A review of “The Ways of Wizardry” by Stephen Brooke, from Arachis Press, 2018
Print ISBN: 978-1-937745-48-6 Ebook ISBN: 978-1-937745-49-3
‘Romp’ is an over-used word in reviews, but I might be inclined to trot it out here. But first, an admission: I have ties to the author in his capacity as a publisher and editor. If that colors my review, so be it.
“The Ways of Wizardry” is a fantasy novel. ‘Fantasy Adventure’ is the listed genre; it does not do the book justice, although it is accurate enough. I might call it light fantasy—but not lightweight. There are serious ideas coming along for the ride.
The writing uses the device of a narrator, a story-teller, who largely disappears after the first couple chapters. Here and there, he (or she?) pops up again to make an aside about the action. It works well but some might be put off by the intentional ‘high’ style of the opening. Were the whole novel that way, it would be another matter, but one quickly recognizes (I would hope) it was meant somewhat tongue in cheek.
The story itself is fast paced and light hearted, for the most part. A bit episodic, perhaps, held together by a not-particularly-urgent quest for a place our protagonist can ‘belong.’ Protagonists, perhaps I should say—the sorceress Na, though secondary to the young wizard Im, has an important part and is certainly not glossed over, characterization-wise. Indeed, she may be the more interesting character (perhaps that will be explored more in the promised sequel).
The other secondary characters, the Trickster God Xido and the demon Qu’orthseth are also integral. In many ways, the amoral and not-too-bright demon is the glue that holds this narrative together, as he seeks to avoid being returned to jail in his home world. The world itself is well realized and believable. This is essentially the same world Brooke has used in his other fantasy novels, though at a different point in its history, so I would assume it has been worked out pretty well.
Im grows; yes, it is something of a coming of age novel. So do the other characters, to various degrees. If epic fantasy is your thing, or ‘grimdark,’ you might want to pass “Ways” by and wait for the next Martin doorstop. There is action, to be sure, and there is evil to be face, and conflict, and all we might expect from the genre. You will not be disappointed there!
Nor will you be disappointed if you simply want a fun, well-written, and thoughtful ‘fantasy adventure.’
“The Ways of Wizardry” is officially out on January 6.
Stephen Brooke is both a Florida author and a writer of fantasy (and other genres as well). This joining of two of my interests makes his works particularly suited to this blog. There may be an upcoming interview with him. Stay tuned for that.
Design Notes: The book looks good. Nothing flashy, simple design, ‘safe’ fonts (the text appears to be set in Galliard). The cover seems a bit ‘blah’ to me but I am happy not to see the excess of the typical movie poster-like cover in this genre.