SpellwrightIn Brief

Imagine a world in which you could peel written words off a page and make them physically real. You might pick your teeth with a sentence fragment, protect yourself with defensive paragraphs, or thrust a sharply-worded sentence at an enemy’s throat.

Such a world is home to Nicodemus Weal, an apprentice at the wizardly academy of Starhaven. Because of how fast he can forge the magical runes that create spells, Nicodemus was thought to be the Halcyon, a powerful spellwright prophesied to prevent an event called the War of Disjunction, which would destroy all human language. There was only one problem: Nicodemus couldn’t spell.

Runes must be placed in the correct order to create a spell. Deviation results in a “misspell”—a flawed text that behaves in an erratic, sometimes lethal, manner. And Nicodemus has a disability, called cacography, that causes him to misspell texts simply by touching them.

Now twenty-five, Nicodemus lives in the aftermath of failing to fulfill prophecy. He finds solace only in reading knightly romances and in the teachings of Magister Shannon, an old blind wizard who’s left academic politics to care for Starhaven’s disabled students.

But when a powerful wizard is murdered with a misspell, Shannon and Nicodemus becomes the primary suspects. Proving their innocence becomes harder when the murderer begins killing male cacographers one by one…and all evidence suggests that Nicodemus will be next. Hunted by both investigators and a hidden killer, Shannon and Nicodemus must race to discover the truth about the murders, the nature of magic, and themselves.

Author Quotations

Think that words can’t hurt you? Sometimes, they can kill. The spells of textual magic of this enthralling tale will demonstrate just how.

-Terry Brooks

Nicodemus Weal is a protagonist that all of us can identify with. Spellwright features a unique system of magic and characters that are genuine inhabitants of that world. Spellwright is a letter-perfect story: an absorbing read and recommended.

-Robin Hobb

Blake Charlton has not only invented a fascinating world and peopled it with realistic people and wonderful, grisly monsters, but he has also created one of the few truly original magical systems we’ve seen in fantasy fiction. The lucid complexity of the magic reminds me of Jack Vance, which is high praise indeed. I’m fascinated to see what happens next and will be following every word with the absorption of an apprentice spellwright. You will be, too.

-Tad Williams

Spellwright is a different and complex kind of fantasy. It’s well worth wrapping your mind around.

-Piers Anthony

This imaginative debut novel about the power of words– and I mean that literally–weaves together an inventive magic system with the story of a young man’s struggle to come to terms with who and what he is. Charlton makes a timeless plot fresh by drawing from his own experience, and he manages the difficult balancing act of writing with a real sense of delight in his world while meanwhile tackling some darker themes. I look forward to seeing what comes next.

-Kate Elliott

Read Spellwright for its words, magic, word-magic, and wordplay. Inventive, but in a traditional vein: good vs evil, deathmatch.

-Brent Weeks

Spellwright is exactly the kind of book that got me into fantasy in the first place. Blake Charlton has built a world that is as new as it is classic, and a story that kept me reading late into the night. Blake Charlton is a talent to watch.

-Daniel Abraham

A clever conceit well executed adds a flair of originality to this wizard-in-training fantasy. A spellcaster who can’t spell — in both senses of the word! Fast-paced and well-written, Spellwright is an enjoyable read.

-Kevin J. Anderson

Blake Charlton’s novel is, quite literally, a magical and spellbinding adventure about overcoming the sort of odds that many in our own world struggle with.

-Tobias Buckell

An absorbing tale of acceptance for lovers of language and magic everywhere.

-Sean Williams

Publication Reviews

[STARRED REVIEW] Charlton’s debut presents a refreshingly new look at magic and the power of words. Nicodemus is a strong protagonist, but the supporting cast is equally as memorable, two qualities that will make this series opener resonate in the reader’s mind. Highly recommended.

Library Journal

[STARRED REVIEW] From the very start, Charlton draws us into Nico’s world. The character is eminently believable, and his difficulty with spelling will strike a chord with many. Charlton’s unique take on how magic is cast will tickle magic fans despite, or because of, its bearing very little resemblance to magic à la Harry Potter. The title of the book is a play on words, of course, since Nico must learn to spell right to become a true spellwright. At story’s end, he is at last credibly preparing for what he believes is his destiny, leaving readers anxiously expecting the next batch of his adventures.


