I was intrigued primarily by the premise of The War of Words by Amy Neftzger – because how cool is the idea of words used as magical weapons?
Set in a fantasy world mid-way through a war, the story begins with Kelsey, a young soldier fighting in that war. A sorcerer has cast a spell over the kingdom to spread confusion, while endless shadows attack the king’s army in a series of battles. Kelsey hears a legend of a hidden book no one can read which holds the secret to winning the war. With her friends, she sets out to find the book and unlock its mystery.
The words as weapons idea did turn out to be very cool, especially as it grows increasingly literal by the end of the book. The sorcerer uses words and the distortion of words to fight, creating increased confusion and challenges to communication—and eventually, words as literal weapons with all the power of arrows. Kelsey and her friends have to find clever ways to fight back, first by preserving the meaning of words and then by magically spreading truth.
I would have liked a bit more world-building and background to the setting and the characters. Of course, this lack might have been because this is book three in the series, something I didn’t realize until I was writing this review! Clearly you can pick this book up without reading the previous ones and I did follow it…but I felt the lack of background. We enter the story with the war already on, and most of Kelsey’s friendships already established. What’s here is interesting, and a little more on how they got here would have helped.
My two favorite characters were supporting ones. One was Moss, an ancient magician who is decidedly absent-minded and comical. He feels very strongly on the subject of not wearing matching socks, and at one point shortens the hem of his robe by magical fire—while wearing the robe. He’s frequently funny, but also very powerful and has wisdom hidden behind the absurdities. My other favorite character was Newton, a gargoyle Moss brought to life, who has a big appetite and a smart mouth. He’s snarky and entertaining and loads of fun.
I found the writing style to be a little stilted for my taste, although I think this is middle grade/young YA targeted, and that audience may not mind the simpler style. And there were some quite lovely lines on the subjects of words and books and the power they contain.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Author’s Site: http://www.amyneftzger.com/
Buy it here: The War of Words