This was one of my top TBRs, after all who could pass up a Spanish fantasy! Alfie, a prince gradually overcoming the sudden loss of his brother, must pair up with a shape-shifting thief names Finn. Yet both have painful stories they don’t want to share. Now they must work together to stop an ancient evil from destroying the entire kingdom and beyond.
Alfie, the prince, has just arrived home after months travelling after the death of his beloved elder brother. Now set to inherit the throne, Alfie struggles with the responsibility he was never meant to have, not to mention the gossip and rumours from the noble class. He is full of pain and grief but underneath that his good heart is clear. He has a really unique and fascinating magical ability; he can see magic and shift the colour of his own, allowing himself to control other people’s magic. On top of this, he can use his ability to teleport. I absolutely love his powers and I was so intrigued to see what he could do next.
Completely at the other end of the spectrum is Finn, a skilled thief able to change her appearance (the absolute best ability for a thief). As with many thieves, Finn started out life rough and grew up in a dangerous circle. Determined not to go back, Finn is willing to do anything to obtain her freedom, even steal from the palace vault. She was a highly-skilled fighter and able to mix in her magic during a fight. I loved how she used a different face for each crime, making her every most wanted criminal. But it’s been years since she’s used her own face and her struggle to be herself was an interesting element to the story. Plus, who doesn’t love a good sarcastic character alongside a goodie-two-shoes like Alfie.
Within the first few chapters, this unique magic system already had me absorbed. Everyone has some magical ability within the four basic elements, but some are blessed with unique abilities known as ‘ropa’. What I really loved was that everyone could have multiple abilities from all sorts of different elements, something many magic systems don’t tend to do. This made for some really cool characters with interesting power pairings. Additionally, people could increase their abilities by copious amounts of study. This made for a wide divide between nobles and their ‘desk magic’ and the ‘street magic’ used by peasants. I loved the obvious differences and the resulting banter between Alfie and Finn.
Castallan is full of Spanish culture with a little twist, from the language to sangria and fiestas. The colour and zest for life is abundant in this novel and each scene is so alive it makes you feel a part of it. On top of this, there is an intriguing representation of a Spanish country being occupied an English empire. The author skilful showed the impact of this and the country struggling to find its’ culture in its new independence after decades of suppression.
I’d wanted to read this book for months and am glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. The magic system is one of my favourites and blended greatly with the characters and world. The Audible audiobook was thoroughly entertaining, and I would highly recommend you check it out. I give it 5/5 and am keen to revisit Castallan in the next instalment.