To Cast the First Spell is a fantasy adventure set in a realm ruled by hierarchal guilds of Aakacarns: “Melody wielders” who can create powerful magic through music. It follows a young man with extraordinary latent magical abilities and his struggle to find his place in a world on the edge of an ultimate war between good versus evil.
When the novel’s protagonist, mountaineer Daniel Benhannon, realizes that he has the ability to cast incredibly powerful spells, he understands immediately that his carefully plotted future living in the backwoods with the beautiful and courageous Val Terrance, can never be realized. Sought after by both the Grand Maestro of the seven guilds of the Aakacarn and the Dark Maestro, who has been imprisoned in a subterranean chamber for millennia, Benhannon must remain free (and alive) long enough to not only understand his terrifying power but to also find a way to use it for its greatest good.
While thematically, the potential is here for something quite powerful, the story is all but overshadowed by an inundation of grammatical errors and misspelled words. With so many glaring blunders throughout — like “spell castor” instead of spellcaster and “I’m hear” instead of “I’m here,” to name just a few — the narrative fluidity is essentially destroyed, making the reading experience frustrating and unenjoyable.
And it’s not just the grammatical mistakes that hamper this story. The world building is superficial, the characters are two-dimensional, and there is nothing original or inspired about the storyline (the general premise is very much comparable to L.E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Spellsong Cycle and Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger saga).
In a fantasy that should be fueled by a deep lyrical sensibility and a profound sense of magic, this novel unfortunately has neither.