Author: Kelly Haworth
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 4 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Scott Kensington lives happily without magic; prayer is all he needs to worship the gods. Then he starts his studies at the University of Frannesburg, and not only is he suddenly surrounded by eccentrics—those gifted with magic—but his own latent ability begins to surface, with consequences that could tear his soul and family apart.
Review: Scott Kensington and Nick Barnes are college freshmen. Everything is new and different. That’s all supposed to be a good thing, but sometimes new and different is just overwhelming. Scott and Nick were just striking up what could be more than friendship when Scott suddenly develops telepathy. Things don’t really play out well for Scott on the family front as a result of his telepathy. Life isn’t necessarily all a bowl of cherries for Nick, either. Nick is pouring all his grief and feelings of loss into an obsessive need to collect figurines from comic books. The comics are founded on religious stories Scott knows. The two young men have a reason to be around each other, that they have someone who is helping them make sense of changes in their life is a bonus.
This book felt more YA than I usually prefer, but I still enjoyed the read. Growing up sucks. Frequently our first experiences with adulthood highlight our powerlessness in the world. Scott can’t help his family. He’s stuck hours away getting texts about everything falling apart. Nick lost his mother at an early age. These aren’t things college freshmen can resolve. Learning that life is about managing awful outcomes is a big disappointment. And you have to manage that, too.
I like the world building here. It’s still familiar but is clearly not the world we live in. Also, this is a good job of world building that doesn’t bog down the story. The empire seems… kindly enough. I liked the level of detail in the pantheon. I also really liked tying in the ways in which the empire uses religion to its own end. Nick isn’t religious, so the empire doesn’t have a sway over his heart and mind that way, but they manipulate the comics ever so subtly. Okay, it’s not so subtle the guys don’t notice it, but the empire has its fingers in every aspect of its citizens lives.
There is both a sweetness and a poignancy to this book. A little predictability, too. It’s a good mix of world building, the characters using their powers, character growth, and relationship development. Even though these guys felt younger than I usually like to read, I’ll happily read another book from this series.