✨Genre: Fantasy and sci-fi
✨Age Range: Young adult
✨Publication Date: 21st January, 2020
✨Publisher: Harper Teen (US)
✨Format I Read: Kindle e-book
✨Content Warning: Death, chronic illness, panic attacks
In Kyrkarta, magic — known as maz — was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled — and, of course, outrageously expensive.
Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.
But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague — and possibly save the world.
Characters and Representation in Spellhacker
Diz is the kind of heroine that takes some time to get used to. She is a flawed person who runs away from her emotions and makes a lot of poor decisions. I think her narrative point of view gets in the way of the story at times. The other three main characters are well developed, my favourite being Remi.
The found family trope is executed really well in this book. The crew has each other’s backs even when they have disagreements. There is a healthy sprinkling of angst and tension in the relationships between each of the members – both romantic and platonic.
The representation in this book is unapologetically queer and wholesome. There is also a prominent non-binary character and several queer characters. The chronic illness rep is thoughtful and done well. There are also many persons of colour but their identity is not central to the plot. However, I’m not #OwnVoices for the queer, non-binary or chronic illness representation, so please take this with a grain of salt.
Plot and World-Building in Spellhacker
The plot is my least favourite element of the book. It starts off strong but not enough happens to keep you on the edge of your seat. The stakes are quite high but the important scenes are rushed and do not create the impact they are meant to. The ending doesn’t give complete satisfaction either and the way it wraps up seems too convenient.
On the other hand, the world-building is the strongest aspect and it is apparent the author has put a lot of care into developing it. The blend of technology and magic is seamless, creating a vividly realistic world filled with fantasy and sci-fi elements. The magic system is simple yet unique and is explained very clearly with a reference page that makes things easier for the reader.
Additional bits that stood out to me are the use of psuedo codes that are accessible to the layman, the intuitive naming of the elements of the magic system and the construction of the capitalist society. The history of the world leading up to its current state is also well laid-out for the reader. Overall, I’m impressed with the world-building but the plot could have been constructed better.
Writing Style and Themes in Spellhacker
I haven’t read The Disasters but going by the synopsis, I expected a fun and fast-paced kind of narrative, which is exactly how the writing is. There are some lighter moments and banter sprinkled in amidst the doom and gloom, which is a relief from the high-stakes plot. While I think the author got the tone right, I wish there had been perspectives from the other main characters as well.
The main theme the plot explores is the greed of big corporations that have a monopoly over the market. In the book, MMC not only controls the supply of maz but affects several aspects of everyday life. The power structure and imbalance is incorporated into the story in a way that adds layers of complexity to the plot. With the character of Diz, the author discusses mental health and abandonment issues, which I have mixed feelings about. I will not comment on the representation as I’m not an expert, but some of the things Diz gets up to rubbed me the wrong way.
To sum up, the writing style is a good fit for the story and explores important themes with nuance. There is a lot of depth and complexity in the way it sheds a light on topics like morality, greed and family.
If you liked The Disasters, I think this book will also be an enjoyable read for you. If you are excited by the idea of fantasy and sci-fi elements blended together with an anti-rich agenda, this story will appeal to you. After talking to a few of my book blogger friends who also received ARCs, I found that the narrative voice didn’t appeal to many. If you are feeling similarly after you’ve read a significant part of the book, I would suggest you DNF it.
✨Related Post: Top 10 Exciting YA SFF Releases of January 2020
Spellhacker Blog Tour Information
Blog tour organised by Your Tita Kate
|Nandini @ Novels and Nebulas||21-Jan-20|
|Charvi @ Not Just Fiction||21-Jan-20|
|Krisha @ Bookathon||22-Jan-20|
|Lauren @ Love Yo Shelf||23-Jan-20|
|AJ @ For the Love of Diversity in Books||24-Jan-20|
|Zia @ Accio! Blog||25-Jan-20|
|Myta @ Oro Plata Myta||26-Jan-20|
|Simant @ Flipping Through the Pages||27-Jan-20|
|Isabella @ Lives in YA Books||27-Jan-20|
International Pre-Order Campaign
Are you a reader outside of the US? Can’t wait to get your hands on a shiny new copy of Spellhacker? How about some additional swag just for you? If you submit your order receipt before 27th January, 2020, you are eligible for the exclusive international pre-order campaign run by the author! Find more details here.
About the Author
M. K. England is an author and YA librarian who grew up on the Space Coast of Florida and now calls rural Virginia home. When they’re not writing or librarianing, MK can be found drowning in fandom, rolling dice at the gaming table, digging in the garden, or feeding their video game addiction. They love Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in their presence. You’ll regret it.
M. K. is the author of THE DISASTERS (2018) and SPELLHACKER (2020), both from Harper Teen. Follow them at www.mkengland.com.
Is this book on your TBR? What are your thoughts on it? Have you read any sci-fi and fantasy mashup stories lately that you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments section down below. Hope you are having a magical week, readers from Earth!