Rating: 2.25 stars
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The law says that Neans are now entitled to the same rights and education as Homo Sapiens. But that doesn’t mean society is ready to accept them. When Farlden and his brother Barve move to university, they do so with the understanding their race is generally despised and they are only a few years removed from slavery. So they’re surprised when a young Sapiens, Elliot, befriends them. Especially given that Elliot’s mother is a powerful politician who despises Neans.
When a schoolmate approaches Elliot and Farlden for help, the two team up and realize the magic they have is stronger together. But sinister things are brewing at the national level and before it’s over, Elliot will be forced to choose between the Nean he loves and the family who raised him.
The Source of Magic is the first in a new urban fantasy series by Clare Solomon. The premise is certainly intriguing: a modern world where Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis coexist, but have only recently become equal. There remains a great deal of hostility on the part of Sapiens against the Neans, who were former slaves and pacifists. Neans have magic and sometimes Sapiens, with Nean heritage, will also have magic, all with different talents. Unfortunately for The Source of Magic, the premise is pretty much as far as things develop. There is essentially no world building in this novel. We have no idea why the Neans have been given equality, why nearly all Sapiens have Nean lineage but somehow have escaped slavery, or even the differences that are supposed to exist between the these two groups. We know the Neans are nonviolent and creative and that’s about it. Because there is no world building, any information we are given feels out of context and without foundation. The idea of magic is equally vague. Elliot can read peoples minds and Farlden can see time. And they use these powers on people without their knowledge in several instances, which doesn’t make them particularly likeable. There is some suggestion that people with magic are either experimented on by the government or forced to do their bidding, but again this all so vague and shadowy that it doesn’t add anything to the plot.
None of the characters are particularly well defined. They feel flat and lifeless and it’s hard to click with any of them, even when we’re clearly supposed to. The romance between Elliot and Farlden reads as an afterthought, like an event that was always going to happen and is shrugged off as a result rather being given a life of its own. The writing in The Source of Magic isn’t bad, but it does seem rather simplified and lacking in grit. And when I think of urban fantasy, I think of something that has a bit of a kick. Maybe that’s a failing on my part and I accept that, but the intensity of this story is simply missing. There’s no rising tension or sense of anticipation and there really feels like there should be. The book feels incomplete without it.
I wanted to like The Source of Magic as its premise is right up my alley. But nothing about this one worked for me. The story is rather blah, there isn’t much world building, and the characters are never fully realized. I’d have to recommend giving this one a pass.