Review: Voice of Power

Over the past year, I have been a close follower of the books of Melanie Cellier. She has done a fantastic job of adapting classic princess fairy tales for a modern audience in both her Four Kingdoms and Beyond the Four Kingdoms series. Recently, she has branched out by writing an original series of her own called The Spoken Mage. The series takes place in a world where the written word holds immense magical power, so only noble families with the ability to control magic are permitted to learn how to read and write. It actually bears a few similarities to a screenplay I'm working on for my class at UCLA. The protagonist in The Spoken Mage series is a commoner who should not possess any magical ability, so no one knows what to do when she releases controlled magic through spoken words alone without even knowing how to write.

Voice of Power is the first book in The Spoken Mage series. It tells the story of Elena, an ordinary girl who is happy with her ordinary life. Her only concern is getting drafted into the army, but she knows that it's better for her to volunteer herself than to sacrifice her intelligent brother who is studying for a bright future at the University or her fragile sister who is prone to illness. All of that changes when she inadvertently uses magic by speaking a single word. Elena is a loyal citizen to her kingdom and would never dream of attempting to read or write because she knows how dangerous it can be. Therefore, she never dreamed she would be forced to join the Academy and study with other mages about magical powers that she shouldn't even have to begin with.

The book reminds me a little of Shannon Hale's Princess Academy because both books are about common girls who are permitted to attend school and learn the value of education due to a discrepancy in their kingdom's laws. In Elena's case, however, writing without the ability to control it results in dangerous outbursts of magic that can cause a lot of people to get hurt, so her kingdom is probably better off without educating their commoners. She must figure out the source of her powers quickly so she doesn't cause damage toward the people and structures around her. Having such a unique skill does not win her a lot of friends at the Academy. Since magic typically only runs in noble bloodlines, many students look down at her for her common heritage. Fortunately, she does make one friend named Coralie who helps her maintain her sanity throughout her many trials and tribulations at the Academy.

Among the most powerful families at the school who are determined to make Elena feel unwelcome is Prince Lucas. Lucas comes off as a jerk at first, but his true intentions are revealed later on as he shows concern for Elena's safety in his own way. Lucas will have to grow a lot as a character to become worthy of Elena's affections because this book just doesn't cut it in terms of romance. His friends do everything in their power to hurt her physically and mentally while he just watches as an impartial observer. Lucas clearly wants Elena to get out of dangerous situations on her own and master her abilities, but he never stands up for her to his extremely mean and violent friends. It isn't fair to Elena for him to try to play both sides.

Voice of Power is a unique concept and a decent start to The Spoken Mage series. However, it wasn't quite strong enough to make me want to read the next book. Too much of it was only about how miserable Elena was in her classes and how she didn't fit in at the Academy. It might have hit a little too close to home by reminding me of my own high school experiences. Melanie Cellier usually excels at romance, but Lucas was not an appealing enough character for me to root for him to get together with Elena. The only saving grace for me was the relationship between Elena and her best friend Coralie, but Coralie was never present when Elena was in real danger. I hope that she will have a bigger role in the later books and that Prince Lucas will take more initiative with his intentions.


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