Friday, February 06, 2009

“The Accidental Sorcerer”, by K.E. Mills (Orbit)


The Worst Witch meets Terry Pratchett…

Gerald Dunwoody is a wizard, but not a particularly good one. He’s blown up a factory, lost his job, and there’s a chance that he’s not really a Third Grade wizard after all. With the help of an influential friend, it’s off to New Ottosland to be the new Court Wizard for King Lional. His sidekick, an ensorcelled bird with a mysterious past and a lot of loud opinions, seems sceptical. But it’s New Ottosland or nothing. Unfortunately, King Lional isn’t the vain, self-centred young man he appeared to be. With a frumpy princess in danger and a kingdom to save, Gerald suspects he might be out of his depth. And if he can’t keep this job, how is he supposed to become the wizard he’s meant to be?

Bestselling author Karen Miller, writing as K.E. Mills, pulls off an entertaining take on the classic wizard fantasy novel. Inept wizard Gerald Dunwoody (and what a name to conjure with) muddles along as a Third Grade, third rate wizard, is employed by the Department of Thaumaturgy as a civil servant in a dead-end job. The Accidental Sorcerer follows Gerald’s career in international wizarding.

Mills’ plot is tight and well-paced; her characters believable and (mostly) endearing. The relationship between Gerald and Reg, the irascible enchanted raven, is affectionate and funny. The dialogue between them is witty, sarcastic and realistic. Reading about the interplay among King Lional’s dysfunctional family is delightful: a butterfly-obsessed prince and a princess whose twinset you’ll need to pry from her cold, dead hands.

If I have two quibbles, it is that there are certain passages in The Accidental Sorcerer which skirt perhaps a little too closely to Terry Pratchett’s style and creations. In particular, “Bearhuggers Brandy” is too similar to “Bearhuggers Whisky”, available in Pratchett’s Discworld.

Written under a different pen-name, it’s clear that the author is distancing this from her more well-known series (Godspeaker and Kingmaker-Kingbreaker) and also her work on the Star Wars Clone Wars series. There are some similarities (for example, the dark undertones throughout); she has a penchant for introducing truly fantastical tribes and gods. While we know this is fantasy, it can sometimes come across as contrived.

Despite these issues, the book was an enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys their fantasy quirky and unusual, while still filled with interesting and engaging characters.

Also try: Terry Pratchett, Karen Miller, Maria Snyder, Robert Rankin, Jill Murphy (for younger readers)

Reviewed by Emma Newrick

(This will be Second-Reviewed by Stefan in the near future)

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