REVIEW: Spellhacker by M.K. England

5/5 stars — come for the super-cool magic system, stay for the rage-filled hacker MC

“Getting away with eighteen thousand credits’ worth of maz in broad daylight? This is going to be the greatest last score of all time.”

Of course, it’s not that easy! Main character Diz and her three friends’ final heist has unintended and far-reaching consequences, ones that threaten their lives and reveal a far-reaching conspiracy that could kill millions. In their sophomore novel Spellhacker, M.K. England delivers all the action-packed plot and found-family feels of The Disasters, but (in my opinion) even better.

The cast - Diz, the main character: an emotionally scarred hacker - Ania, the group mom: a techwitch from a wealthy family - Remi, the love interest: a spellweaving prodigy - Jason, “Awesome Strongman McDad Friend”: the muscle (and also the chef)

What sets it apart - internet-modern humor and an MC with a snarky internal voice - a hacker MC, leader of a four-person illegal magic-siphoning squad - very tactile magic; not limited to the basic elemental scheme - hazards like earthquakes that unleash tainted magic that can give you a chronic/terminal illness; aka super high stakes danger - an angry female MC who literally squirms out a window to get away from her problems at one point - found family that jokes, lives, and also fights like real family

Read it if you’re looking for - cool futuristic tech mixed with magic (neural/lens social media interface! Subvocal message transcription! Hover shoes!) - heist squad! - diverse characters: several major characters of color, chronically ill nonbinary love interest, lots of queer characters - older teen characters - queernorm: wlw and mlm background characters and nobody brings up Remi’s gender, just uses they/them pronouns for them

Spellhacker had some of the best characters I've read in YA recently, plus a thoughtful plot and an excellent fantasy/sci-fi genre mashup. This is one of my new favorite books, one I highly recommend (especially if you are/know any teens with anger issues or difficulty handling emotions).