Review: Spell Games by TA Pratt


If you’ve not experienced TA Pratt’s Marla Mason series, you can read my reviews of the first 3 books, Blood Engines, Poison Sleep and Dead Reign. You can also follow Marla Mason on twitter … her posts parallel much of Dead Reign and then begin to chronicle how very strange the holidays can get in Felport. You can also jump straight into the Marlaverse by reading excerpts and more at

This book hits the ground running, finishing the conversation with Marla’s surprise visitor at the end of Dead Reign, and it never really slows down. B, our favorite oracle generator, joins the team as Marla’s new apprentice and from his perspective we get a training montage of Felport’s magical elite. The diversity of magic in this world and how closely it relates to the science and spirituality of our world is one of my favorite parts about this series. Pocket universes and the anthropomorphizing of the base physical forces of the universe tickle the physics student in me. However, the core of this story though is a con.

The con is long and convoluted enough to pull the plot along, but when a malevolent mushroom god gets thrown into the mix, all the elements of a perfect Marla Mason story are in place. I worked on a shitaki farm in high school, so I have a special place in my heart for mycelium. Any organism as vast and ancient as the mushrooms that inspire this god has had plenty of time to contemplate its place in the world. The interplay between magic and lies both drive the story and offer significant insight into our favorite Sorcerer (turns out Sorceress isn’t all that PC). This story is darker and more intense than it’s predecessors but builds solidly on the foundation they set. The climax, while not totally unexpected, wraps the book nicely and propels our heroine into the most personal quest we’ve encountered in the series.

Catch up on this series, and get ready for the release of Spell Games in February 2009. I’ll resist being forced to reveal spoilers, but feel free to email me with ANY questions you have about this series. As always, comments are very much appreciated.

Thanks again to everyone that entered my Spell Games Giveaway. I’m glad I got a chance to read it before I sent it out. If you’ve enjoyed these books, or even just my reviews, I’d highly recommend Tim Pratt’s (yes, that’s what the T stands for) first novel, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl and his 2 short story collections: Little Gods and Hart and Boot. The collections offer at least 3 stories connected to the characters in Marla’s universe, including more on Rondeau and B.

[update 2008-12-28] This review has been republished on Adventures in SciFi Publishing.

~ by mentatjack on December 23, 2008.

7 Responses to “Review: Spell Games by TA Pratt”

  1. Thanks, Steven! Glad you liked it.

    You’d probably be interested in knowing all the short stories I’ve published that are somehow connected to the Marlaverse — there are the three obvious ones (Pale Dog, Down with the Lizards and the Bees, and Pale Dog), but I slipped in lots of little cameos and Easter Eggs, mostly for my own amusement…

    The protagonist of “Terrible Ones,” Zara, is the woman Rondeau becomes infatuated with at the sex party in Blood Engines;

    The djinn in “Unfairy Tale,” Il-a-mo-ta-quin, appears as an oracle in Spell Games;

    Ray, the narrator of “Romanticore,” is the guy working at the East Bay Vivarium in Blood Engines;

    Ayres the necromancer (or a variation thereof) from Dead Reign appears in my Rangergirl story “Bluebeard and the While Buffalo”;

    Genevieve from Poison Sleep is inspired by a character in my story “Robin of Wonderland Wood,” and the nightmare king Reave appears there as Torrance (that was his original name in the novel, which I changed because “Reave” had better associations);

    In Spell Games Bradley Bowman mentions a sex magician who lives in Oakland — that’s Delaney from my story “Komodo”;

    The Blackwing Institute is a cross-dimensional analogue to the Black Wing, the prison for criminally insane supervillains, in my story “Captain Fantasy and the Secret Masters”…

    That’s all I can recall off the top of my head. If I get to write a sixth Marla book, it will feature Reva, the character from my story “From Around Here,” but I don’t know if there will be more books or not. Not all my stories take place in the same universe, but I like slipping in cameos for my own amusement…

  2. Oops, didn’t read over that before it posted — the three obvious stories are Pale Dog, Down with the Lizards and the Bees, and Life in Stone. (Plus of course Haruspex, Encounter on a Back Street, and Grander than the Sea, which are explicitly Marla stories.)

  3. Spell Games is in stores today. Go get your copy!

  4. Looks like the Marla Mason twitter feed is picking up the Spell Games plot line … follow the bouncing tweet and read along.

  5. […] Spell Games Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Dead Reign-T.A. PrattCalling All WritersDead Reign (Marla Mason #3) by T.A. Pratt […]

  6. […] (shrooms 2). Fungus as magic or technology wielded by intelligent fungus creatures. I’ve mentioned before that I have a fondness for mushrooms. One of my first jobs in high school was on a shitake mushroom […]

  7. […] are also a number of short stories more or less related to the series (see tim’s comment on my review of Spell Games.) and a serialized prequel, Bone […]

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