A young magician who cannot cast magic must prove himself in other ways in the first installment of a new fantasy series from de Castell (Tyrant's Throne, 2017, etc.).
Kellen is the oldest child of two powerful magicians in a culture that prizes magic above all. At 16, he needs to prove himself a worthy heir to his family name—but literally everyone Kellen knows can cast more magic than him, including his little sister, Shalla, a magical prodigy. Desperate not to embarrass his family or be relegated to the magicless servant caste, Kellen hones his other skills—trickery, guile, and creativity. But Kellen's attempts to game the system only buy him more trouble...though also an unpredictable ally: a foreigner named Ferius Parfax, who has her own tricks. In turn, this leads the Dowager Magus (widow of the recently departed ruler) to recruit Kellen to spy on Parfax. Kellen's questions, and loyalties, multiply quickly: Who is Parfax, and why is she here? Is his growing friendship and identification with her worth disobeying the woman whose influence is letting him advance in his magical tests? Who will be the new ruler? What dark secrets are being kept from Kellen? This last turns out to be most important, as Kellen learns long-forgotten truths about his society, with the aid of Parfax and a creature his own people believe to be a poisonous demon. All that Kellen believes about his world—and his own family—is called into question, but as old loyalties fall down around his ears, new ones emerge. Will those alliances be strong enough to guide Kellen into the man he can become without magic?
An intriguing system of magic, wry humor, and a twisting plot make for an entertaining series debut.