Book Review: Gifted by Donald Hounam

23346995Title: Gifted

Author: Donald Hounam

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Bishop of Oxford is very, very dead. At least the police think it’s the Bishop – it’s impossible to be sure, since someone has made off with his head.

Fifteen-year-old Frank Sampson is the forensic sorcerer on the case. But he is easily distracted. By Kazia, the supposed victim’s beautiful, and possibly dangerous, niece. By Marvo, his police colleague, who seems dead set on making his life difficult. By the terror that he’s losing his Gift – the ability to work magic. And by all those stupid rules which get in the way of proving that everybody is wrong about the case . . . except Frank.

Donald Hounam has wrought a sharp, exciting, original new voice in teen fiction.

Gifted is an intriguing novel about fifteen-year-old Frank Sampson, a forensic sorcerer who would like nothing more than to be left alone, but as one of the most promising pupils of the academy he graduated from, he’s often enrolled in work for the police force. This time around, he gets to help solve the murder of the Bishop of Oxford, who seems to be missing his head. Yet from the moment he arrives, Frank wonders if the body even belongs to the Bishop, and he gets a bad feeling about all of it. Especially about working alongside Marvo, his police colleague, who is about his age and has the keen ability to spot things others can’t. In a world where grown ups slowly go blind or completely lose the ability to see by the time they hit thirty, spotting things others can’t, is high in demand.

Frank is Gifted, which means he has the ability to perform magic. As a forensic sorcerer, he can do things like see it the head matches the body, how long the person has been dead, and all kind of things. Magic also doesn’t happen “just like that” – rituals and spells are needed. It’s all rather elaborate, and that’s what I like about it. It’s so completely unlike magic in other books. This magic needs incantations and spells and complex rituals – it’s not like the Harry Potter books where characters just wave a wand. Also, the book has a much darker undertone, with the mention of necromancers, of raising the dead, and of course, the murder waiting to be solved. “Who killed the Bishop and why” is the number one question throughout the book, but meanwhile we’re introduced to this amazing world of magic and witchcraft.

The world building and setting is the main reason why I gave this book five stars. I loved all of it. Seriously. From the spells, the summoning of demons and how that works, to Frank’s work place, to how the whole magic society works, to how outsiders deal with the gifted, everything about it makes sense. The book reminded me a lot of Lockwood & Co, another favorite of mine, but whereas Lockwood & Co deals with ghosts, and practically turned the whole world ghost lore upside down, Gifted does the same but with magic.

The characters are a mixed bag. Frank is spotless – I mean, he has tons and tons of flaws stacked upon even more flaws, but this makes him perfect. So human. So broken. Then we’ve got Marvo, who is flawed too, and who makes a great sidekick for Frank. I wasn’t too fond of Frank’s apparent infatuation for Kazia, the Bishop’s niece. He saw her once and fell head over heels for her – but then again, Frank is fifteen, and falling randomly in love is common for people that age, so I didn’t mind that much.

If you want an original magic system, and an intriguing setting, I would highly recommend this book. One of the most unique fantasy books I’ve read in years.

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