Mitchell Hogan is another self-published author that is seeing some success as a newly picked up published author. A Crucible of Souls is his first book in the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, and for originally being a self-published work, I found it to be enjoyable, and hit the right areas I like about fantasy. The audiobook I listened to was fantastic and narrated by Oliver Wyman. I found it to be very similar to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind.
A Crucible of Souls is a multiple point of view character fantasy book with a large focus on one particular point of view that we follow the most. The other point of views are used to describe what is going on in other parts of the book so that the reader can get an overall understanding of what is happening. Even though we have these multiple point of views, the information given to the reader about how this world works and what is happening is purposely limited to build mystery. I personally love this style of writing fantasy because the thing I enjoy most about SFF is discovering the world building and figuring out the plot mysteries.
The main bulk of the story deals with a young adult named Caldan. Caldan is a student at a monastery where he learns how to craft. Crafting is the ability to create an object and then draw runes on that object to enhance the object’s purpose or ability. Caldan is one of the few that can craft objects out of paper and create small paper mache like animals that can move. When Caldan is forced to leave the monastery because of an accident, Caldan goes to the big city of Anasoma where he joins the Sorcerer’s Guild. At the Sorcerer’s Guild he learns more information about his crafting ability, the death of his parents, and many other mysteries that throws Caldan into the middle of a conflict involving sorcery on a level not seen for hundreds of years.
This story is very much a typical fantasy story. We have a young man that is orphaned because his parents were killed and he has to go out on his own. While out on his own he learns about the mysteries of the world around him. For people that have passed this stage of fantasy and find it too tropey, this might not for you. I still really enjoy this type of fantasy. It reminded me a lot of The Name of the Wind because Caldan and Kvothe are relatively similar except that Caldan is more humble and likable. The Name of the Wind is a better written book, as far as prose, but I found the mystery and world in A Crucible of Souls to be more interesting.
The mysteries surrounding the magic system is why I enjoyed this book so much. I immediately loved the idea of crafting with different materials to create magic items. The prologue hooked me right away with the ability to craft paper into an animal to use in a fight. There is so much about the magic system I still don’t know about and I am looking forward to diving into book 2 soon. I worry that after I learn about all the mysteries of this world and magic that the books will be less interesting to me.
The way that A Crucible of Souls was written helped me to get really involved in the plot. There are things going on that isn’t explained but this is alright because your imagination helps fill in the gaps. A fantasy book that keeps me always guessing about the world and plot is what I enjoy the most.
The biggest issue I had with this book was that there is way too much horny teenager stuff. Just too many instances of Caldan checking girls out and a little too much blushing going on for me. I decided to ignore it but I can see some people being extremely annoyed by it. Also, the characters are rather 2-dimensional, so if you mostly read fantasy books for great characters, this might be one you might want to skip. The side point of view characters are much better than the main point of view character in my opinion. There is a serious lack of good female characters in this novel too. The most important female character is a girl that doesn’t have much character growth outside of Caldan. I think that these two things, horny teenage stuff, and a lack of a good female character, will turn off a lot more serious SFF female readers. However, if you like interesting world building, and a plot that doesn’t reveal everything at once, and leaves you asking questions, this might be one for you.
4/5 16/25 Possible Score
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 2(O.K.)
World-Building/Setting – 4(Strong)
Writing Style – 3(Good)
Heart & Mind Apect – 3(Good)