Special thank you to HarperCollins and Kate (Your Tita Kate) for organizing this blog tour and providing me an ARC of the book. All opinions expressed are my own.
Author: M.K. England
Publication Date: January 21st, 2020
Publisher: HarperCollins Teen
Genre: Fantasy, LGBT
Age Range: YA
Trigger warnings: Anxiety, chronic illness, panic attacks, death
Synopsis: 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.
The Characters: A Walking Disaster, a Magical Prodigy, and their “Parents”
Dizzy has got to be the most dysfunctional, emotionally stunted (like, trash panda hissing in the shadows from inside a garbage can recoiling from even a hint of a human presence) character I’ve ever seen – and I love her for it. Reading about her making terrible decision after terrible decision was like watching an awful crash happen, with full on pyrotechnics and everything, but for some reason, you can’t look away. While I can definitely understand why some people would find her life choices extremely frustrating, I also think that’s what makes her the most relatable. Dizzy, for whatever reason, can’t help but make the worst choice possible when it comes to relationships, and teenage me relates to that on a spiritual level.
Remi is a saint, honestly. Not only do they exercise extraordinary patience with Dizzy, but they also recognize that they deserve more than being left without an answer for such a long amount of time. They know what they want but they’re not about to lead Dizzy to the right answer, and they know they can’t wait around forever for her to get there on her own. They’re the heart of the group, and it would fall apart without them. Remi is goofy and nerdy and an amazing natural spellweaver, able to pull and manipulate the maz that’s in the air around them, and it’s their gift that allows the gang to pull of heist after heist.
Ania is just the sort of level-headed, polished addition that this ragtag group of teens needs. She has immense privilege and she knows it, and does her best to use it to help her friends. As a tech-witch, Ania can only manipulate maz using gear that Dizzy made for her, and it’s only the wealth of her parents that allows Ania to buy however much maz she wants in a world of limited supply. While her approach is gentler and more subtle than Jaesin’s, Ania isn’t here for any of Dizzy’s bullshit when it comes to Remi’s feelings, but at the same time, she knows why Dizzy is the way she is and is there for her over and over again.
Jaesin is the big brother everyone needs. He cooks (or at least he tries to), he charms, and he beats up the folks he fails to charm. Jaesin, like Dizzy, is a non-maz wielder, but also like Dizzy, he proves himself to be an invaluable part of the team with his own unique set of strengths. Jaesin is their protector, whether it be from physical violence or protecting Remi’s heart from Dizzy’s uncertainty.
The Plot: Big Corporations, I’m Comin’ For You
Spellhacker is, at its core, amazingly and wonderfully anti-corporation. (Nana, if you’re reading this, your anti-capitalist self would THRIVE with this book) I won’t spoil too much, but let’s just say that Remi is right from the very beginning.
In the wake of disaster, the corporation MMC rises from the ashes to provide a sense of calm and safety, and to help people begin to use maz again after they’ve been traumatized by the aftermath of the spellplague. As Dizzy and the gang continue to unravel the threads that are barely holding Kyrkarta’s history together as they know it, they find out an awful truth about their city’s unlikely hero.
The plot is fairly predictable, but the characters are so dynamic and the magic usage is fresh enough that I never found myself getting bored while reading. There is a plot twist in the second half of the book that I didn’t love, even though I saw it coming. Seeing it written in stone was admittedly disappointing, but it did add a layer of complexity to Spellhacker that Dizzy, at least, needed.
Reasons to Recommend Spellhacker
Non-binary/fem romance!!! Dizzy and Remi have the mutual pining thing down pat, and there are so many moments where you just want to smash their heads together and get them to actually admit their feelings for each other out loud. Luckily, there’s really nothing like a high stakes police chase to make you finally confront and act on your feelings for someone.
I personally LOVED the commentary on how corporations can’t be trusted and how they always seem to find a way to benefit off of the suffering of the people they’re supposed to be helping. In fact, I’d say that the anti-corporate message in Spellhacker is one of my favorite things about it.
There’s also the recurring theme throughout the book that change is scary. And for Dizzy, it’s paralyzing. It’s hard to leave everything you’ve ever known behind, and it’s just as hard to be the one being left behind. But change can also be a new beginning, and I’m so glad that my disaster daughter realizes that in the end.
About the Author
M.K. England is an author and YA librarian who grew up on the Space Coast of Florida and now calls rural Virginia home. When they’re not writing or librarianing, MK can be found drowning in fandom, rolling dice at the gaming table, digging in the garden, or feeding their video game addiction. They love Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in their presence. You’ll regret it.
M.K. is the author of THE DISASTERS (2018) and SPELLHACKER (2020), both from Harper Teen.
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Follow along with the rest of the tour:
|Nandini @ Novels and Nebulas||Jan. 21, 2020|
|Charvi @ Not Just Fiction||Jan. 21, 2020|
|Krisha @ Bookathon||Jan. 22, 2020|
|Lauren @ Love Yo Shelf (that’s me!)||Jan. 23, 2020|
|AJ @ For the Love of Diversity in Books||Jan. 24, 2020|
|Zia @ Accio! Blog||Jan. 25, 2020|
|Myta @ Oro Plata Myta||Jan. 26, 2020|
|Simant @ Flipping Through the Pages||Jan. 27, 2020|
|Isabella @ Lives in YA Books||Jan. 27, 2020|