First book in the Arcane Ascension series.
Corin Cadence is a minor noble son setting out to take his Judgment, a test at one of the magical Shifting Spires that exist across the land. If he succeeds, he will be granted a minor magical power that will grow with time, while if he fails, he will simply never emerge from the tower again—just like Corin's brother, years ago.
While Corin does well in his tests, things begin to go terribly wrong. He frees three prisoners from the tower and then runs into one of the divine Visages who control the towers. One of the escaped prisoners fights the Visage on an even level, something that should be impossible, and Corin barely manages to escape from the tower, earning his power in the process.
Now, Corin is trapped in the middle of a dozen conspiracies, fighting to stay afloat amid angry gods and his disappointed parents. Through it all, he only has one goal: To return to the tower, reach the top, and beg the goddess to return his brother to him.
This novel provides examples of:
- Adventure-Friendly World: The Shifting Spires are tests that provide magic and power to all those who enter. Once someone has been marked (called an attunement), they gain magical talents and the ability to improve upon them with training and practice. Gaining extra attunements is possible and results in more power, but it is rare.
- Genre Savvy: Corin as well as several other characters like Marissa display a sophisticated understanding of tropes and deliberately will subvert them to their advantage when they can.
- Mana: What is used to power magic items and activate attunements. There are many different types of mana, generated from seven different places on the human body: The left hand, the right hand, the left leg, the right leg, the mind, the heart, and the lungs. An attunement mark will appear on one of these points and indicates which part of the body is best at producing mana for improving that attunement. Corin is terrified of overusing his mind mana because it can cause brain damage, but everyone tells him he is being overly cautious. He invents a watch that can identify how much mana someone can use before it starts becoming dangerous, and discovers that everyone was right, he really was being too careful with his mental mana.
- Physical Gods: The Visages are unspeakably powerful, to the point that the mere idea of fighting one is unheard of. Seeing a mortal with two or three attunements is rare; there are estimated to be fifty or more, and the Visages have all of them.
- Pieces of God: Corin's country teaches that the Visages are all shadows of the single divine goddess. Other countries believe that they are a family of lesser gods, or that they are mortals who reached the tops of the towers and gained incredible power.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Part of the reason that Corin refuses to work with Professor Orden (besides the moral objections) is because the organization keeps taking massive risks in order to advance their country's place in the world, but if they make any mistake along the way, their entire nation could be wiped out. Corin just isn't willing to work with people so reckless.
- The Un-Favourite: Corin lives in the shadow of his missing older brother Tristan, whom both he and his parents held in high esteem. Compounding this is Corin's attunement, Enchanter, which attracts scorn from his family and several teachers for not being combat-focused.