The main story gets going when it is discovered that Hedward has disappeared and by following clues to this mystery they discover that he opened up a portal (or’rift’) to the Fey Lands and went in search of his wife who went missing a decade ago. Spellsmith and Carver must put aside their differences and team up to follow him to the Fey Lands and keep each other safe from the many types of monster they discover there.
The magic system in this book is based on the magician writing magical symbols on either a piece of wood or a wax tablet using a magical stylus. I liked this idea although I could see problems would arise when Jericho ran out of the specific wood ‘quires’ he liked to use. They also needed to apply rosemary oil to their skin to ward off the effects of the strong magic in the Fey Lands - kind of like an aromatherapy sunscreen against magic - but another resource which was bound to run out and cause them problems. At college Auric has learnt some modern magical techniques which he hoped to bring home and make things easier for his father’s business but their strained relationship meant he never even got to discuss his plans with his father. He explains some of his ideas to Jericho and finds an eager ally:
“You can enchant a simple device to use a stylus and inscribe the same symbols over and over again. Not only does it take work off a magician’s hands, but the machine can go at a clip a human hand can’t. You can knock out a dozen basic spells in a minute with automation.”
There was just enough world building and description of the monsters in the Fey Lands to be interesting without it becoming overbearing, since it is a shorter book.
I was a little disappointed in the character of Rill. She had the potential to be a really powerful magician and wanted to study but happily put up with her lot of staying home with her father and falling in love with his apprentice, since her father did not want his female offspring to leave home to study or to become his apprentice. I would have liked a bit more independence and feistiness from her. I did love her animal companion, however. A mechanical fox named Jaspyr, he was a great addition to the group of magicians. I liked Hedward, although his lack of understanding and trust in the abilities of the younger generation was irritating. If he had explained to Auric and Jericho what happened with his wife instead of just chasing off alone to the dangerous Fey Lands they could have made a more successful attempt at rescue together.
Jericho was a fairly traditional romantic hero character and Auric was likeable but I didn’t warm up to him until after he and Jericho teamed up to find Hedward. I think the two characters of Auric and Jericho are more interesting together than individually.
This book was fairly fast paced and held my attention well. I was intrigued to discover what the solution to their final problem would be and found it hard to put the book down. It works well as a standalone, although the characters return for a new adventure in Spellsmith & Carver: Magicians Trial which I will be adding to my TBR list.