Book Review: Way of the Argosi by Sebastian de Castell
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 0.5 of Spellslinger
Publisher: Hot Key Books (September 15, 2021)
Length: 384 pages
I’ll make this plain and simple: If you enjoyed the Spellslinger series, Way of the Argosi is a must read. Heck, even if you came to this having no prior knowledge of the world or characters, you’ll probably have a good time, but having that background knowledge will pretty much guarantee you’ll love it.
The story, of course, is the story of Ferius Parfax. Before the time of Kellen, before the Argosi, there was only an orphan girl, whose parents were murdered by Jan’Tep mages right before her eyes. She soon came to be adopted by a kind knightly couple, who raised her briefly before they too were killed by the Jan’Tep for taking in a Mahdek child.
Afterward, Ferius sought her revenge, only to outclassed and branded with a mystical sigil that kept her a prisoner of a sort. For many years, she remained tormented by the young Jan’Tep who bested her, until she meets the wandering philosopher known as Durral Brown, a wise and charismatic man who begins training her in the way of the Argosi. Together, they would work to break her chains and Durral would go on to teach her to accept herself and become the indomitable woman we know her to be.
It’s a classic tale—the child who loses her parents to a sworn enemy, and vengeance takes over her soul. And indeed, our story begins by heading down well-trodden territory. Ferius’s life is revealed in something like a series of vignettes, beginning with her childhood and the traumas she’s faced. Turned into an outcast, she is forced to survive on the streets and discovers the power of blending in and becoming invisible to the masses. These early sections were admittedly run-of-the-mill, nothing too ground-breaking that added much to the overall story, though Ferius fans will delight in reading all about the experiences that shaped her.
Of course, the turning point comes when we meet Durral, and everything changes. If you’ve read the Spellslinger series and know anything about the Argosi, you’ll know that they have a very unique and rather eccentric view of the world. The introduction of Durral has a tempering effect on Ferius, whose is finally able to overcome the bitterness that has been stewing in her heart for years. As the narrative became increasingly philosophical, I won’t lie, I rather enjoyed watching Ferius chafe at the same lessons we saw her impart on an exasperated Kellen in the Spellslinger series!
The story in the second half of the book was also much more engaging and original. Durral and Ferius made a good team, the teacher and the student working together to outsmart the Jan’Tep mages holding them captive. In a very short amount of time, I got to feel the camaraderie and the wonderful dynamic between them. Truly, these sections made the book for me, and elevated Way of the Argosi from a simple prequel to an epic adventure that can stand on its own.
This was also a fantastic setup for the next chapter of Ferius’ life, in which she is taken in by Durral and his wife Enna, together known as the Path of Wandering Thistle. There was plenty of hardship and pain in this novel, but never enough to overshadow the adventure and action that made this such an entertaining and compulsive read. The pacing was simply perfect, energetically transitioning through the most formative stages of our protagonist’s life. I loved how this could be enjoyed as a standalone, yet contain so much meaning for fans of Spellslinger at the same time.
Again, it’s worth reiterating how important it is for you to read this if you’re a fan of the main series! I just adore to bits this universe Sebastian de Castell has created. Can’t wait to dive into he next Ferius Parfax story!