Review: A Crucible of Souls, Mitchell Hogan

September 3, 2015 Reviews 1 ★★★

Review: A Crucible of Souls, Mitchell HoganA Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan
Series: Sorcery Ascendant Sequence #1
Published by HarperVoyager on September 1st 2015 (originally May 2014)
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 518
Source: Publisher
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository • Bookworld

When Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, he is raised by monks and taught the arcane mysteries of sorcery.

Vowing to discover for himself who his parents really were, and what led to their violent end, he is thrust into the unfamiliar chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to earn an apprenticeship with a guild of sorcerers.

But he soon learns the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths.
As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that brings the world to the edge of destruction…

If you’d like to listen to a short clip of the audiobook version of Crucible of Souls, you can listen here on Soundcloud. The audiobook is available via Audible.


Caldan is an orphan, living at an island-bound monastery and learning with privileged rich children. Nearing the end of his schooling years, strange things start to happen to him – he is better at basic sorcery than his classmates, he starts to grow alarmingly and when one day he injures one of the other students, the monks send him off to the mainland to make his own way. When he arrives in the city of Anasoma he ends up with a lot more than he bargained for.

When I first received this book for review I was quite excited to read it – a high fantasy title that had originally been self-published, by an Australian author nonetheless, and now picked up by a major publishing house? It also won the Aurealis award for best fantasy in 2013! It sounded amazing, and in a lot of ways it was – the magic system of trinkets and the ability to access a “well” of magical energy was fascinating, and the writing style was enjoyable. I also found the sections about the chess-like game of Dominion rather baffling, but interesting. Unfortunately I did also find a few things frustrating.

Firstly, there’s a lot of world building. In fact, it takes pretty much the first half of the book for Caldan to actually get settled into the Sorceror’s Guild, and it’s almost the three-quarter mark before any real action starts to happen. There are some alternate points of view where action happens along the way, but for Caldan, it’s pretty much all just learning how to Sorcery.

The major frustration I had was with Caldan himself. He’s a bit of a wonder-child – excellent at everything without knowing why, even better than his teachers at some things. He works out new things about sorcery without killing himself or anyone else. I really dislike using “Mary-Sue” to describe characters but.. there we are. Despite all that I suppose he is endearing, and I look forward to finding out why he has such amazing powers.

The other characters are fairly solid as well. I really liked Miranda, although I can’t really see her motivation for hanging around with Caldan. There’s a lot that the characters hide from each other, and from the reader.

The structure of this story is very well-put-together, with a number of strands subtly moving around each other and occasionally meeting. But here’s the thing: I like for there to be some kind of revelation about what is really going on in the story before the end of the first book. At the very least, the baddies motivation and some kind of hint at their overall plan. And in this book, we never get that. I am left with all sorts of questions!

How come Caldan is so strong/powerful/self-healing/awesome? Why is Amerdan.. how he is? What’s the deal with the First Deliverer and his gang, and who are the baddies, actually? Also, who the hell is Miranda?

Okay so it sounds on reflection like I didn’t enjoy this book – that’s not true, I did actually like Caldan and his experimentations with crafted objects. Perhaps my opinion will improve once I read the second book, Blood of Innocents, and I do intend to do that. In any case, this is a very promising debut from Mitchell Hogan.

Anni lives in Brisbane, Australia with her young family. She loves everything fantasy and science fiction and believes sleep is really very underrated.

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