Friday, March 02, 2007

Wizard at Large by Terry Brooks

Title: Wizard At Large

Author: Terry Brooks

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Questor Threws' confidence is high as he declares that he can return Abernathy to his original form as a man. As expected Questor doesn't get the spell exactly right. Instead he exchanges Abernathy for a bottle.

The Take-Away: For the first time, magic is thoroughly explored in the Landover series. Various magical elements are introduced into the story. Since Questor, as Court Wizard, has learned a significant amount of magic, his role is more prominent. In the previous two books, he muddled more than he assisted. No only does he get it right in the third book, his success rate is around 60% (which, if you read Magic Kingdom for Sale -- Sold! or The Black Unicorn this is quite an improvement.)

In addition the the court wizard, which really is a staple of fantasy, the bottle that Abernathy is exchanged for contains a Darkling, a creature who uses the magic from the holder of the bottle to work mischief. The nature of the mischief depends on the strength of the magic and the intent of the owner of the bottle. If the holder is quite strong, the Darkling will tempt him to fulfill darker desires.

The medallion plays a pivotal role again. Ben Holiday, king of Landover, loaned it to Abernathy and Questor to assist in the transformation. It ends up in Ben's (and our) world when the spell transports instead of transforms. Magic would be easier if it didn't require another language, but that's the point. If it was spoken in the local language -- English or otherwise -- people anywhere would perform magic accidentally. It's a nice convention for magic to work only under a different language. As for any convention, however, there are rule-breaking authors.

Rule breakers are critical in any genre, not just fantasy. Since this title was published in the 1980s, how many rules existed for Brooks to break? Was he ground-breaking or establishing the precedent? If high schools and colleges taught literature from this angle, it would have been more interesting than analyzing the social impact of novels that had no social impact (cough, cough, Pamela).

Recommendation: Better than the second book, The Black Unicorn. I'll probably grab the fourth one too, but I'm not in any hurry for it.

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