Mystic is the first book by Jason Denzel, better known in fandom circles as the founder of The Wheel of Time fan site Dragonmount. Mystic is the story Pomella, a teenage girl who fights with her father and dreams of something more, who is chosen—against all tradition, as a commoner—to endure trials in the hope of becoming apprentice to the High Mystic. In doing so she will learn to manipulate the Myst. And, less obviously, it is the story of Sim, the village friend who gets caught up in the events of the book. It is, alas, a rather pedestrian debut.
As you might expect of a book that revolves around trials to enter a magic apprenticeship, Mystic straddles the border of adult and YA fantasy. It gently tries to push back against YA fantasy tropes in particular. Not with any real success, but it is certainly in conversation with them. Pomella’s character is a bit too “Pants” for me to ever connect. Sim, on the other hand, surprised me by being the most interesting character in the book. As did one other character who shall remain nameless.
The plot is pretty strong, if predictable, but a book like this will live or die by the worldbuilding. Mystic draws from a Celtic tradition, as I gather from advance commentary, the heavy use of green, the tree imagery, the druidic depiction of Pomella on the cover and the High Mystic, the island setting, and the use of the fae. If groan-worthy terms like “jagged,” “dunder,” “mhathir,” and “fathir” have Celtic roots, they were best left there. Mystic takes place on the Island of Moth, somewhere in size between Ireland and the Isle of Man. The magic system, which involves somehow “unveiling” the Myst and reaching across into fairyland, isn’t developed enough to be interesting. The one thing that is interesting—and awesome—is the Green Man, the servant and guardian of the High Mystic, who travels through the ground and simply constitutes itself wherever it appears from the ground at hand, whether soil, rock, or foliage.
Ultimately I don’t think it was enough to get me to pick up book 2, although there is plenty of potential there.