Sufficiently Advanced Magic starts with the the main character in what is effectively a dungeon-crawling adventure, seeking his lost brother, although rather than a dungeon he is exploring a tower. After passing through the tower, getting a hook for the plot of the rest of the book, and acquiring magical powers, he spends the middle half of the book in magical school. Finally, to complete the plot, he needs to return to the tower, dungeon-crawl with the party he acquired in magical school, and discover the revelation which leads to the 2nd and presumably 3rd book in the trilogy.
It’s a reasonably fun book. The main character is a little spectrum-y, and I very much liked how the portrayal of him gradually showed this to you rather than telling you.
If you like rigorous magic systems that remind you of video games, dungeons with literal magic crystals as loot, a character who tries to munchkin but not as hard as the characters in Worm or HPMoR, well, then, this book is for you. The characterization is adequate; the magic is hard; the plot is a little too twisty, as is typical for the genre; the writing is invisible and clear. I started the sequel, but might not finish it — there is a lot in this book about the technical details of enchanting items, and it’s not exactly to my taste.
One thing that occurred to me, reading this book, was how much of fantasy is a fantasy, not about having power, but about the nature of power.
In all fantasy novels, there are people who have astronomically high levels of magical power. They are armies by themself. This book is no exception: already, in the first book, we’re running into characters who can fight the gods of the world to a draw. And their power, it is important to note, does not rely on other people or on delegation; it does not rely on organization, and hierarchy; it is just theirs entire and whole. And I think this is the power fantasy that fantasy often offers.
In the real world, you can of course acquire power, but the chief way you do this is by getting money or followers. An engineer not embedded in an institution that can support him is a sorry sight; a soldier without a long train of logistics behind him is the same. There’s almost never a case where you have sustained, independent, autonomous power, apart from ownership, management, and coordinating with others. I don’t know how you’d determine how much the attraction of fantasy comes from this, but at least some probably does.