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Book review: Sufficiently Advanced Magic

When I started reading Sufficiently Advanced Magic, I realized that it has been forever (if I ever did???) that I read a book in the first person. I did get used to it after a while, but it’s pretty clear I prefer third person story telling, so I feel that has influenced my opinion of the book a bit. That aside, I had good fun with it. My daughter kept asking me what was happening in the tower? Did her learn something new? And in that sense I really like the progression of the person and magic skills that people had. As a gamer nerd, I had no trouble accepting the structures put in place in the world Andrew Rowe has created, which has influences from D&D, Final Fantasy and general jRPGs. But, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. So, what’s it about?

Corin Cadence lives in a world with spires, towers created by the goddess that have shifting rooms with death traps and all (does anyone know the cult movie ‘CUBE’?). People try to best the towers to get attunements (powers), which gives them (beside said powers) status and value for the different nations and political/army agendas. Those that reach the top of the towers are send to have their wish granted and it just so happens to be that Corin is looking for his brother, who went missing in the tower years before.
It is a bit of a privilege to enter a tower and we follow Corin from the moment he start his judgement (the first time you enter). Trouble is, things go off the beaten path while he’s in there and to make matters worse, he ends up with a different attunement then he had hoped for. All in all, a fun setup, but two things stifled my enjoyment a bit.

1) Corin Cadence, our main character, is no ass-kicking hero. In fact, I think he kind of sucks. He does have years-of-practice-sword-skills and he’s not dumb either, which is extremely useful for him to overcome his obstacles, giving that he’s up against some pretty powerful enemies. So, it’s not particularly bad, but not what I expected going in. Looking at the cover, I expected someone a little more… bad-ass, I guess.
Sir Cadence is a bit of an introvert, who doesn’t like to be touched, prefers to spend his time reading (don’t we all?) and doing lots of research. Which, you know, I can relate to on some intellectual level, but it had me roll my eyes more than once at the description of how mister MC had these awkward feels. I’m by no means trying to make fun of it. I’m sure it will strike home with those people that experience things in such a way in real-life, but the writing/description of those sections felt clunky to me. Unless it was intentionally written to read clunky, in order to bring across a feeling of awkwardness to the reader of course. In that case: Well done!
2) I did not fully dig the school setting. It works for the story allowing much of the explanations of the world-building to be part of the “lessons”, but I guess here too my expectations were a bit different, as I found the parts happening in the towers much more interesting and wished the book was filled with more of that adventure and less with Sir Cadence’s social life’s ups and downs.

To balance it out, there’s some good fights in there and I always like special swords, of which there were plenty. Also, the end has a nice twist, which gave me a smile while turning the last page. SAM did not bore me in the least, though it could have grabbed me more than it has. I think it was a nice introduction toward the (in popularity growing) litRPG genre (there were not too many stats woven into this story yet) and I’m positive I’ll read the second book as well, you know… cause I like swords. So plusses and minuses coming together, I think 3.5 out of 5 stars is a pretty good rating for how it connected with me personally.

Would I recommend it to anyone as a must read? Maybe… to my introvert friends.

– A.J. Norfield