***AD: I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review***
I’ve read two books this month from local Essex authors. The first was The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, and the second Wandless by James Batchelor. Both are very different, with the former historical fiction and the latter modern-day low fantasy. However, I really enjoyed reading both and experiencing local writing for a change.
And for those that aren’t aware, low fantasy involves magical stories within the real world, as opposed to those set in fictional worlds very different from our own.
“First, their wands were taken. Then, it was their freedom.
Emilia Harris is on the run. Having escaped from her Sanctuary, she flees north, desperate to leave Greater England. Leading the military forces pursuing her is the ruthless Captain Hawthorne, determined to protect the human population from the witchkind previously living among them. Harris will be the latest Wandless in a long line of arrests. Emilia has just one advantage: escaping from the Sanctuary has restored her unique magic – which she soon uses to defend herself, with devastating consequences.
After the first clash increases the military’s desire to hunt her down, how can she hope to reach a place of safety… especially as her power is not the true threat she poses to society?
If you’ve grown up with Harry Potter, prepare for a darker take on a wizarding world in this page-turning urban fantasy thriller.”
(Taken from Amazon)
Many of the books I read are quite literary so it was nice to read such a plot-driven novella. I wanted to read it immediately based on the setting- a magical world where magic banned. Those who are magic (the Wandless) are not welcome in society, controlled instead from behind closed doors.
We start off right in the action, with Emilia now on the run from a life imprisoned. Her goal is to make her way to safety in Scotland without anyone finding her. She’s also using her magic again, which brings its own challenges after so long without it.
The story is very gripping, with lots of drama and suspense. There’s a nice dose of emotional reflection, too, but at its core the story is very action-focused. You’re constantly wanting to know what happens next, with lots of surprises littered throughout. I really enjoyed the key themes, with the marginalisation of one part of society very relatable when compared to the modern day. There’s also a nice twist halfway which adds more depth to the story – I wouldn’t say it was unpredictable, but even if you’ve worked it out beforehand it still adds a curious element to the plot. If anything, we could have had even more focus on this throughout!
I found the characters very believable, and I loved following Emilia’s story. We meet a few different characters throughout, either through memory or real-life encounter, and all of them were well-developed. I was particularly appreciative of two particular characters, a gay couple. Not because they were gay, but because they were gay and that fact was completely irrelevant to the storyline. It isn’t even mentioned – it’s just completely normal. This is something that I want to see more in books… All too often a character’s sexuality is not really anything more than a plot point.
There wasn’t really anything I didn’t like about the story, though I did think there was enough content to develop a full-length novel from it. I wanted to know more about the lore of the world… What was life like before society turned their backs on the Wandless? What other instances besides the mentioned Harwich Massacre had occurred? And how were the non-magic folk with all this going on? I love a fantasy tome with a fully fleshed out world behind it, and I think there is a lot of potential here for that.
Plot and world-building aside, there was one aspect I wasn’t a massive fan of which is the cover. I’m generally not a fan of covers with real people on anyway, but I felt like it wasn’t quite the right image. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it needs, given that the majority of fantasy covers relate to historical fantasy, but I think something to emphasise the magic element of the world in a simplistic way would have worked better. A broken wand, or a graphic design featuring Emilia, perhaps.
I really enjoyed reading Wandless – although short, it encapsulates a fascinating world with an intriguing set of characters. The story never falters and it’s definitely a page-turner. I read the whole thing in one sitting! I’d recommend Wandless to anyone who likes fantasy, but especially those looking for modern-day low fantasy that has a bit of a dark side to it.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of Wandless for yourself then you can do so here:
James Batchelor (1986-present) is a UK journalist and writer. Born and raised in Essex, he has somehow survived the county’s stereotypes, often mistakenly labelled as ‘northern’ or ‘posh’.
By day, he is a senior editor at GamesIndustry.biz, a trade publication for (you guessed it) the video games industry. He has written for business publications for the games industry since 2006. By weekend, he is the creator of worlds, including the Wandless series and the upcoming Death & Fairy Dust saga of urban fantasy thrillers.
He is a former member of Chelmsford writing group Writebulb, for which he edited and contributed to the club’s charity anthologies. He stubbornly denies that he prefers e-books to paperback.”
(Taken from Amazon)
Have you ever read low fantasy before, or do you prefer high fantasy? Tell me below, and don’t forget to like and pin if you enjoyed this review! You can read some of my other reviews of books with a low fantasy element here: