If you pitch something to me as Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Fight Club, I'm going to read it, no questions asked. I might be a little skeptical about how two such very different concepts might pair, but I'm still going to read it anyway. And then, I'm going to be proven wrong, because it's going to be amazing-- at least, that's how it worked out with CASTER.
This was such an amazing book. A much better way of describing it, though, is The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter. Aza lives in a vaguely dystopian world ravaged by pollution and poverty, where people pay tribute to bad people to protect their businesses. Aza's older sister used to handle their finances, but she died mysteriously, and now that terrible task has fallen to Aza.
In this world, magic is forbidden because it comes at a cost. When magic is cast, the earth and the caster both take a heavy toll. People blame casters for the world's current state, and being caught doing magic could mean death-- or worse.
Which is why Aza is shocked when she finds out that her sister, Shire, was involved in a secret underground magic fight. When she lands an invitation herself, she ends up involved despite knowing that she shouldn't-- it's not just a way to save her family's business from certain doom, but also a way to figure out what really happened to her sister, and why.
Oh my God, this book was so good. The world-building was dark and amazing and I loved the checks and balances of the magic system, when all too often, you read fantasy books where magic is basically a clever party trick people can perform at no cost. It actually reminded me a little of Brandon Sanderson's MISTBORN series, the way they relied on physical focuses with different properties and doing too much could take a physical toll on you (including death). Everything flows very naturally and I felt like I was allowed to sink into the fantasy element as if it was a hot bath instead of having it poured over my head like a shock of cold water. It was done very well.
And the battle scenes! I don't want to say too much because spoilers, but this book was action-packed and I think it's really going to appeal to fans of THE HUNGER GAMES, who put down MOCKINGJAY somewhat disappointedly (some more so than others) and found themselves wanting more, although I feel like Aza is a better heroine than Katniss in some ways, because of how she struggles with guilt and morality-- that cliffhanger, man. How am I going to wait for book two? (There is going to be a book two, right? I need to know what choices she ends up making.)
I'm so excited for September to come, because it means I'm going to be able to squee over this series with friends. Right now, I'm the only one who's read it-- and I'm just aching to spill the beans.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
5 out of 5 stars