The Next Chapter In The Critically Acclaimed Spellslinger Series!

Life as an outlaw is about to get a lot tougher…

Kellen, Reichis and Ferius are on their way to Gitabria, a city where amazing inventions are dreamed up and sold across the land of the Seven Sands.

But when the three of them stumble across a tiny mechanical bird, magically brought to life, they quickly realise all is not as it appears.

Meanwhile two strange Argosi appear, carrying secrets from Ferius’ past, together with an unlikely Jan’Tep ally.

And as time ticks on, all the cards in Ferius’ deck point to the emerging tides of war . . .

Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

  • Spellslinger nominated for Carnegie Medal
  • Spellslinger a Guardian Best New Books Pick
  • Spellslinger a Financial Times Summer Roundup Pick

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The Spellslinger series is available in hardback in the UK, Australia, and most Commonwealth countries. It's coming out in various other languages and countries soon.

  • Coming to a country near you in a dozen different languages!

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Praise For Spellslinger

  • Playing with familiar ideas in a delightfully original way is Sebastien de Castell’s Spellslinger, which I devoured in two days . . . is one of the best young-adult novels I’ve seen in a long time – larky, clever and slick.

    Literary Review Britain's Best Loved Literary Magazine
  • Spellslinger is the first of a series which fantasy junkies will devour with relish.

    The Guardian Best New Books Supplement
  • Magic with a Wild West flavour, served with flair.

    Financial Times Summer Roundup of Books
  • Spellslinger . . . has cliffhangers, pace, humour, life lessons and a memorably feisty squirrel cat.

    The Sunday Times Book Reviews
  • Spellslinger is a riot from start to finish. It’s buckets of fun, and I can’t wait to read their next adventure.

    Speculative Herald Fantasy Reviews
  • Spellslinger is like Firefly with magic and card-throwing in place of guns and traditional weapons. It’s a three-man Guardians of the Galaxy (with a sarcastic squirrel-cat in place of Rocket Raccoon). I loved it so much, I have re-read it twice since my initial read – and felt the same heart-racing excitement each time. I cannot wait for the next book in the series.

    Readings Australia Australia's Own Since 1969
 

The Story Behind The Story

Charmcaster is the first book I’ve ever written where I worked first on the setting. Gitabria is such a rich and complex country, I wanted to explore it deeply before I dropped Kellen into it.

Devious inventors, deadly assassins, and a kind of coin magic no one’s ever seen before . . . all this an more awaits a poor outlaw spellslinger and his thieving squirrel cat business partner.

Excerpt From Chapter 1: Desert Lightning

I totally saw this coming,’ Reichis growled, leaping onto my shoulder as lightning scorched the sand barely ten feet from us. The squirrel cat’s claws pierced my sweat-soaked shirt and dug into my skin.

‘Yeah?’ I asked, ignoring the pain with about as much success as I was having stopping my hands from shaking. ‘Maybe next time there’s a hextracker on our tail, you could warn us before our horses panic and dump us in the middle of the desert.’ Another thunderclap erupted overhead and shook the ground beneath our feet. ‘Oh, and if it’s not too much trouble, how about a little heads-up before dry lightning starts crashing down on us from a cloudless sky?’

Reichis hesitated, no doubt trying to come up with a believable explanation. Squirrel cats are terrible liars. They make excellent thieves and particularly enthusiastic murderers, but they’re rubbish at deception. ‘I was waiting to see if you’d figure it out on your own. I was testing you. Yeah, that’s it. Testing you. And you failed, Kellen.’

‘You two recall we’re supposed to be laying an ambush?’ Ferius Parfax asked, kneeling a few feet away to bury some- thing shiny and sharp in the sand. A tangle of red curls whipped around her face while she worked. Despite the strange storm raging all around us, her movements were fluid and practised. This wasn’t the first time we’d found ourselves on the wrong end of a hunting expedition.

Hence the need for traps.

Ambushing a Jan’Tep mage is a tricky business. You never know which forms of magic they might have at their disposal. Iron, ember, sand, silk, blood, breath . . . The enemy could have any number of spells to kill you. As if that wasn’t enough, you also have to consider the possibility of accomplices – lackeys or mercenaries hired to watch the mage’s back or do his dirty work for him. ‘This might go faster if you let me help you set the traps,’ I suggested to Ferius, desperate to keep my mind off the surprising number of ways I might die in the next few minutes.

‘No, and quit watching me.’ She got up and walked a few yards away before kneeling to bury another spiked ball or fragile glass cylinder filled with sleeping gas or whatever else she was using this time. ‘The fella chasing us could be casting one of them fancy Jan’Tep silk spells to ferret out our plans. That head of yours is too full of thoughts, kid. He’ll read you easy.’

That bristled. Ferius was an Argosi – one of the enigmatic card players who travelled the continent attempting to . . . Actually, I still wasn’t quite sure what they were meant to do other than annoy people. Despite not having much hope of ever becoming an Argosi myself, I’d been studying Ferius’s ways as best I could, if only because doing so might keep me alive. It didn’t help that she kept insisting I first had to learn to do stupid things like ‘listen with my eyes’ or ‘grab onto emptiness’.

