Sorcerous Rivalry by Kayleigh Nicol

In the peace following the Great Mage Hunt, the king’s long-time mistress is revealed as a sorceress. Locked away for the safety of the kingdom, bounties are placed upon the heads of the seven children she birthed. Mage hunters have scoured the kingdom for four years, searching for the seven scattered mage-born bastards.

After growing up in an orphanage, Reshi discovers his parentage and learns to hide his magic, living peacefully in a remote village with an unusual friend. But when an alluring mage hunter comes to town, his secret is revealed, forcing Reshi to reach out to his brothers and sisters for help. A family reunion might be Reshi’s only hope for survival–or it might become a spell-slinging battle royale.

Who can Reshi rely on when his own family turns against him?

I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sorcerous Rivalry takes a familiar story, forbidden magic and mages being hunted down, and introduces enough twists and turns to keep things interesting.

Reshi is one of the seven bastard children of the king. He also happens to practice magic, and therefore has a bounty on his head. His life as a recluse is turned upside down when a mage hunter tracks him down. Against all odds, Reshi and Kestral, the hunter, establish an alliance that is shaky at first but gets warmer with time. The young mage is also confronted by his siblings, who aren’t all looking for a joyous family reunion.

The magic in this story can only be described as plentiful. The setting has magical elements (such as faes and other creatures), and the sorcery used by each mage we encounter is unique, all with strong elemental influences. The powers of each of the seven bastard children can be recovered once they’re dead, which doesn’t really encourage brotherly and sisterly affection. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is following Reshi when he meets his siblings, because the reader is never sure if the new character is going to be a friend or a foe.

The other strength of the story, in my opinion, is the two leads’ personalities. Reshi is a flirty, bubbly young man who hides deep childhood trauma behind his exuberance. Kestral is a straight-laced former soldier who also has a tumultuous past. Their relationship evolves in an compelling manner, from mistrust to a romantic affair.

I wasn’t surprised at all when I saw in her bio that Nicol enjoys anime; to me the book has this anime vibe, with a fast-paced plot and magical battles. The author also draws from her background in Animal Science — mostly to create Reshi’s magic, based primarily on shapeshifting.

There is a detail that soured the beginning of the story a bit for me: a female character’s breasts were mentioned several times in the first chapter. The fixation wandered into “breasted boobily” territory, and it’s something I’m not comfortable with in general.

Sorcerous Rivalry is, overall, an intriguing introduction to a world and a story that still have a lot to offer. I would recommend it if you like elemental magic systems with a lot of battles, and interesting and deep main characters.

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