Book Review: Mystic by Jason Denzel
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Series: Book 1 of Mystic
Publisher: Tor (11/3/15)
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Mystic is one of the most charming fantasy debuts I’ve read this year. While not strictly marketed as Young Adult, Jason Denzel’s new book is a magical coming-of-age tale that nevertheless has the kind of crossover appeal which would make it a hit with a wide range of readers.
At the heart of this story is a young commoner woman named Pomella who receives an opportunity of a lifetime. A messenger has to come her village with a summons from Kelt Apar, inviting her to participate in a competition to become apprentice to the new High Mystic. But such a post has always been reserved for the scions of the nobility, and it has been like this for time eternal. So why would the High Mystic choose a low-born teenager as a candidate now?
Everything about the invitation goes against law and tradition, but Pomella decides to accept anyway, even if it will mean giving up her whole life. For if she goes to Kelt Apar but fails to win the apprenticeship, she will become Unclaimed – nameless, homeless, and declared anathema. Now Pomella will need to pit her wits and abilities in a series of trials against three other elite candidates to show she is worthy of the High Mystic’s attentions, and prove that even a commoner can have a place in the Myst.
If you enjoy reading about pure-hearted and genuine characters, then you are sure to like Pomella. She might be not your typical “kickass female protagonist”, but she is no less strong in her own way, without all the bluff and bluster of false bravado. Instead, the author has created a character here who comes across as real as you or me—a person with dreams, doubts, and desires that seem impossible to achieve. Pomella’s emotions and reactions toward new experiences feel very believable to me, especially when she finds herself in difficult situations.
There’s also so much to love about the magical world of Mystic. Steeped in the wonders of nature, the Myst is an ancient force that is as powerful as it is mysterious. Men and women who have a connection to it have the potential to become Mystics, able to manipulate its energies. Depending on the individual, this can be done in various ways. For Pomella, the Myst is tied to her talent for singing, and thus music is a huge part of who she is and the power of song also plays a significant role in the events of this story.
And that’s not the end of it. This is a very rich setting inspired by many sources. You’ll no doubt recognize a few familiar motifs from myth and legend, but at the same time Jason Denzel has placed his own touches on them to make them all his own. The world is filled with surprises and I loved peeling back its many layers. The Myst hides many secrets, including a whole other realm filled with silvery, spirit-like creatures called the Fay that are only visible to Mystics. And even though this book takes place mostly in Kelt Apar and its surrounding areas on the island of Moth, there’s a whole wide world out there full of different cultures from different kingdoms. Over the course of her trials, Pomella will meet a host of new friends and enemies—both human and non-human—who hail from all over the map.
For such a quick read, the story is surprisingly packed too. Things tie up quite neatly, but despite there being some traditional plot elements in play, I wouldn’t exactly call this book predictable. There’s a mix of interesting and unique dynamics, and an exciting climax. There were some unexpected twists, and it was also a nice touch to show another side of story by including a few chapters told in the perspective of Pomella’s friend Sim. As always, there’s room for expansion, but I’m overall really impressed with the level of detail in both the storytelling and the exploration into the themes of social class. Denzel’s writing style flows naturally and it is very enjoyable, making it easy to lose yourself in Mystic.
If you’re looking for compelling characters and a gorgeously crafted fantasy world, then Mystic will definitely appeal. I love how this is a self-contained story, but I’m also intrigued by the mysteries of the Myst and want to know more about the world and its protagonist Pomella. Seeing how this is the first of a planned trilogy, looks like I’ll get my wish. This was an awesome debut and I’m looking forward to more.
*** Be sure to check back here at The BiblioSanctum next week for a GIVEAWAY of Mystic and an interview with Jason Denzel! ***