Reichis, of course, loved it when Ferius upbraided me. ‘She’s right, Kellen,’ he chittered from his perch on my shoulder. ‘You should be more like me.’

‘You mean without any thoughts in my head?’

The snarl he gave me was barely more than a whisper, but delivered perilously close to my ear. ‘It’s called instinct, skinbag. Makes it hard for silk mages to read me. Want to know what my instincts are telling me to do right now?’

Another bolt of lightning struck the peak of the dune above us, nearly giving me a heart attack and sending a wave of smoke sizzling up from the sand. Had Reichis and I been better friends, we probably would have been hanging on to each other for dear life. Instead, he bit me. ‘Sorry. Instinct.’

I jerked my shoulder, shaking the squirrel cat off me. He spread his paws out and the furry flaps that ran between his front and back limbs caught the wind as he glided down gracefully to the ground where he gave me a surly look. It had been petty of me to throw him off. I couldn’t blame him for his reaction to the thunder. Reichis has a thing about lightning and fire and . . . well, pretty much any enemy you can’t bite.

‘How is this guy doing it?’ I wondered aloud. A dry storm in the middle of the desert under a cloudless sky? It made no sense. Sure, the sixth form of ember magic creates an electrical discharge that looks a lot like lightning, but it mani- fests from the mage’s hands, not from above, and they have to be able to see the target to cast it.

I looked back up the dune for the thousandth time, wondering when I’d see him coming over the crest, ready to rain seven hells upon us. ‘Three days this mage has been on our tail and nothing we do shakes him. Why won’t he leave us alone?’

Ferius gave a wry chuckle. ‘Reckon that’s what comes from having a spell warrant on your head, kid. Whichever cabal of mages implanted obsidian worms in them rich kids can’t be too pleased with us going around destroying them.’

Even with more pressing dangers at hand, just thinking about obsidian worms repelled me. They were a type of mystical parasite. Once lodged inside the victim’s eye, they enabled mages to control the host from afar. Ferius, Reichis and I had spent the last six months tracking down students from the famed Academy who had no idea they were slowly being turned into spies against their own families – or worse, assassins.

‘When did it become our job to save the world from the obsidian worms anyway?’ I asked, removing my frontier hat so I could wipe my brow with my sleeve. Despite the dry air, I was sweating profusely; wearing a black hat that was too big for my head wasn’t helping. I’d got the hat from a fellow spellslinger by the name of Dexan Videris – payment on account of his having tried to kill me. He’d claimed the silver sigils adorning the band would keep mages from tracking me, but like everything else Dexan had told me, that was turning out to be a lie.

‘It ain’t our job,’ Ferius replied. ‘It’s mine. The whole point of bein’ Argosi is to avert the calamities that bring suffering to innocent folks. Since a bunch of idiot Jan’Tep mages assas- sinating powerful families all across the continent could set off a war, I’d say this situation qualifies.’

The wind picked up without warning and my apparently non-magical prized possession flew from my hand. I almost went running after it but decided not to bother. Stupid thing never fit right anyway. ‘It would be nice if just once somebody came along who wanted to help instead of everybody trying to murder us.’

Ferius rose abruptly to her feet and peered out into the desert. ‘Now that don’t look good at all.’

I turned to see what she was talking about. Off in the distance, a wall of sand that must’ve been a hundred feet high had begun to roil in the air.

‘Now we’ve got to deal with a freakin’ sandstorm?’ Reichis grumbled. He shook himself and his fur changed colour from its usual muddy brown with black stripes to a dusty beige flecked with grey that matched the approaching clouds of sand and grit. Once it got here he’d be able to pretty much disappear into the storm if he wanted – which he probably would if things went badly. Squirrel cats aren’t sentimental.

As the storm approached, I tried to decide whether I’d rather die from being buried under tons of sand, electrocuted by dry lightning or murdered with dark magic. The choices are never pretty when you’re an outlaw spellslinger with a gambler for a mentor, a squirrel cat for a business partner and a long line of mages who want you dead.

Oh, and I was fairly sure it was my seventeenth birthday. ‘What do we do now?’ I asked.
Ferius, her gaze on the thick clouds of sand coming for us,

replied, ‘Reckon you’d best take a deep breath, kid.’

Charmcaster © Sebastien de Castell, 2018

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About the Author

Sebastien de Castell

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Sebastien de Castell had just finished a degree in Archaeology when he started work on his first dig. Four hours later he realized how much he actually hated archaeology and left to pursue a very focused career as a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, and product strategist. His only defence against the charge of unbridled dilettantism is that he genuinely likes doing these things and that, in one way or another, each of these fields plays a role in his writing. He sternly resists the accusation of being a Renaissance Man in the hopes that more people will label him that way. Sebastien lives in Vancouver, Canada with his lovely wife and two belligerent cats.