Sufficiently Advanced Magic — Or SAM, for short — was an interesting book that appealed to me on a multitude of levels. Its magic system is very similar to that of a video game. Characters have mana which is depleted when magic is used and increased as ‘levels’ are gained. As much as I enjoyed this book, I suspect its audience is somewhat niche, and your mileage may vary depending on your tastes. I wouldn’t knock it off the TBR pile due to the gaming elements, as everything is well explained and still understandable without any gaming experience.
SAM has a fascinating setting. Magic is commonplace, and at a reasonably young age teenagers enter a magic tower as part of a judgement test. Based on their performance and actions there, the characters get a magical attunement which dictates what sort of powers they’ll have. They then proceed to learn how to use their attunement, typically joining the army or becoming a tower climber after they finish their schooling.
SAM is told from the point of view of Corin Cadence, a young man who’s entered the tower for an attunement. His one goal is to find his older brother who went missing on his own judgement years earlier. We get to see his motivations as he overcomes the challenges laid out for him. The first person point of view is very well done in this book; we follow Corin’s decisions as he solves puzzles throughout his life and the tower.
Corin is a pretty unique character. He’s very much a brains over brawn type of person, and it’s good to see a protagonist make his way through life’s challenges using strategy and problem-solving skills instead of just hitting his problems with a big sword (not that that isn’t also fun). Corin tinkers and creates things to help him survive through the challenges, and hopefully find his brother.
SAM is very focused on the coming of age trope, and a lot of the book is set in a magical school. The school is quite challenging and life still proceeds to throw all sorts of chaos at our main character and his friends. The plot does a good job of being mysterious and slowly revealing more bits of information to the reader.
I listened to the SAM audiobook, narrated by Nick Podehl, who does an amazing job with this book.
SAM is one of the finalists for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO), and is coming second by 0.05 points at the moment. I’m very excited to see how it goes.
Book 2 in the series, Wish Upon a Scar, is due to release in ebook next month, and in audiobook later in the year. I don’t believe the exact date has been made available yet
This book is probably best for people who like:
- First Person POV
- Magic Schools
- Coming of Age
- Mysterious plots
- Tinkerer Protagonists
- Puzzles and challenges