“There is something about a group of people that is less than the sum of its parts“. (Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher)
We keep saying we are done with YA books. The pandemic put us off them and we can’t explain why. Perhaps all that youth jumping about the place, behaving like adults, with the wisdom of sages, knowledge of diverse subjects more specialised than PhDs and then saving the world, becomes irritating after a while. More so because we know that a lot more is actually required to save even a tiny little bit. Then we happened to read Minor Mage by T.Kingfisher which is not even YA, the protagonist is 12 so we suppose it is a middle grade book. But what fun! A lovely little book about a boy, Oliver, who is a minor mage because he knows just three spells and has a smart mouthed, clever armadillo as his familiar.
Oliver’s village which is facing drought decides to send twelve year old Oliver off by himself to the distant Rainblade mountains to ask for rain from the rainherders. His normally congenial and friendly neighbours become something else in a crowd and forget that the distance and dangers between the village and the mountains are not something a 12 year old should have to face alone, even if he is a mage. They do all of this very conveniently when his mother happens to be out of town.
Along the way Oliver, feeling betrayed by his village but supported by his trusty armadillo does face darkness and hardships, ghouls and ghosts. The adult humans who could have helped turn out to be worse monsters. Although Oliver’s repertoire of spells is limited and he wishes that he knew the big flamboyant ones, ultimately its his little spells which are most useful. The relationship between Oliver and his armadillo is cute beyond words and the two really can count on each other for support, humour and a good amount of friendly criticism.
As is typical of T. Kingfisher, her children’s books have very dark undertones, which is what makes them more than children’s books and a true comment on society. In that sense this is a book suitable both for children and adults, as the best books always are.