This well-crafted first novel about a wizard's education, a sort of Harry Potter on downers, strives for a baroque density reminiscent of the Gormenghast saga, though it's unlikely to achieve the same classic status. The hero, magically ill Llewelyn, is losing his grip on reality, opening the door for the slippery kind of fantasy scenario in which anything is possible. A former friend, the Duke of Walworth, forces herbal medicine into Llewelyn and at swordpoint accuses him of treason, prompting him to tell his life story, which the duke records as a legal document. A misfit child who learned scraps from a small-time neighborhood witch, Llewelyn moved up in the world to attend an official school, studying a complex system of religious magic under vows to work wonders only in service to the state. The disruptions of war broke him loose from Sunnashiven, the city of his early life, and gave him an unaccustomed freedom; apparent friendship in a forest retreat with revolutionaries Walworth and Walworth's sister, Caethne; as well as a real mentor in the scholar Mirand. Llewelyn states that six months with Mirand were more educational than all his previous 17 years together, but agonizingly dwells on his insecurities and refusal to trust happiness. The story ends (with an explicit promise of further volumes) in midcareer, with Walworth employing the medicine and sword once more. Readers who enjoy wallowing in opaquely introspective gloom will have a field day. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001 Release date: 02/01/2001 Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 576 pages - 978-0-8125-6885-1
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.