The Portsmouth Review

The Magician's Workshop Volume 1 Book Review

The Magician’s Workshop V.1 by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr Book Review

The Magician’s Workshop, Volume One is the first in a series of young adult fantasy from two authors: Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr. Mark Twain once said that there’s no such thing as a new idea and he was talking about the same stories being told over and over using a twist of the kaleidoscope to create variations. But these authors have proved Twain wrong – you’ve never read anything quite like this. Wondertale | May, 2017 | Paperback | 312 pp

In this high fantasy, people live on a giant archipelago of islands on the water world of O’Ceea. In this world, almost everyone has the ability to create projections with varying degrees of intensity. They can create elaborate decorations, beautiful appearances, and project incredible flavor onto otherwise bland food. There are limitations and strict adherence to rules and regulations everyone must follow when projecting. People must take tests and earn chips in different skills to join a guild for certain types of projections. And when accepted into a guild, one is limited to projections of that type. But there is more – for some.

Children who reach a certain age are brought before a ‘Puller’ in the Color Ceremony held once per year in each region. The Puller determines if the child has a color or not. Most do not and remain a commoner free to join a guild. Those who have a color pulled become mages and can train in The Magician’s Workshop. From there, they sky is the limit. They can participate in competitions and have a chance to work on the yearly ‘Grand Projections’ seen throughout the islands.

The story is told through varying viewpoints of young adults coming up on the Color Ceremony: Kai, a social outcast by familial association with a strong group of supportive friends who could care less about social stigma; Talia, best friend to Kai and regular accomplice in illegal underage projections; Kaso, an orphan who needs to get to another district in order to participate in the Color Ceremony legally; and Kalaya, a young woman with color lineage but low confidence. The first volume of The Magician’s Workshop develops the main players as we get familiar with their strengths, weaknesses, and hearts just prior to the Color Ceremony.

One would assume the reason these young adults would want to have a color pulled, become a mage, and enter The Magician’s Workshop is to become a part of some elite force of magicians fighting evil in the world, right? Not so in this case. And this is where it gets deliciously strange and oddly compelling. The Workshop can be viewed as the O’Ceean version of Hollywood. It seems that one of the highest roles a mage can perform is to be a part of the yearly Grand Projection, a new ‘movie’ that is played out before the entire population of O’Ceea. The mages create the story line and project the images and even the feelings to move people. And in O’Ceea, this is a pretty big deal.

The Color Ceremony and Grand Projection are set close to each other, and while the kids are preparing for the big deal, teaser trailers or ‘glimmerings’ are provided by mages all over the isles – some announced, some random and spur-of-the-moment. After seeing a dramatic Glimmering, orphan Kaso refuses to view all of the subsequent ‘visionariums’ – opinions, thoughts, and critiques that float around in giant bubbles which anyone can enjoy – made by ‘Opinionators’. Hilariously, these ‘Opinionators’ can be likened to all of the book and movie critics from our world. Kaso would hate me.

“He found the Opinionators not only a waste of time, but also a huge distraction from what the Grand Projections were meant to be. To him, Opinionatoring about a projection was like dissecting a living thing. It cut the projection up into little bits and pieces until all that remained was an unrecognizable pile of nonsense. Opinionators were just trying to get famous on the back of the Workshop.”

Sounds complicated? The world building is quite extraordinary and what I’ve provided is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the color-coded time schedule (no hours – just colors), draconian punishments for underage projections, an old Grand Projection with an evil dark lord who is celebrated and revered as much as Darth Vader – which makes the reader insanely curious to know more, the mysterious disappearance of some mages, and a motley band of pirating ‘Poozers’  who we would liken to ‘posers’ – those who cast projections as a disguise.

The first volume is all world building, character development, and the build-up of suspense. Sadly, the reader doesn’t get what it so desperately wants by the end. It’s not a cliffhanger, but there is no climax, no reward. But don’t worry – it’s all in the first 120 pages of the second book which is already out (and I’ve already read).  Although I was disappointed with the end of the first book, the rest of it blew me away with originality and emotional connection to the characters. The Magician’s Workshop isn’t like anything you’ve ever read, guaranteed. Highly recommended!

