In a world where magic is commonplace a double seventh is born. The child of two seventh children, Galathea Winthrop, Thea for short, is expected to be something extraordinary. But after years spent at a magical school and years of failed lessons her parents are about ready to give up. Her father is willing to try one last experiment and decides to send Thea back in time to when magic was pure and connected to the earth.
In some unnamed distant past Thea is sent to study with Cheveyo, an American Indian Mage living in what will become New Mexico. Here the most important lessons Thea learns are the ability to not whine and to have patience; two very important things for her character as up until that point she whines quite bit. But through growth comes knowledge and Thea learns she might not be as hopeless as she feared.
Once she returns from not only a magical journey but a spiritual one as well, Thea must face the fact that in her original world she is still without magic. She is sent to the Wandless Academy, a school for kids who either can’t do magic or can’t be around it for various reasons. Here for the first time, outside the sun-drenched mesas of Cheveyo’s world, Thea feels like she belongs. She quickly makes friends; Magpie, Ben, Terry, and Tess.
The friends are never really fleshed out. Magpie, Thea’s roommate, has a fondness for hurt animals and is always smuggling some poor creature into their shared dorm room. Ben is a gangly red haired boy who sneezes when he smells magic. Terry is a computer genius who can’t speak a word that deals with magic because he has an allergic reaction to it and his sister Tess can’t eat anything that was prepared with magic for the same reason. This is about all the information you get about them and I’m hoping in the next two books you learn more.
Gift of the Unmage is divided between Thea’s journey into the past and her time spent at the Wandless Academy. The trials and tribulations of the first half of the book are only loosely connected to the second half. After Thea discovers she is not a ‘magidim’, her world's term for someone who is not proficient at magic, she then discovers that there is a nameless shapeless threat preying on magic users called Nothing. The problem with this is that we don’t hear about the Nothing until almost half the book is over and suddenly it becomes the main focus. I caught myself wondering maybe I’d skipped some pages along the way.
Gift of the Unmage is the first in a trilogy. The second book has a working title of Spellspam and is in the process of being edited while the third, no title as of yet, is in the process of being written. There are some great things about Gift of the Unmage; likable characters, an interesting world, and a good grounding in mythology. The use of American Indian mythology particularly was interesting. In the end though this feels as if it’s a set up for bigger and better things. I'm looking forward to reading what comes next.