Kellen is almost sixteen, which means he should be fighting magic duels and unlocking elemental powers to earn his mage name—standard rites of passage for his people. He’s failing all of them, which means that he is resorting to his best ability: quick-thinking deception.

He’s smart and sardonic—until Ferius Parfax enters the scene. She’s a mysterious rogue that destroys everything with sheer sassiness (backed up with a violent use of a deck of cards). When an obnoxious animal sidekick joins the crew, Kellen becomes a shy sweet-talker in comparison. Ferius appears to want to help Kellen; why, he doesn’t know, but as tensions heighten to fever pitch, he finds he has nobody else to turn to.

The action doesn’t let up and the plot thickens almost to the point of density, at the cost of developing the relationships between some characters. The smart-aleck characters are sharp and entertaining for the most part but, like the plot, the pace of it all can be tiring.

Yet Spellslinger is about more than just action; it’s concerned with power, and the structures that are used to demonstrate or hide it. Kellen is a young person learning to see his world for what it really is and, like in every world ever, this means discovering the fallibility of the adults that hold up society. The Spellslinger world is vivid and wildly energetic, and it’s only the first in a series of six. The rest of the sextet to be released by 2019 (so perhaps de Castell just naturally operates at a breakneck speed!) and this magical Wild West world will hardly be contained by it.