The Magician’s Workshop, Volume One
by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr

The Magician's Workshop, Volume One


22 responses to “The Magician’s Workshop V.1 by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr Book Review”

  1. Diva Booknerd Avatar

    I haven’t heard of this one before Rebecca but really intrigued by the uniqueness of colour coded teens and the elements behind their magic. It feels a little like the chosen one trope but sounds as though the world building and wonderful character development more than make up for it. Wonderful review Rebecca, will definitely be checking this one out <3

    1. The Portsmouth Review Avatar

      I thought that too (at first) with the chosen one trope, and although it is a theme for the fictional characters, there are hints that finding color might not be as meaningful as the kids think. It might be a farce. I’m still on the second. It really is unique.

  2. Adri @ LittleFoxAndReads Avatar

    I’ve never heard of this one before but it sounds like a complex and intriguing read. I absolutely love discovering new books so thanks for introducing me to this! Added to my TBR 😀

    1. The Portsmouth Review Avatar

      You’re very welcome! Hope you can pick this one up and if you do, let me know what you think!

  3. Emily @ Paperback Princess Avatar
    Emily @ Paperback Princess

    Cool review! I don’t read nearly enough YA fantasy because I can never seem to find one that suits me, but I’m always willing to give more unique ones a shot!

    1. The Portsmouth Review Avatar

      I adore YA for the adventure and youthful feel. Keeps me young at heart even though I’m on old fuddy duddy. 🙂

  4. Jasmine Avatar

    Excellent review Rebecca! I haven’t heard of this book before. It’s cool to have the power to enhance the taste of foods or decorations 🙂

    1. The Portsmouth Review Avatar

      If I could enhance the flavor of food, I wonder how large I would become?

  5. Lindsey @ Lindsey Reads Avatar

    Oh wow this does sound like a super unique and fun book! Adding to my TBR so thanks for the great review!

    1. The Portsmouth Review Avatar

      Thanks, Lindsey! Very unque. I loved how different it was.

  6. Melissa (Books and Things) Avatar

    Don’t love the sound of that ending, but since the second book is out, I think I can deal. 🙂 I love good world building so I’m really going to have to check this one out.

    1. The Portsmouth Review Avatar

      Good world building is a drug for me. I love to get lost in a new world!

  7. Suzanne Avatar

    I love how unique the plot of this story sounds! The system of magic sounds especially intriguing. Great review!

    1. The Portsmouth Review Avatar

      Thanks, Suzanne! It is very unique and completely different. Loved it.

  8. Di @ Book Reviews by Di Avatar

    Wow. This sounds incredibly interesting. The blurb is correct – I haven’t read anything like this before!

    It sounds as though it’s a must read although it also sounds like I would need to have both books in front of me before I start!

    I love the description that you’ve provided here and you’ve sold me on giving this one a try. Adding to my TBR!

    1. The Portsmouth Review Avatar

      Hope you check it out! It’s really so different and I just love world building. This world is crazy weird.

  9. Verushka, an editor Avatar

    The worldbuilding here is definitely a first for me — and I like the promise of it, but I wonder about the ending.

    1. The Portsmouth Review Avatar

      The second book make sup for it, which I’ve finished. I think the world building was really unique. So very different from anything I’ve read!

  10. Lara Avatar

    This definitely sounds interesting! I love books with magic in them (ever since Harry Potter lol)

  11. Becky Baker Avatar

    How have I not heard of this book before, it sounds so good! It definitely sounds original as well. I was a little wary when you said high fantasy and called it original because so many fantasy storylines have been done but this one sounds pretty original so I’ll give it a shot. Great review and good to know reading the second book may be necessary to have the full effect and enjoyment.

    1. The Portsmouth Review Avatar

      It’s very original and not stuffed with the common tropes. 🙂

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