Review: Mystic, by Jason Denzel

by rossnewberry

Mystic CoverMystic is the debut novel from Wheel of Time superfan Jason Denzel, and it shows in a number of ways. You’ve got a medieval setting, magic, a blacksmith’s apprentice, a headstrong female character, and even a magical construct called the Green Man. At first blush, this seems awfully derivative of Robert Jordan’s story. But wait! There’s actually something else going on here, and I’m pretty sure the WoTish veneer was a calculated misdirection.

What actually unfolds here is a story of struggle against a caste system, teen love, personal discovery, adventure, and a surprising mentor/mentee relationship that feels like it was pulled from the author’s extensive martial arts training.

But the main thing I want to say about this book is that it’s the most feminist work I think I’ve read in years. That’s not because the main character is a girl. And it’s not because Denzel makes a point of showing male and female rangers, male and female magic users, male and female brigands. It’s more subtle than that. Lots of “feminist” literature does all it can to have men talk down to women, then have the women overcome the men’s unfounded bias. There is no point in this story where any male makes any kind of value judgement of a woman based on her sex. Nowhere. And there’s no bigotry the other way, either. So refreshing.

In summary, Mystic is a very solid debut that plays on your expectations and then subverts them in a number of enjoyable ways. I can’t wait to read the next two volumes in the trilogy.