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Published by HarperTeen on January 21, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: ARC, Physical
From the author of The Disasters, this genre-bending YA fantasy heist story is perfect for fans of Marie Lu and Amie Kaufman.
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.
The author/publisher provided a free copy of the book for review purposes - thank you! Receiving a review copy does not guarantee a positive review and therefore do not affect the opinion or content of the review.
I love heists in books. We’ve got a group of people (each who are talented AF), something goes wrong (oop–) and then they’re scrambling to fix things. Sometimes there’s a character or two (or more) pining for another character and we just want to smush/protect them.
And it’s definitely the case with Spellhacker by M.K. England, which follows Diz and her friends (Ania, Jaesin and Remi) as they take on one last job that ends up backfiring horribly in their faces. It’s never happened in the two years they’ve been running their side business. There’s magic (known as maz) and seriously cool technology involved, and that’s usually a good recipe for me to enjoy the book.
Provided that something explodes, of course, but don’t tell anyone.
Which I did… for the most part. Spellhacker is a bit difficult for me to rate since a couple of issues throughout ruined some of my enjoyment.
Two Things in Spellhacker I have issues with:
(There were more, but they’re minor.)
The magic system
I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if Kal from Reader Voracious never mentioned it, but the moment she asked, I kept noticing… and not just the name. I keep thinking formaz is pronounced like “form ass.” (Maybe that’s just my sense of humor trying to get through the parts of the book I struggled with.)
But what I got really confused about were the differences between techwitch and spellweaver (kind of got an idea, still confused) and just how it worked… which I kept thinking of how dust works in RWBY. It’s most likely a very inaccurate depiction, though.
I noticed this faintly at the beginning few chapters and didn’t let it bother me too much. In fact, it pretty much slipped my mind until Kal brought it up. At times, it did get pretty damn irritating and I just wanted to shove Diz in front of a certain character like the many chances she had throughout the book. And there are a lot of chances.
Two Things I definitely didn’t have an issue in Spellhacker:
Or maybe just minor issues and they turned out to be good things in the end (after I thought about it).
Diz is one of those characters I found absolutely annoying at first but slowly grew on me over the book. She’s bitter and salty and full of sass; she’s pretty much 95% angst teenager who wants things to go her way. She also sucks at communication big time; every time she wants to say something, she chooses not to. Even if she’s called out by her friends, it takes a while before she actually comes out with it.
I hardcore relate. 💯 Mood.
Honestly, if it were just Diz, I likely would’ve DNFed Spellhacker early on. I definitely thought about doing it a few times, but I also enjoyed Ania, Jaesin and Remi’s friendship with Diz enough that I figured it was worth suffering through. That, and their humor plus dramatic flair to their last job that somehow became more complicated than they wanted.
Spellhacker definitely isn’t my favorite novel of 2020. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. There were a few things that I enjoyed, but there were others that made reading this less enjoyable than I hoped. I wouldn’t pick up Spellhacker if you’re looking for a novel that is high-stakes, nonstop heist action. But I would definitely give M.K. England’s latest novel a chance if you enjoy an angsty, quirky main character with friendships and found family.