Friday, June 18, 2021

Stealing From Wizards: The Book You've Never Heard Of But Should Totally Read

A million years ago - or maybe it was only 8 or 9 - I read a thought-provoking article about "Hutt-slayer Leia" cosplays, culminating in the author of the article, Ryan, crafting and modelling his own version to wear - unironically - to a con. The original blog post has long since disappeared, but I remember Ryan talking about his own body insecurities and advocating more kindness toward the cosplayers (mainly women) who were getting so lambasted in popular media at the time.

I remember this because I then spotted Ryan - in his Hutt-slayer cosplay, no less - at Dragon Con, and had a minor fangirl moment. Since Ryan is a Dragon Con regular, after that I started recognizing him through the years in his various Star Wars cosplays.

Here he is as Doctor Jedi, or, Jedi Who?

"Live long, and may the Force be wibbly wobbly."


And more recently as a 'Puffy Space Wizard:


He's got at least a dozen more, all beautifully handcrafted, but I'm not here to talk about Ryan's cosplay. Nope, turns out Ryan Consell is also an author, and a few weeks ago I got my first ever message from him on Instagram, asking if he could send me this:

Stealing From Wizards Vol 1: Pickpocketing

He called it "a Canadian misfit wizard school adventure," and that he'd like to send me a copy "in the vain hopes that you would read/like/review it based only on the fact that you liked my costume that one time."

Now, I don't get a huge amount of book review requests, but I still say no to most after a traumatizing experience where I agreed to read a book, didn't like the book, then the author kept "checking in" until I had to politely explain that I didn't like the book (nooooooo) and therefore would not be reviewing the book (NOOOOO), and it. was. AWFUL.

::shudder::

But listen, Ryan's note made me laugh, I like his Instagram content, and the cover looked nice.

So now, after the world's longest intro to a book review, LET'S DISH:

I'm happy to report Stealing From Wizards hooked me in the first 3 pages through sheer creative world building. And I'm going to try not to sound insulting when I keep saying how surprised I was by this magical adventure, but I genuinely kept being surprised. If I had to describe it using only 5% of the words I intend to, I'd say it's a light frothy blend of Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, and a little Percy Jackson's Camp Halfblood thrown in for spice.

The overarching story beats are familiar and even predictable for Potter fans: an abused child ends up at a magical school hidden from the non-magical world, where he finds friends, enemies, & hijinks galore. What I love, though, are the details, the twists, the many colors Consell uses to paint his own unique picture. For example, instead of buying school supplies, young Kuro goes to a magical Lost & Found labyrinth and excavates for what he needs. Instead of a train, there's a double decker "Princess Ferry." [snerk] Instead of 4 Houses there are 4 Seasons. And instead of exasperating, clueless adults who are never there when the kids need them, we get an entire range of older characters who care, or who at least try to help. I'm tired of the YA cliché that it's the kids against the world and all adults are either useless or evil, so this? This was nice.

I also like that Kuro has strong female characters all around him, including his best friend (who is amazing), his arch rival, his camp counselor, the school principal, and some of his best teachers. It's even strangely refreshing to have female bullies, especially when the main character is a boy. Just a different dynamic.

Stealing From Wizards is a comfort book, the kind that never lets the bad get too bad. (cough cough UMBRIDGE cough) Parents should know there's a recurring mention that the Big Bad once mind-controlled someone into murdering herself, but the murder is only mentioned, not described. In fact early on in the book I remember feeling a sense of dread at where the story seemed to be going, abuse-wise, and then, poof! The plot spun on its heel and dashed off to better horizons. Love that. 

My favorite part is a huge spoiler, so of course I won't name it, but when you start spluttering out loud or saying, "Wait. WHAT?!" - that's it. It's a very cool twist, masterfully woven, and another surprise that totally got me. (There are at least 3 good reveals thrown in, but I'm willing to bet my favorite will be your favorite.)

I'm told there are clever Canadian touches sprinkled throughout the book that only Canadians will recognize, but as a tragically non-Canadian American, I'll have to take my Northern neighbors' word for it. ;)

Now here's the best part, at least for me: yesterday Ryan announced Volume 2 is dropping in less than two weeks, on July 1st.


If you've read enough of my reviews then you know I despise cliff-hanger endings, so I was happy to end Volume 1 with enough resolution to feel like I'd made the journey, but also looking forward to hearing about the nifty place Kuro ended up in the final pages. I had no idea Consell was even working on Volume 2, so he's pulled off one last surprise just in time for my review. Nice one, Ryan.

Ah, last thing: did I mention Stealing From Wizards is self-published, and that Ryan has less than 600 followers on Instagram? I think it's safe to say you'll be the first in your social sphere to read this little gem, and guaranteed the kids in your life don't have a copy yet. I'm genuinely delighted to find a book of this caliber this undiscovered, so join me in the early adopter phase, won't you? You can buy the Kindle version for about $2 on Amazon, or grab a physical copy for $12.99 Prime. And hey, if you're a Dragon Con regular, I bet we could convince Ryan to do an impromptu signing for us this year or next.
:)

Happy reading, and happy weekend, 'bots!


And hey, if it's not happy, or you're hurting, or maybe you just need someone to remind you: You are worthy of love, space, respect, and rest. If you need a friendly & safe space online, remember there's a thriving Epbot community on Facebook and also on the Epbot Discord, which has a support channel for talking about the hard stuff. We've got your back, fam.