Spellwright brims with a love for the genre and a thrill for written language that can come only from a long struggle to understand it. The system of magical languages that Charlton creates not only distinguishes Spellwright from other fantasy writers’ works, it allows him endless opportunities for wordplay. As long as Charlton continues the excitement that marks this book’’s second half, the further adventures of Nicodemus Weal will become a terrific fantasy saga.

-The Chicago Sun-Times

[Spellwright’s] setting is evocative, the wizards’ school occupying only a small part of a city built and abandoned by a long-gone species; the magic system is intriguingly different, with the concept of cacography providing a truly distinctive twist…a solid first novel, with some impressive world-building.

-Locus Magazine

Spellwright is a well-crafted epic fantasy that mines the author’s own experiences living with dyslexia for a new twist on a classic story, and like Weal himself, Charlton has managed to turn what some might consider a curse into a powerful gift.

-Realms of Fantasy Magazine

Spellwright [is] a refreshingly different fantasy novel…a real treat for language fans, enjoyably well-written, with a satisfying conclusion that leaves plenty of room for the inevitable sequel.

SFX Magazine

Charlton’s baroque prose perfectly mirrors the central role of language and the byzantine politics surrounding the Convocation and the potential prophecy, and the innovative spell craft will please fantasy readers weary of more traditional magics.

Publisher’s Weekly

[A] well-done first novel by a medical student who grew up with a serious learning disability. Nicodemus’s world is a complex one, filled with a variety of political factions. [Charlton creates a] magical system that should fascinate readers familiar with the work of Robert Jordan and David Eddings.

VOYA Magazine

Online Reviews

Spellwright would be an impressive novel if an author with many bestselling books under his/her belt had written it. It’s even more impressive, to me, in that it’s Blake Charlton’s debut novel. I can’t wait to read the forthcoming books in the series, if they’re anywhere as good as this one!

-BSC Revew

The magic system in Spellwright is simply brilliant [and] Spellwright is incredibly charming. So charming in fact, that it sometimes felt like I was reading a Harry Potter novel, although comparisons can also be drawn to Patrick Rothfuss, Tad Williams, and Raymond E. Feist…[Spellwright is] one of the most entertaining and satisfying fantasy debuts I have ever read…I enjoyed reading SPELLWRIGHT so much, I worry about the sequel living up to the high standards set by Blake Charlton’s remarkable debut…


Charlton’s inventive debut is comfortable in its tropes, but also willing to turn convention on its head and remind us of that sense of wonder than drew us to Fantasy in the first place.

-A Dribble of Ink

Blake Charlton’s Spellwright is the most original book in the fantasy genre that I’ve ever read. No hyperbole. It’s inspired by Charlton’s own struggle with dyslexia and his own love of fantasy.


I know that many readers are fed up with traditional fantasy books…This is a shame, because some traditional fantasy books are fascinating and worth reading. Blake Charlton’s Spellwright is one of these fascinating books.


Blake Charlton has done the extraordinary with Spellwright. He has managed to use all the tired tropes of classic Epic Fantasy…and make them all feel fresh and engaging…If you’re a fan of classic style Epic Fantasy this will be a must for you.

The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Review

If you want to read one of the promising 2010 debut novels which is exceedingly charming, offers passion, breathes magic with every syllable and twist you around the little finger within minutes then there is no way out to read Spellwright.

Only the Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Spellwright puts a new spin in the epic battle of good versus evil by creating a unique system of magic that works from languages. The worlds, past and present, that Blake Charlton describes are richly imagined, and the complex plot advances at breakneck speed without leaving the reader behind…[H]ighly recommended for all fantasy lovers.


“[A] magic system sure to surprise and delight readers.”


Combined with a classic fantasy plot and a sympathetic hero, this high-concept idea becomes a story that is utterly fresh, while retaining that familiar fantasy genre feel…Spellwright is a wonder-filled and exciting read, and I’m very much looking forward to the next book.

-Debuts & Reviews

Spellwright is without a doubt a very strong fantasy debut from Blake Charlton. I was easily won over by his beautiful style, his colourful characters and his unique magical system.

-Between Two Books

My overall impression of Spellwright is one of awe and fascination with the magic system. [This book] is a quality adventure story in true fantasy style. Murder, prophecy, cursed heroes, political factions, gods, druids, even a dragon; they all appear in this first novel, set in a well-constructed world which is beautifully described without detracting from the overall plot.

-Speculative Book Review


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