Thursday, June 25, 2020

Ruthless Magic (Conspiracy of Magic, #1) by Megan Crewe

Narrated by Austin Rising 
& Jennifer Jill Araya
Synopsis (via Goodreads): In the contest to keep their magic, the only options may be die... or kill.

Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages' Exam.

Disadvantaged by her parents' low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling—and determined to fight to keep her magic.

Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth.

Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies—and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win?

The first in a new series by
USA Today bestselling author Megan Crewe, Ruthless Magic combines the magic of Harry Potter with the ferocity of The Hunger Games alongside a poignant romance. Fans of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, look no further for your next urban fantasy fix.

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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I really liked Ruthless Magic! It felt a little like The Hunger Games, but with mages and more secrecy. In The Hunger Games, President Snow and the Capital wanted to make a spectacle of the participants, so all of Panem witnessed the brutality of the Games. In Ruthless Magic, the rest of the world is blind to what the North American Confederation of Mages is up to, so they can do whatever they want to those who elect to take the Mages' Exam. People have died over the years, and no one is ever told how or why. It's just accepted, which is bananas! More often than not, the families aren't even given their bodies.

Both Rocio and Finn were excellent characters, and I found myself relating to them in different ways. Rocio has had to work for everything in her life, while Finn has been given every opportunity whether it was deserved or not. He doesn't realize how much people have coddled him until he earns a spot at the college and his best friend does not. It's then that he sees how flawed the system is, and chooses to try and prove he's worth his salt when it comes to using magic. Finn has lofty goals, and honestly wants to do his part to help people, but his magic is weaker than most. His good ideas take longer to execute, and often require more of his focus and energy than it conceivably would for the others.

Rocio was the opposite. She had the talent but not the training. She isn't from one of the original families, so they view her magic as untested and a liability. They don't want someone like her tarnishing their reputation, or questioning the way they've been doing things for years. Unbeknownst to everyone else, Rocio has an uncanny connection to the magic, and it's something she can feel on a level no one else can. It's almost like the magic itself interacts with her, so she sees it as another living thing to work with. Everyone else views magic as a tool to be wielded. Her connection gave her a small advantage in the trials, and she did her best to keep everyone in her group safe and alive. She desperately wanted to trust a system that had repeatedly failed her, and I respected her determination in the face of adversity.

The secondary characters were also interesting to read about, but I wanted to know more about their specific backgrounds. They all chose to take the Mages' Exam for a reason, just like Rocio and Finn, and we weren't always told what those reasons were. I also wanted to know more about Rocio's family and her life with her brother before.

I wasn't always 100% sure how the magic worked, only that it did. Finn was taught to use a certain language and specific texts to harness the magic, while Rocio used old lullabies and songs from her childhood. The differences were major, which was briefly touched on towards the end of the book, but I still wasn't sure why some people were able to use magic and others weren't. Where does the magic come from? Questions like this might be answered in later books, but I wish it had been expanded on a little throughout this one, since it was a such a prominent part of the story.

Ruthless Magic was also a lot darker than I was expecting. The Mages' Exam was BRUTAL, and not everyone made it out alive. Even the people that did survive until the end weren't necessarily named Champion. They still have their magic forcibly removed, despite enduring the tortures of the trials. People died in horrible ways, and the author doesn't skim over those deaths. We're told very clearly how they happen (also very The Hunger Games-like), and some of those descriptions will stay with me forever. I'm still not sure how the truth of the Exam hadn't leaked beyond the borders of the island and its participants. Someone had to tell or slip-up over the years, right? How could you not say anything about people trying to kill you in extremely extravagant ways over the course of 5 days? How could you not talk about the horrors you saw end endured?

Rising and Araya were amazing narrators, too. I was so engrossed in the story and thought they did a wonderful job bringing the characters to life. The story was good on its own, but they added an additional layer of authenticity. I highly recommend listening to this one if you get a chance! Wonderfully relatable characters, life-and-death experiences, and a setting that will make you cringe, rage, and cheer for the fictional people you've just met. (★★★⋆☆)

3 comments:

  1. I've been vaguely interested in this one for a while, so I'm glad to hear you liked it! Hopefully the questions will be answered in future books. Glad you liked the characters though!

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    Replies
    1. The characters were great! I also thought the story itself was unique and interesting, so that's a bonus. :) You'll have to let me know if you decide to read it! The audio is fantastic.

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  2. Well dang, that sounds really good. These characters sound really interesting.

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless