THE WAY OF WIZARDS
by Tom Cross
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The Way of Wizards is a sumptuous art book written and illustrated by Tom Cross. The book's release appears timed to take advantage of the influx of magical images from the release of films such as "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and "The Lord of the Rings." Nevertheless, the imagery which Cross includes demonstrates that this book was not just thrown together on the spur of the moment to take advantage of a marketing niche.
The text, which, quite honestly, is secondary to the images, purports to be an introduction to the ways of wizards. In a chatty style, Cross explains what wizards are and how they are trained. He looks at the traditional and archetypical trappings of the wizardly crafts, and in the process creates his own magical world. While his book draws from numerous fantasy realms, folk tales, and traditions, he does not refer to them outright, instead providing his own take on wizards. If at times his style is a little too relaxed, it doesn't effect the overall product.
The images, which tend to be full page, full color, range in technique from paintings to sketches to complex mixed-media computer generated graphics. They also run the gamut from humorous, such as the illustration of a Wizard's wardrobe (p.93) in the form of the type of posters which can be found on the walls of many dorm rooms to the whimsical study of mermaids (pp86-7) playing in the surf and the intruiging depiction of a skiff approaching the "Institute of Wizdom." (pp.132-3)
Not all of Cross's image manipulation works. The faces in the portrait of the faculty of "The Academy of Information" (p.120) seem out of proportion to the bodies they are places on. The beautiful picture of a wizard confronting a dragon (pp.146-7) combines manipulated, and beautifully realistic photographs with a very plastic-looking model of a dragon. The result detracts from the glory of the image rather than enhances it.
The opening pages of each chapter are done to resemble and ancient notebook with handwriting, sketches, and frequently the appearance of having notes and memorabilia laid in. These are well done and create a sense of continuity throughout the book Cross also carried this motif onto some of the other pages where notes and scrolls appear with sidebar style information in addition to his main text.
The Way of Wizards contains a lot of interesting and beautiful art. The text which accompanies and explains the art is, in many cases, superfluous to the art itself, but it does provide a context in which to view the images for those who desire a context. Cross's decision to stay away from any specific models for his wizards allows him to create the images he wanted to without having to worry about how accurate he was to someone else's description.
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