the different kinds that are mentioned. In the end, however, we got a more intimate story with a small cast of characters in a small world with a lot of heart and adventure.

Order your copy of The Boy Who Went Magic today by clicking here.