Friday, August 31, 2018

Review: "Sufficiently Advanced Magic" by Andrew Rowe

The early going of Andrew Rowe’s gaming-inspired “Sufficiently Advanced Magic” ($3.99 digital, self-published) left me not quite sure what to expect, but I ended up with a very pleasant surprise and a great read.

The story, which finished second in this year's Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, follows Corin Cadence, who is set to enter the Serpent Spire for his judgment. If he’s successful, he’ll receive his attunement and know where his powers lie. If he’s not, well, he’s not likely to return. Corin comes from a powerful family with a demanding father, so expectations are high.

He has his own plans for the Spire, though. Corin’s older brother, Tristan, is one of the ones who didn’t return, and he intends to become powerful enough to climb the Spire, find his brother and bring him back.

Corin’s judgment doesn’t go quite as planned, though, landing him in a bad position both with his family and a visage of the Goddess. He'll need some help to unravel the tangled mess his life has become.

Rowe makes no bones about the fact that “Sufficiently Advanced Magic” was inspired by gaming – both role-playing and video games. That’s easy to tell from the opening pages of this book, as Corin’s experience in the Serpent Spire reads just like a gaming session. Normally, that would be enough to make me pass on a book, but there was just something about that first sequence that made me want to press on. Rowe managed to establish a connection with Corin for me right away, and it was an edge-of-the-seat experience where I cared what happened. Rowe seems to be able to take the puzzles and battles that we’re all used to in games and infuse them with the appropriate sense of drama and tension to make them work on the written page.

Once you get past those early scenes, the rest of Corin’s story becomes a bit deeper as we start to see his relationships and some of the machinations around him unfold. It becomes much more than the written video game that I thought it was going to be at the beginning, and I was drawn in all the more.

The gaming influence doesn’t go away, though. It keeps cropping back up, and I will admit that there were times I found it a little annoying. Every time Corin used his device to check someone’s numeric mana levels or when monsters dropped treasure, I did get taken a little bit out of the story, but the distraction is minor.

Rowe has built a rich and intriguing cast of characters around Corin. I don’t believe there’s a single one that doesn’t interest me in some way, though I do have my favorites. The characters and story even surprised me a few times as it unfolded, which is always a plus.

I went in thinking it might be a DNF because of the gaming aspect, but I came out ready to get my hands on the next installment, which luckily, is available. You can look for that one to appear here soon.

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