Book Review: Pacts Arcane and Otherwise by Joanna Maciejewska

It’s funny, for someone who both loves reading and loves writing, I sure am terrible at writing book reviews. I still leave something on the book’s Goodreads and Amazon pages to help the authors, but it’s never much more useful than “this is dead good, peeps”. That said, it’s something I’ve been meaning to get on for a good while and, with Joanna Maciejewska’s Pacts Arcane and Otherwise series coming to a close last week, it seemed like a good time to go for it. 

Spoiler alert: I’m not going to write reviews for books I don’t like because I don’t want to trash someone’s baby and I also don’t want to lie. Maybe I should call them book recommendations instead? Anyway-

To celebrate the release of the final book in the series, Demon Siege, I thought I would talk about where it all started and the series so far. It all starts with By The Pact, a high fantasy epic adventure starring quick witted but seemingly mediocre magic user Kamira and her good friend and professional muscle Veelk. Together they stumble across a powerful demon, imprisoned in the ancient ruins they are searching, who traps Kamira into a bargain which will either see him freed or her causing a huge disaster. Fortunately, both Kamira and Veelk are both more than they seem, and each step they take leads them closer and closer to the dark truth of their world. What ensues is a colourful and complex adventure of magic and demons and swords and snark. 

Image of the cover of novel "By the Pact" by Joanna Maciejewska, featuring two human figures looking towards a large crystal with a demon encased inside.

This is a great one for people who enjoy your classic sword and sorcery, but also those who like cutthroat political fantasy tales without crossing over into the grimdark genre. What are some of the major highlights for me, personally?

Pacts Arcane and Otherwise has a great cast of complex characters starting right with Book 1. Kamira, introduced as a low grade arcanist, grows and grows throughout and shows us what she’s made of. Her past and her future are ever expanding and fascinating, and her family history shows its influence so profoundly – despite how much she runs from it! The supporting cast hosts a great mix of altruistic princes, evil royalty, secretive societies, mysterious outcasts, and on and on. It’s a great series for people who love to debate characters – get all your friends to read and then battle to the death over who is Team Ryell and who is Team Put Ryell In The Sea! 

Also, I can’t neglect to mention the world building! Maciejewska has crafted a vibrant and real feeling world, with intricacies and details that reminded me of why I loved Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle in spite of a certain redheaded bard/wizard/etc. Kaighal is a living and breathing city with layers upon layers, and it doesn’t feel like an island. The world around it and the links are interconnected so well that it’s easy to become immersed in this magical place. 

As with most high fantasy series, the stakes rise exponentially as we move from one book to the next, but Maciejewska has crafted a story which flows without leaps or suspension of belief (y’know, apart from all the demons and magic and stuff). Every plot point has its place and every wall in the story has its foundation, which just keeps me hugely invested in what on earth is going to happen next. 

And now, the series is complete, so I get to find out! Time for me to go and keep reading, biting my nails as I wish for everyone to make it safely out the other side!

(Except you, Ryell. Get in the sea.)

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