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The Wizard Lord
Lawrence Watt-Evans
Tor, 335 pages

The Wizard Lord
Lawrence Watt-Evans
Lawrence Watt-Evans is the author of The Lords of Dus series (The Lure of the Basilisk, The Seven Altars of Dusarra, The Sword of Bheleu and The Book of Silence), as well as The Rebirth of Wonder (Wildside Press/Tor 1992), Split Heirs (with Esther Friesner), and the Three Worlds trilogy, among many others.

Lawrence Watt-Evans Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Touched By The Gods

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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The single characteristic of Lawrence Watt-Evans's books that has struck me most insistently over time is the way he features basically ordinary people in heroic roles. This doesn't mean nebbishes or losers: for the most part his heroes are fairly heroic, but they are heroic for reasons that make sense for regular people. The Wizard Lord is a practically perfect example of this.

The main character is a young man named Breaker. He lives in the town of Mad Oak, a fairly ordinary rural town, part of a land called Barokan. Barokan is ruled by a Wizard Lord, who makes sure that the weather is fine, and that particularly vile criminals are punished, and in general that life goes on smoothly. For centuries this system has worked well. One problem is the occasional Dark Lord -- a Wizard Lord gone mad -- and their control is a group of 8 heroes, The Chosen -- the World's Greatest Swordsman, Archer, Thief, Leader, etc. The other magical aspect of this land is the omnipresent "ler," spirits with whom local Priests and Priestesses must negotiate to allow people to live in each area. The "ler," and their individual desires, seem to cause Barokan to be a rather fractured set of small towns, with fairly limited trade and travel.

One day the Chosen Swordsman comes to Mad Oak. It turns out he is old, ready to retire, and he wishes to recruit a successor. Breaker, perhaps a bit to his surprise, agrees to take the job. This despite his lack of desire to kill anyone: but there has not been a Dark Lord for over a century, so what's the risk? (100 percent as the reader knows!) So after months of training, and a magical ceremony to transfer the Swordsman's special magical abilities to Breaker, he becomes the new Swordsman. After which -- perhaps just a bit late! -- the old Swordsman reveals reluctantly that he has some slight misgivings about the current Wizard Lord.

So Breaker decides to travel the world, or at least Barokan, and to try to meet his fellow Chosen, and to learn if the Wizard Lord really has gone mad. Of course he learns eventually that the lord has -- he has murdered an entire town. Several of his fellow Chosen agree that the Wizard Lord must be taken down, but others are surprisingly reluctant, for different reasons. It's clear something odd is going on (and most readers will guess the outline of the problem fairly quickly) but they push through to force a resolution.

The Wizard Lord is the first of a trilogy, but it comes to a definite close. However, questions have been raised about the very structure of Barokan society, particularly by Breaker. I am sure subsequent volumes will address those questions. The novel itself is ever readable, quite enjoyable, and just plain, well, sensible. The magical system is fairly original and interesting. Not quite as much happens as in many fantasy novels, and the closing battle is really rather abruptly presented. But as I said, the novel is striking for the way each of the powerful magical characters is portrayed as basically ordinary (even the Wizard Lord). There is a real sense that these are regular people, acting the way any of us would act had we grown up in this somewhat unusual world. And I have a feeling that there is considerable potential for more action and more intrigue in subsequent novels: that this book is very much a scene setter, an introduction. I enjoyed it, though I rank it as Watt-Evans at closer to the middle than the top of his range.

Copyright © 2006 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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