Spellhacker – M.K. England – HarperTeen – Published 21 January 2020
In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.
Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.
But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.
Spellhacker is a fantastic mix of fantasy and science fiction. I can tell you right now it is going to be a pain deciding whether to put it in our YA fantasy or YA Sci-fi section but the pain will be worth it to share this adventure of a novel with our readers. Tech hackers, best friends, diverse romantic relationships, conspiracy theories, magic literally woven with technology and gadgets, explosions, heists and enough action to keep you glued to the pages, M.K England seriously delivers with this fabulous book.
Diz‘s world as she knows it is ending. Her best friends, who, aside from a cousin, are the only family she has since her parents died in the Spellplague that killed thousands, are moving away from their home to new jobs, new Universities. They have time for just one final job, siphoning maz from the tightly controlled supply MMC maintains. But when the job goes horribly wrong, the four friends have to run for their lives, especially when MMC look set to use their mini disaster to cover up the fact they have been secretly mining a new strand of very dangerous maz. To save themselves and clear their names they will have to save their city also.
Spellhacker is such a fun adventure. It’s a combination between a heist novel and fantasy quest, with a bunch of cool tech thrown in. The world in Spellhacker feels almost futuristic – almost dystopian as the destruction caused by maz and the spellplague could easily reflect the natural disasters and impacts of climate change in our own world. Magic, rather than replace or prevent technology, has been neatly intertwined and it makes so much sense. I know readers who frequently ask me for fantasy books that make sense and have scientific backings will love Spellhacker.
M.K. England consistently presents a range of diverse characters in her novels, and they are leading, well developed characters, not merely placeholders. Diz is already dreading the day her three best friends leave her behind. She is still grieving the death of her parents and holding Remi at arms length, not exploring what they might truly mean to her. As they pull their last job, make a big discovery about their world and the maz, the four friends also explore the relationships between them and the strength of their friendship.
I do hope there will be a sequel. While this first book leaves readers with a satisfying ending, the four friends have just begun their adventure and I would love to see what they get up to next.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Genre: Fantasy/Science fiction
Themes: Magics, technology, hacking, heists, friendship, family, belonging, grief, relationships, illness, LGBT+, non-binary, LGBT+ relationships.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references. Coarse language, f*** (12), sh** (12), bi*** (2), as***** (12), di** (3).
Published: 21 January 2020 by HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 416 pages.