title: The Wizard's Promise
author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
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rating: 3.5/5 [in the genre] or 6/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
recommended for: Fans of Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones, Sarah J. Maas, and whimsical, adventurous fantasy.
will i read this author again?: Everything she writes.
will i continue the series?: Definitely, though I may not be first in line.
My Ratings Explained
As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.
take home message
A whimsical tale of sorcery and adventure on the high seas, with good doses of whimsy and danger and enviable worldbuilding.
the basicsI'll warn you: anything I say here is a comparison to The Assassin's Curse, one of my favorite fantasy books of the last decade. So I might be a little harsh on its descendant because I love Ananna's story so much. That said, Hanna's story is an exciting, whimsical adventure that starts slow but takes a turn for the spectacular. Do you like kickass heroines who don't let pretty boys distract them from the mission (even if they feel a little gushy inside)? Do you like magical storms and creepy underworld inhabitants with evil designs? Do you like complex worlds with well-developed lore and customs? Look no further! I warmed up slowly to this book, but it's spunky heroine quickly won my heart. There's a little bit too much fishing in the middle, I'll admit, and a few too many magical storms. I also wanted to punch Hanna's mentor for being vague the whole time. That said, Clarke has a flair for atmosphere I haven't seen since Diana Wynne Jones. She manages to combine wit and whimsy with darkness and real danger, creating something that's probably a little younger than most young adult (god forbid we don't write about 18-year-olds) but just as satisfying. It's the kind of book you can read in a night--and then you'll be up trying to cast your own wind magic.
plot . 4/5I had a slow start with this one. There's a storm, Hanna's mentor Kolur mysteriously takes them on an "errand" to the fair north, a witch is acquired, a strange sea-boy warns of danger. All the makings for a strong start, but for some reason I felt impatient. Perhaps because it took so long for Hanna to find out what was going on. Kolur and Frida the witch won't answer any of her questions. Isolf the sea-boy warns danger and introduces her to the story of the evil Lord Foxfollow, a powerful sorcerer from the otherworld (the Mists), but we don't get a clear sense of the stakes for a long time. I also found Kolur's reason for going urgently on his errand a little thin. And there was a lot of fishing. The book picked up for me when Hanna became more active in her own fate, finding a place of her own and fighting her own battles. By the end, I was caught up in an intrigue of sea battles, wind magic, and horrible beasties from the Mist. It just took a beat to get there. There's also a light sprinkling of romance, but not a shred of instalove. My favorite!
concept . 5/5Clarke has a talent for creating brilliantly complex, layered worlds without a shred of infodumping. Everything is introduced organically, from the nature-based magic system (which I find incredibly cool) to the fay-like Mists and ancient village customs. Hanna's world feels authentic from the start. Slang is woven in carefully. Some customs are just assumed, and you grow to understand them as you read on. The fear of the Mists and its dangerous inhabitants is introduced from the very start; by the time you know the game, you already know that you should be dead scared of anything with flat gray eyes. There isn't a lot of moralizing or morals. This is pure fun, protect-the-homeland, find-your-way-in-the-world fantasy.
characters . 4/5I warmed to Hanna more slowly than I had to her namesake. She's kind of annoying. Part of it is an artifice of the plot, since no one will answer her questions and so she's forced to ask them again, and again. When she finally stopped asking and took matters into her own hands, I came to respect and care for her more. She's obviously compassionate and strong, with a ferocity that's not easily broken. Kolur was iffy for me. His character is revealed in steps, secrets unfolded, and I never got a clear concept of his motivations. He talked of them a little; I just didn't buy it. I didn't understand the need for all the mystery. I'm still unclear on Frida and exactly why she's involved. I also think that Isolfr's reason for approaching Hanna and not her friends is a bit too convenient. On the other hand, I love Isolfr for his sweetness and shyness. No bad boy love interest here. He's got his flaws and he's obviously a bit of a coward--which Hanna doesn't hesitate to call him on. I hope in book two, we'll get a better sense of the side characters, now that Hanna has come into her own.
style . 5/5Clarke's style won me over from the first page of hers I read. More adult works (i.e. The Mad Scientist's Daughter) showcase her poetry and her versatility. Her young adult fantasy showcases her whimsy and wit. She reminds me very much of Diana, with a quiet dryness that runs through the narrative. She doesn't take herself too seriously. She's not afraid to be funny and silly. She also has a flair for drama and a great handle on dialogue. Her writing just feels magical. She also knows how to raise the stakes when she needs to, with punchy action scenes and some pretty horrific descriptions. In a good way.
mechanics . 5/5No complaints here, except for maybe pacing. The reader is left in the dark a little too much in the beginning, which frustrated the hell out of me.
Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.