The Magician’s Workshop by Hansen & Fehr

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four-stars

This was a book that the reviewers here at S13 almost fought over. The authors, Hansen and Fehr, shot straight out of the gate with a submission letter that was fun, cheeky and caught our immediate attention.

The preface was more of the same; open, honest, charming. It imbibed me with a real sense of eager anticipation for their novel. The fact that they even managed to get me to read the preface was startling.

However, I steadied my expectation and showed restraint. It wasn’t the first time a book had sounded good, or even started well. Yet, as cynical as I tried to be, I couldn’t put this down. Christopher and Jon have weaved a marvelous and magical tale with their first installment.

The dragon opened its mouth, revealing its sharp, shimmering, ice-covered teeth. A ball of blue crystal began to form in its throat, and they all felt the temperature drop.

The Magician’s Workshop follows the lives of numerous children approaching their rite of passage, the pulling of colour ceremony, which is the moment their futures will be decided – to determine if they have what it takes to be a magician.

These children live in the islands of O’Ceea, a place of mystery and ancient history, that begs the question of whether or not the story is set on Earth in a dystopian future.

Twin violins began to scratch out a haunting, staccato tune.
“Many years ago… we watched as the sea turned black…” a deep voice boomed across the water.
Kaso felt a bolt of excitement shoot through him as bright flashes of red and indigo exploded around them in the early morning sky.
“Far beneath us lies a lost, forbidden world… but we have not forgotten it…”
All around them, Kaso could hear the crowd cheering and clapping.
“you asked to know the story…”
His mouth dropped open.
‘No way!’
“He… is ready… to show you.”
A dark crimson slash burned across the sky and a grinning version of the creepy mask of Devos Rektor appeared.

As their imagined world unfolds it is clear the authors have gone to staggering depths, which reveals they have the foresight and ambition to create many more volumes. At one point, just as the information threatens to overload the reader, they even make use of the chapter quotes to make jest of it.

“Everything in O-Ceea is tangled and confusing: 9 Colors, 5 regions, 1,000 gryns per whisper, 288 magicians, 3 privilege levels, 7 days in a week and 42 weeks in a year. Ugh! Why our ancestors didn’t base everything on one round number like 10 is beyond me. I find it hard enough to remember everything as it is.”
– Historian Alfie is-a Hive, Confessions of the Aged and Ornery

Normally I’d try to stay critical – keeping an eye out for typos, grammatical mistakes and some useful quotes – but this was one of those stories that just put me immediately at ease and let me enjoy the journey.

However, as entertaining as the story was, I do have a few bug bears. The first relates to the background information I was talking about. There is a lot of it. It’s a minor point, as for the most part it enriches the experience but many of the world-building components don’t bear an immediate relevance. If they are mentioned in future sequels then the information will likely need to be repeated to the reader.

The other negative point was that the story simply wasn’t long enough, and the first volume seems to come to an abrupt ending without fulfilling the story arc. Everything was leading up to the colour pulling ceremony, which felt like a logical conclusion, yet instead we are led up to and held on the brink, in an attempt to build suspense.

With volume two already released I’m confident that the story will continue smoothly. For me, this concept is crucial to good storytelling and is a significant flaw. Would Harry Potter be as popular if each book didn’t have it’s own fully rounded story arc that could be enjoyed even in isolation?

Despite the above points, the complete anthology of The Magician’s Workshop has definite potential to be the next fantasy series phenomenon.

The Magician's Workshop: Volume One Book Cover The Magician's Workshop: Volume One
The Magician's Workshop
Christopher Hansen & J.R. Fehr
Fantasy
Wondertale
November, 2016
357

 

Everyone in the islands of O'Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence. Whoever becomes a master over these powers is awarded the title of magician and given fame, power, riches, and glory. Journey with a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician's Workshop.

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she's tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he's forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world.

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