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Wizard of the Grove
Tanya Huff
DAW Books, 576 pages

Art: Yvonne Gilbert
Wizard of the Grove
Tanya Huff
Tanya Huff worked at Bakka, Canada's oldest SF and fantasy book store, for many years. Leaving there, she moved further east up the St. Lawrence and found the perfect place. Elsewhere Tanya has said there will be no more Blood Series books but she is planning volume 4 of the Quarters Series to be called The Quartered Sea.

Tanya Huff Reading List
SF Site Review: Summon the Keeper
SF Site Review: Blood Debt
ISFDB Bibliography
Tanya Huff Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Robert Francis

Wizard of the Grove is set in a world which has recovered from, but not forgotten, a cataclysm that took place a thousand years earlier. The people still tell stories of the days when the wizards, children of the seven male gods and human mothers, strove for supremacy amongst themselves in a world where no other mortal creature had the will or the power to challenge them. Their divine heritage granted them immense power and immunity from natural death, and their human heritage granted them the will and desire to create, control, and consume. As there were no serious challenges to their supremacy, the wizards in their boredom decided to compete amongst themselves. Out of this struggle, the Wizards' Doom was created. When the destruction subsided, the surviving humans crawled out of the wreckage of their world and started to build a new one.

A thousand years later, a tiny kingdom began, improbably, to build an empire. With its limited resources, it should have been quickly defeated by its neighbours. Its rise was marked by a series of military campaigns where everything went right for them, and nothing went right for their opponents. The reason was simple -- the power behind the throne was a wizard who had not perished with the others. After a thousand years of hiding and planning, the wizard decided that he had successfully escaped his Doom, and could once more take an "active" role in the workings of the world. Fortunately for the world, he was not the only one who decided to become active. The seven goddesses, in an attempt to end once and for all the folly begun by their brother gods, gave themselves up to the creation of one final wizard, a wizard who was engendered with the sole purpose of destroying the survivor of the Wizard's Doom. And so the protagonist of the story, the wizard Crystal, was born.

I first read this story in 1988-1989, when it was published in two volumes -- The Child of the Grove and The Last Wizard. These were the first books I had ever read by Tanya Huff, and ever since then I have eagerly awaited her new books. One of the reasons that I have consistently enjoyed Huff's works is the thoughtfulness evident when she crafts her plots. This is well demonstrated in Wizard of the Grove, where only the first half of the story is about the wizard Crystal's struggle to fulfill her purpose and destroy the survivor of the Wizard's Doom. The second part of the tale examines the question: "What does the ultimate weapon do when the war has been won?" One might think that being conceived for one purpose only is a tough fate. Heck, David Eddings has written a few bestselling series where the protagonist spends all his time moping about that one. Huff shows us that the tough part can come after the job is done.

The second thing that I really enjoyed about Huff's Wizard of the Grove are the major characters, especially in the second part of the story. They are well formed and easy to identify with. Huff's character Death is among my most favourite personifications of Death -- it's up there with Neil Gaiman's Death from the Sandman comic books. Like Gaiman's Death, Huff's Death is a being who serves primarily as a gatherer of the souls of the dead -- nothing vengeful or evil about it, it's just what he was born to do. Death is not indifferent to his charges or their lives, but rather he takes his ultimate sovereignty over all that is mortal very seriously. He grieves when too many of "his people" are sent to him at too young an age.

Death's sense of duty to the mortals he rules prompts him to become an active participant in the life of Crystal. Although both Crystal and her enemy are technically beyond Death's dominion, the wizard she was created to destroy had been binding the souls of his victims for centuries, thus keeping them from the eternal rest of Death. And once Crystal fulfills her purpose, Death finds that it is nice to have someone new around for whom his conversation is not limited to "Sorry, time's up".

Huff moves Crystal's story along at a good pace. Her narrative is engaging, and does not contain much in the way of filler or fluff. If the details she gives you don't seem immediately relevant, don't worry, because they will be. Huff also displays a good, if sometimes subtle, sense of humour in all her works. Overall, I liked Wizard of the Grove very much, and if you find that you like it also, please treat yourself to the rest of her books.

Copyright © 1999 by Robert Francis

Robert Francis is by profession a geologist, and, perhaps due to some hidden need for symmetry, spends his spare time looking at the stars. He is married, has a son, and is proud that the entire family would rather read anything remotely resembling literature than watch Jerry Springer.

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