*****


Wait! Before you go, let's announce some art winners:

The winner of the Weird Robots set is Amanda Nease
The winner of the Loki set is jtb34
And the winner of Patronus Vibes is JulieG

Congrats, you three, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!




28 comments:

  1. Sounds fun and exactly what I've been looking for (and failing to find) recently. Purchased Volume 1 and preordered Volume 2. I've been hanging out with you virtually long enough (since the beginning really) to know we have pretty similar tastes, so I trust your recommendations. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Thank you! I've purchased on Kindle and will write a review when I'm done. I review 95% of books I read, as I know how important it is to get honest opinions, and to give the authors feedback.

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  3. I was once asked to review someone's book, and I also didn't much care for it, but I wrote that review, and dude was less than pleased. So I totally feel your pain. I review books for fun, and I have definitely not cared to risk repeating that experience on the rare occasions others have asked me again either!

    That said, this one totally sounds fun (and I am Canadian, so there will be even more fun for me, it sounds like!), and my list is way too long, but I am a sucker for a good endorsement, so I think these two might just go on it... (Although I hope it doesn't turn into a lengthy series. I don't mind adding one or two books at a time, but I'm less keen to commit to 7 or 12.)

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  4. Oh, my gosh, I won!! Thank you, thank you! I have emailed. So excited!

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  5. 10 minutes ago - I don't need any more books. I will read all the books I already have first. 2 minutes ago - Oh - Jen is...recommending a new book... 1 minute ago - Cool! New book and pre-order!!

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    1. LOL, you totally described me right there!

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  6. Heyo, I think I know who I am going to try to book for an author visit!

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  7. I have no time to read, and I have no idea if I'll like these books, but at this price (!) I'm getting both before some big conglomerate finds them and takes over. And if I don't like the books I'll consider it a donation to awesome cosplaying :D

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  8. FWIW, Ryan's original post and the followup article are at the Internet Archive - with the photos.

    Off to go check out the books...

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  9. just bought volume 1. Side note, (almost relevant as I heard about it here) please can someone make Off To Be The Wizard into a film???!!! I would chip into a crowdfunder for that!

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    1. I have wondered why that isn't a film yet too!

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  10. I got them too! I will review as soon as I get done reading them!

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  11. This totally sounds like the kind of book I love to read. More importantly, it sounds like the kind of book I love for my botlings to read. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  12. This totally sounds like the kind of book I love to read. More importantly, it sounds like the kind of book I love for my botlings to read. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  13. With a PhD, I have done a few book reviews and I too dread doing something that I dislike. I don't enjoy writing reviews about negative things. So, the last one I was supposed to do was quite a few years ago now and I could not get through it. The journal wanted me to write the negative review & I just thought - someone poured themselves into this work and just because I don't love it doesn't mean someone else won't find it just perfection. I stood my ground and refused to do it. And I haven't done one since. I am so glad you fell in love with this book and I will definitely get a copy to read as part of my vacation plans (I literally plan my vacations around reading, which apparently is not what other people do!)...

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  14. I am in Canada, I did a search on Kobo and both books are available in epub. $2.99 CAD each or FREE with Kobo Plus KOBO

    Chapters Indigo (very Canadian bookstore) has the Kobo e-pub book available there as well for $2.99 CAD. Chapters Indigo

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  15. Just ordered vol 1! It says it's for 8+, too, so I think this may be a perfect read aloud for my daughter, granddaughter, and nieces. They're all close in age (yes I have a granddaughter and daughter that are only a few years apart. 🤣😂) Anyway, most of them are big HP fans, so they'll probably love this too. Thanks so much!

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  16. Buying this for my (21yo) kidbot and me now!
    She’ll be thrilled that there’s a sequel, she’s all about the series!

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  17. Thanks for mentioning the books. I went on and bought the Kindle version for book 1 and 2. And very economical in price!

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  18. Thanks for the tip! A *Canadian* magic school? I'm in. I've ordered the paperback and will await the release of the second book in print.

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  19. How did the made up term "cosplay" get to the point where people just use it as if it's a real word? I "cringe" every time I see it. I guess that makes it "cringe worthy" which I believe is now just "cringe". Maybe it should be called "cringplay". Never mind. Merriam, Webster and I are going to go cry in the corner.

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  20. Any story that has a kindly screaming skull gets five stars from me.

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  21. Jen, thank you so much for recommending this book! I got it after seeing your post, read it in one setting and it's just as amazing as you promised! I can't wait to follow Kuro in the next book.

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  22. Thanks so much for this recommendation - I've read it and am eagerly awaiting the next! It's great to have something different than the mentally scarring Rowling series (seriously, why to some authors think that horrifying deaths explicitly described are a good thing for anybody, let alone kids?). There are so many things to love about this, including putting forth the idea that a lot of adults can be the 'good guys' (another bugbear about Rowling and that ilk - teaching kids that adults are useless and can't help you when in trouble, you can only solve things by yourself with magic and luck or smarter, magic friends...!).

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  23. Hi Jen, I bought this based on your review and just read it in 1 sitting. It was a very fun read. I highly recommend it.

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  24. Got the kindle book and zoomed through it. It started a little slow for me, but I realized that it was setting the scene/world. Once the actual story started I really enjoyed it!

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