Sorcery for Beginners (Codex Arcanum #1) by Matt Harry

sorcery for beginnersPublication Date: 10 October 2017
Publisher: Inkshares
Format: eBook
Pages: 403
ISBN: 1942645686
Summary: Five-hundred years ago, sorcery began to fade from the world. As technology prevailed, combustion engines and computers replaced enchanted plows and spell books. Real magicians were hunted almost to extinction. Science became the primary system of belief, and the secrets of spell-casting were forgotten. That is … until now.

Sorcery for Beginners is no fantasy or fairy tale. Written by arcane arts preservationist and elite mage Euphemia Whitmore (along with her ordinary civilian aide Matt Harry), this book is a how-to manual for returning magic to an uninspired world. It’s also the story of Owen Macready, a seemingly average 13-year-old who finds himself drawn into a centuries-long war when he uses sorcery to take on a school bully. Owen’s spell casting attracts the attention of a ruthless millionaire and a secret society of anti-magic mercenaries, all of whom wish to use Sorcery for Beginners to alter the course of world history forever

I recieved this book from NetGalley in exchange for an open and honest review 

This book was AWESOME! It’s been a while since my last middle-grade book, so I admit, it took me a while to get into the proper mindset for it. Once I hit that point, however, I flew through this book in one sitting.

A mostly accurate summary:
The adventures of five D&D playing middle schoolers and one average 13-year-old boy as they discover a book on sorcery.

A slightly longer summary:
The story begins with Owen Macready, a Perfectly Average 13-year-old whose parents have recently divorced. To restart, Owen and his father move to Las Vegas. One day, after rescuing a boy from bullies after school and consequently, getting chased by them, Owen finds himself in front of Codex Arcanum Bookstore as he searches for a place to hide. He ends up purchasing Sorcery for Beginners, a guide to magic and is thrust into a world of sorcerers and their mortal enemies, the Euclideans, a pro-technology group dedicated to wiping out sorcery. Initially, I was worried that with this premise, the conflict of this book would strictly be technology vs magic. I was pleasantly surprised to be proved wrong and both sides come up with very creative ways to mix magic and science together.

I like the direction Sorcery for Beginners took with its characters. As an adult reading a middle-grade book, it’s evident that not all these characters are realistic depictions of middle schoolers. Perry has a larger vocabulary than most college students, Trish has an inhumanly high CON stat, Owen couldn’t possibly be out-pacing a car on a bike, etc. But taking into account the target audience of this book, these exaggerations work. They give middle schoolers a sense of empowerment that only books can. I can say with confidence that had I read this book as a child, Perry would have definitely encouraged me to spend the next couple hours reading a dictionary, attempting to increase my own vocabulary. I also appreciated the diversity in the characters. Of Owen’s friends, Perry is black, Trish is Korean-American, and Ravi is Indian. Even the one of the bullies (or Cro-Magnons), Abu, is likely not white. While the race of these characters never impacted the story, it was nice to see the representation.

The most unique aspect of this book is its format. This book is written as a textbook, introducing the reader to sorcery through the story of Owen & friends. Similar to most introductory textbooks, this book comes with illustrations, boxes offering snarky tidbits of the objects mentioned in the story, and most importantly, pages instructing spell casting! This includes any necessary materials, verbal components, step by step instructions, and most importantly, hand gestures. You can bet I was gesturing along to each spell I ran into as I read.


The verbal components are pulled from a variety of different languages, but there are helpful pronunciation guides for those of us who aren’t polyglots.

The only part I disliked was the use of slang. Often times it felt very out of place and, especially with the intentionally misspelled text messages, cringey. Granted, as someone who is not a middle schooler, I’m not up-to-date with current middle-schooler slang.

Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. Sorcery for Beginners was a fun read and I look forward to the sequel!

One final question for the author. Since the field of transmutation was brought up and used in this book, I must ask: Could one transmute antimatter?

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