I received this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review.
The Conjurers is a classic fantasy tale mixing magic, a journey of discovery and a coming-of-age tale, told through the parallel points of view of its two main characters, Eamon – an Irish boy of peasant origins, and Teresa – the daughter of a Genovese peer. We first encounter Eamon and his sister Caitlin as they are fleeing from their village to escape a band of brigands: it soon becomes clear that the outlaws are less interested in pillaging the farmers’ homesteads than they are in the two siblings, especially Eamon. During their frantic flight he discovers his affinity to wolves, and the ability to skin-change, while Caitlin will later come into contact with the spirits of the netherworld.
Teresa’s own talents blossom in equally dramatic circumstances: searching for the whereabouts of her brother Ignacio, and coming into contact with the evil Maestro Lodovicetti, she finds a grimoire filled with obscure spells through which she learns how to move objects with her mind and how to start fires.
The three young people, either running from pursuit or actively seeking vengeance, slowly converge toward each other for what looks like a fated encounter, one that will bring revelation, terror and the need to hide their abilities from the world and keep them away from the Maleficarum, Lodovicetti’s cabal of evil practitioners.
There is much to draw the reader’s attention in this book, besides the main characters’ journey: the world they move in is 14th Century Europe, one where magic lurks just around the corner and dark forces plot to gather it in order to accomplish their goals of power and supremacy. What’s more fascinating, and also frustrating, are the glimpses of evil factions and of the organizations set up to contrast them: fascinating because knowledge of their existence hints at a sort of subterranean war being waged since the dawn of time, with long-reaching plans on both sides to gain the upper hand; frustrating because those hints don’t deliver on their promise during the course of the book.
This is the first installment in a series, so it stands to reason that its role is to lay the groundwork for what is to come with the next books, but still I felt that there should have been something more to… sink my teeth into, that what elusive clues I was given in the course of the story should have shed more light and not simply added to the huge amount of questions that the novel raises. Take the Maleficarum, for example: all we know is that they practice what looks like black magic, and that they seek to increase their powers by acquiring them from gifted people like Eamon and Teresa – and I use the word ‘acquiring’ in its darkest meaning, indeed. Members of the order, like cruel Lady Tummia with her power to impose her will on other persons, making them virtual puppets whose strings she moves, or like adept Sairshee, whose blood-lust is second only to her thirst for power, are fascinating creations, but they remain on stage far too briefly to really help us understand what makes them tick, and how they became the persons they are.
Nonetheless, The Conjurers was a good read, one that took a little time to find its speed, but that once it hit the right rhythm proved to be quite compelling, taking me with no effort toward its conclusion, one that opens the door to more mysteries and more discoveries for the young protagonists, who will need to grow up quickly if they want to face the dangers on their trail.
A good start to a promising series, indeed.