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Thoughts on Spellwright

29 October 2010

I finished reading Spellwright during my weekend trip to Vermont back in April. The book was a very fast read for me, which means it only took me twice as long to finish it as it would a normal person.

Normally, I hardly notice the delay. It just comes with the territory. People like me read slower…

I’m shying around the issue. Dyslexics like me. Dyslexics like me take longer to read a book than a normal person. I love books, but I’m slow to pick up new ones because they’re such an investment of time. With a really good book, I hardly notice. I noticed it this time though. I noticed it a lot.

Spellwright is a fantasy-adventure with some decent world building and good writing. Not necessarily a deep book, but definitely a fun one.

Unless you’re me, or someone like me. If you’ve dealt with dyslexia, then you’ll find Spellwright a bit deeper than you’d like. Why? Spellwright is a an adventure novel about our scrambled brains. Cloaked in a story of international intrigue and magical aptitude is a deeper tale of a very smart person — One who can’t string two sentences together without screwing at least one of them up.

Nicodemus Weal is a Cacographer, a wizard burdened with an inability to spell in a world where spelling is literal. Magical language is very unforgiving to the wizards who use it. All but the simplest spells die in Nicodemus’s hands. Yet this marginally functional wizard must confront a massive mess of international intrigue. He’s forced to defend himself and his mentor from accusations ranging from murder to high-treason and blasphemy.

Spellwright isn’t without a few problems. Author-self-insertion being one of them, along with a few world building gripes here and there, and my own personal dislike of magic built around glowy floaty runes (I blame MMO’s for that bad impression). Most of that is nitpicking though, if I had to name one real gripe with the book, it’s the complete wish-fulfillment plot of the protagonist not being a true Cacographer (he was cursed).

I whine and complain, but honestly I really loved Spellwright. In the end, I can sum up my feelings with one sentence: I wish I could’ve read it as a child.

This book evoked a lot of bitter memories in the midst of its entertaining plots. I rather imagine it’s a similar effect to A Wizard of Earthsea for People of Color. The revelation isn’t nearly as important or profound for a white guy with dyslexia, but I can better understand the impact now. Spellwright reaches back through the years to my impressionable youth, and tells a younger version of myself that I am not alone; There are others like me, and they can be heroes.

Mass Media, Personal

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