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Wizard at Work
Vivian Vande Velde
Magic Carpet Books, 134 pages

Wizard at Work
Vivian Vande Velde
Vivian Vande Velde is the author of Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, A Hidden Magic, The Conjurer Princess, and many other fine fantasy novels. She lives with her husband and daughter in Rochester, New York.

ISFDB Bibliography
Vivian Vande Velde Bibliography
SF Site Review: Being Dead
SF Site Review: Magic Can Be Murder
SF Site Review: Never Trust a Dead Man
SF Site Review: The Conjurer Princess
SF Site Review: A Coming Evil

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

Wizard at Work is a light-hearted and sensibly fun middle grade novel from Vivian Vande Velde, who has established a reputation for solid work in both fantasy and horror for Young Adult readers. I say novel, and that is how the book is packaged, but it is really a collection of some five fairly independent shorter pieces, with an introductory episode and a hint of a unifying narrative.

The never-named title character is an instructor at a school for wizards. He is fairly young, though he tends to disguise himself magically as an older man -- people just don't believe someone as young as he really is can be a respectable wizard. As the story opens, he is settling into his summer vacation, hoping to spend his time as usual -- puttering around his garden, mainly. An encounter with a rather snappish witch reminds him that he might not be ecstatically happy, but that "true happiness is overrated."

The rest of the novel, then, recounts five episodes, following a fairly consistent pattern. As he attempts to find peace and putter around his garden some more, he is interrupted by someone importuning him for help with a magical problem. The problems echo familiar stories -- a Cinderella variant, a ghost haunting a castle, a princess needing rescue from a dragon, troublesome unicorns, and a royal family trying to marry off an obstreperous daughter. Vande Velde rings some pleasant and clever changes on these familiar tropes. It's lots of breezy fun, with common sense ruling the day. And, as one might expect, the wizard himself has some growing to do.

This is a very enjoyable book. It doesn't plow any new ground, mind you, nor is it riotously funny. But it is pleasant throughout, sensible, humanistic, sweet -- in a word, nice.

Copyright © 2005 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

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