Author: A. P. Winter
First published by Chicken House in 2017
Review by Miriam Atkinson
From princes and pirates to airships and forbidden magic, The Boy Who Went Magic can only be described as a rip-roaring adventure that wonderfully balances actions scenes and perilous moments with heart-felt character-centric relationships and interactions.
The story follows Bert, an orphan boy and social outcast among his fellow classmates, as he inadvertently comes into contact with an ancient mirror which activates his seemingly uncontrollable magical abilities. In a land where magic was long ago outlawed, Bert must flee with the help of Finch – a mysterious girl with mechanical legs. Together they attempt to evade Prince Voss, who is determined that he alone should control the forbidden power.
The Boy Who Went Magic presents a strong theme of friendship and self-discovery. The plot is driven by Bert’s connections to his friends, namely Norton (Bert’s only friend at school) and Finch and her father (who aid Bert against Voss). Even though Bert is thrown into the world of magic and often scared along the way he is still resolute in helping the people he meets. His friends in turn help Bert to understand where he comes from and what his connection to magic might mean for his future.
Although the story moves along at a relatively quick pace nothing feels rushed. Every chapter serves a purpose in advancing the plot and nothing happens or is including without a reason (as the reader finds out at the end of the book). Although the book is not padded out with ‘filler’ chapters or sections that could be considered unnecessary, as a reader you are left wanting more. I believe that perhaps in places the story could have slowed down, such as the time Bert spends travelling aboard the pirate airship. This would have allowed the reader to get a broader sense of his new life and provided more opportunities for interactions between Bert and Finch in none life or death situations.
As of 2020 no sequels have been released so perhaps A. P. Winter does intend for The Boy Who Went Magic to be a stand-alone novel. The book does work as a stand-alone with almost everything resolved. Renamed as a child when he was enrolled in the school, Bert’s original name is frustratingly never revealed however this omission could be interpreted as a representation of Bert focusing on his new life rather than lamenting his old one. If there ever were to be a sequel, as a reader, I would enjoy learning more about Ferenor – the ancient land of magic before its destruction. Depicted as a mystical and mysterious place it would be interesting to see the country at the height of its power and the shadowy land it has turned into.
The Boy Who Went Magic features an intriguing new fantasy world that combines magic with aeronautical pirate ships. Swords, guns, and bolts of arcane light; this really is an exciting adventure that places it characters at the heart of the story and leaves the reader wanting more and more.
*This review was originally written for the online magazine Cuckoo Review in August 2017*