Book Review: A Crucible of Souls

A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan, Sorcery Ascendant Sequence #1

When Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, he is raised by monks and taught the arcane mysteries of sorcery.

Vowing to discover for himself who his parents really were, and what led to their violent end, he is thrust into the unfamiliar chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to earn an apprenticeship with a guild of sorcerers.

But he soon learns the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths.

As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that brings the world to the edge of destruction…

For a long time A Crucible of Souls has been popping up on my recommendation list on Goodreads. I am a big Epic Fantasy fan and the blurb offered all the right ingredients to turn this book into a blast. In Epic Fantasy this is a hard task but I have to say to Mitchell Hogan that he definitely on the right way. I have to be honest and say that there are a few bits and pieces that can be polished to make the story flow better. A Crucible of Souls is Mitchel Hogan's self-publish debut, he already mentioned that getting an editor is expensive. If you do take everything together A Crucible of Souls is a very cool book with a most interesting magic system and a great characters. Right up the alley for many if not every Epic Fantasy fan out there. 

I always read the synopsis before picking up the book and I was hoping to directly find Caldan. However, Mitchell Hogan begins his story in a different manner. Explaining a set of events that led up to Caldan being Caldan. The names of the characters didn't make sense until later in the book but the prologue is already a mighty fine display what is possible in the coming story. The prologue describes the events of the parents of Caldan and shows his unique heritage. The best thing here is that you get to see both glimpses of some very fine sword fighting AND magic (which I will get back to later on in the review). I can say upfront that the prologue doesn't end with roses and sunshine. After this the story is shown from Caldan's perspective. Caldan is a young boy who is currently being trained by a group of monks on a remote island, this training includes learning magic, the real deal the arcane mysteries of the world. And Caldan is good at it. Caldan was taken up by the monks because of his parent being brutally slain, he get's a free treatment. This treatment doesn't fall well for the Nobels who pay quite a sum to let there children study there, due to pressure from the parents of the other students Caldan is forced to leave the monks. One thing Caldan has vowed vengeance for is to find out who his parent were and with being forced to leave the monks does give him an opportunity to find answers. He is put on a ship that travels towards the magnificent city of Anasoma where he hopefully will find answers. Arriving at Anasoma Caldan finds that it wasn't exactly how he pictured it to be. Granted, the city is huge but without a lot of money, no job and no connections the living is hard. Luckily on the ship that brought him to Anasoma, Caldan made some valuable friends and perhaps something more than a friend. So now on his own two feet Caldan has a world to conquer for himself and sets out to find work, but nobody wants to have him since he doesn't have any reference or he is to old. In a last attempt Caldan finally manages to convince a sorcerer, and he gets taken up in the ranks of the Sorcerer Guild as an apprentice, really a dream come true for Caldan. But what Caldan hadn't thought was that some sorcerer's from higher up have plans for him and he soon finds himself in the ranks of the Protector's a special "sub division" of sorcerer's that have pledged to keep the world safe from dangers. Those who abuse sorcery and use the forbidden schools, though they have said to be forgotten. All this happens in just the first quarter of the book and the action just keeps on building and building. Until something has to give, the final confrontation is one that will stick with you long. But between that final confrontation and the start a lot happens, more than I can type here. Take for example the Protectors and their backstory, Lady Felicienne and playing dominion, and the Shattering an event that caused magic knowledge to become lost and we learn that there might come a second Shattering, what could Caldan's role be in all of this?

The driving element in A Crucible of Souls is magic and as some of you might know I am a sucker for magic. I think that in the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence everyone can study magic but only a selected few one like Caldan have a special gift which allows him to excel in in it. Crafting is the only magical that is practiced now a days, in the old days there were also other types of magic destructive, I think we glimpsed this in the prologue and coercive but these dark magic practices have been forgotten and/or banned. Crafting allows a person to fortify a box or a weapon with extra magical powers, for example putting a piece of paper on your door with ruins to act as a impenetrable lock. But it doesn't stay with this Caldan manages to create much more even going so far as towards automatons. Very interesting and offers somewhat in the lines of unlimited possibilities. Destructive sorcery is full coloured elemental power and coercive now that is dangerous, that is forcing someone to do your bidding. No wonder these were banned.

As for the characters in A Crucible of Souls, the main focus in on Caldan and his story of discovery and coming-of-age. Caldan has been brought up by monks on a remote island and has received extensive training in most of the scholarly paths, magic and sword fighting but doesn't know much of the practical things in the world most of it is from books. When he first navigates through Anasoma, it comes to show that he is a bit people shy and naive and this is precisely what I wanted to see. When you have that background it is impossible to directly know everything else, there was a nice trend in Caldan's character of a learning and understanding path. You could see Caldan's character grow step by step. Next to Caldan's characters there a few others that you see, characters that Caldan met aboard the ship that brought him to Anasoma Captain Charlotte and her daughter Miranda. You also had some high influence characters from the Protector's and the Sorcerer's Guild. Each of these added a nice influence to the story but they were more simple characters compared to Caldan. Of course Caldan is the main protagonist of the series, but I missed just a bit more character building for the secondary character to make them truly leap out of the story. The groundwork was there but not the finishing touch. I hope to see that Mitchell Hogan continues to explore Caldan in more depth as well as the secondary characters. 

All in all I am very impressed with the story that Mitchell Hogan wrote. Being a self published author is hard and but Mitchell Hogan did a very great job, Epic Fantasy is such a rich genre and Mitchell Hogan shows all the right elements to create the true setting. From down to the world, characters and of course the awesome displays of magic its non stop action. I already mentioned above that there are some minor remarks when it comes down to showing the characters and some more erratic jumping here and their in the story itself that makes it a bit chaotic but when you take it on the whole A Crucible of Souls is an impressive feat of a story and all I can say is bring on book two!

Just a short note. I didn't read this story I heard it. I got the audiobook from audible and I have to give it to Oliver Wyman for the spot on narration of the book. He did an amazing job, he captured the different characters spot on and the moments of action with powerful magical displays were so vivid in my mind, but not only that when the story slowed down he did as well. Very good narration.  


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