Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher
Argyll Productions, 2019. ISBN: 9781614505006. 174p.
(Age: 13-Adult) Recommended. Themes: Magic, Drought, Coming of age. Oliver is a minor mage with the ability of being able to cast only a few spells, including the ability of tying shoelaces together and a pushme pullme spell. He is clever with herbs and helpful in his village, but when his mother is away, the villagers insist that he goes on a quest to bring rain to the drought stricken area. On the way he faces much danger, including being imprisoned by a strange couple, encountering a ghost and nasty bandits in a dark forest and meeting the eerie cloud herders who could bring rain.
Ursula Vernon writes as T. Kingfisher for adults and this novella has caused some controversy as her editor didn't feel it was for children. It does contain some gory bits - a mage who makes harps out of the bones and hair of humans who have been murdered, ghuls who chase Oliver trying to eat him, some vicious and violent fights and a theme of adults acting in bad ways when under the influence of a crowd. However Oliver is still only 12 years old and sounds like a child and his familiar the armadillo is an endearing character. Kingfisher gives the reader lots to think about, especially the nature of crowd behaviour and how a clever and influential liar can influence how people act.
The brevity of Minor Mage, the witty dialogue and intriguing situations that Oliver and his familiar find themselves in made this an engrossing, quick read. I think it would be suitable for teens who don't mind some gory details and adults who enjoy T. Kingfisher's clever narrative and original ideas will find it a treat.