“By about ten percent into Sufficiently Advanced Magic I was wondering why it had taken me so long to pick up this book.”
Sufficiently Advanced Magic
by Andrew Rowe
Five years ago, Corin Cadence’s brother entered the Serpent Spire — a colossal tower with ever-shifting rooms, traps, and monsters. Those who survive the spire’s trials return home with an attunement: a mark granting the bearer magical powers. According to legend, those few who reach the top of the tower will be granted a boon by the spire’s goddess.
He never returned.
Now, it’s Corin’s turn. He’s headed to the top floor, on a mission to meet the goddess.
If he can survive the trials, Corin will earn an attunement, but that won’t be sufficient to survive the dangers on the upper levels. For that, he’s going to need training, allies, and a lot of ingenuity.
The journey won’t be easy, but Corin won’t stop until he gets his brother back.
“Headaches from using my attunement? I could deal with them. Existential terror at the possibility of destroying my own mind? Pretty much routine at this point.
Doing paperwork for the government?
Now that was brutal.”
By about ten percent into Sufficiently Advanced Magic I was wondering why it had taken me so long to pick up this book. By the time I finished, that wonderment had turned into active regret over having missed out for so long. Andrew Rowe has given us a page turner that is part coming-of-age story, part magic school tale, and part epic fantasy. Oh, and monster hunting/tower climbing. It’s magnificent.
The setting for Sufficiently Advanced Magic has received a good deal of praise, and deservedly so. It reminds me of something we might normally see in an anime or a jrpg, as opposed to a fantasy novel. But the setting has depth to it. Rowe has given us a world that is believable and feels living and breathing.
There is a tremendous amount of worldbuilding. It also includes fascinating magic system that I’m looking forward to learning more about. I particularly like the fact that our main character, Corin Cadence, isn’t overpowered. Quite the opposite, he is perhaps one of the weakest (in terms of raw power) of the protagonists.
This is different than much of what we see in fantasy, and I enjoyed the change of pace. The worldbuilding isn’t the only excellent piece of this novel. The characters are also well drawn and relatable. Through much of the novel you aren’t quite sure who to trust and who to be suspicious of, and I think that is a credit to Rowe’s writing. I loved the MC and his sorts of bumbling attempts at relating well to others. It’s all very well done.
Then, to top it off Rowe gives us a plot that is deep and intricate. There are twists and turns and while I won’t say I was entirely surprised by all of them, they were certainly well done. They made sense, hung together, maintained consistency, and kept the pages moving at an alarming clip.
In the midst of the amazing world building I mentioned earlier there is an unfortunate tendency to info dump. I won’t say that this is a minor issue, as it happens quite often. I’m normally pretty forgiving of info dumps, but there were a lot of them. Particularly frustrating were the few times when several chapters after a lengthy info dump on a topic some of the details would be repeated. I’d prefer the author trust me to remember that information. Similarly, there were several times when I felt like the author was telling me when he could have shown me. Even with these imperfections, Sufficiently Advanced Magic is one of my top reads for 2018 (and I’m still frustrated with myself that I didn’t read it a year and a half ago).
Andrew Rowe has given us a gem here. If you, like me, have somehow failed to give Sufficiently Advanced Magic a try—you need to change that immediately. My only regret now is how I’m going to have to blow up my reading list to make room so I can read the sequel soon. 4.5/5 stars
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Book reviewer at Fantasy Book Review. Host of the UNDER A PILE OF BOOKS podcast. Geek into fantasy, fountain pens, Dungeons & Dragons, and dead languages.
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