Friday, 29 March 2013

Review of 'The Accidental Sorcerer' by K.E. Mills

Welcome to Ottosland, a country with a vague British flavour, in a world that more or less resembles ours, except that alongside the telephone sits the crystal ball. This is a world of both magic and technology.

Gerald Dunwoody is a Third Grade wizard, graduate of a mere correspondence course in wizardry, and reduced to the level of inspector for a government department. When the blame for the destruction of Ottosland’s most prestigious staff factory falls on Gerald, he finds himself virtually unemployable.

At the enthusiastic insistence of his genius friend, Monk Markham, Gerald takes a job as advisor to the King of New Ottosland. Monk reasons that Gerald needs to get away from the debacle that is the destruction of Stuttley’s, and when he returns, not only will the uproar have died down, but Gerald will have ‘advisor to a king’ on his resume.

Reg, Gerald’s apparently sentient bird, is less enthusiastic. Potential employers need to be vetted, she says. Royalty can be dangerous. And what does a king want with a Third Grade wizard?

Against Reg’s objections, Gerald takes the job and they travel to New Ottosland, where they are greeted by Princess Melissande, the Prime Minister of New Ottosland. It quickly becomes clear things are not at all what they seem. The Privy Council has been sacked. Melissande, under-staffed and over-worked, is trying to do the work of the Council, the Prime Minister, and negotiate with a delegation from neighbouring Kallarap about tariffs the king refuses to pay. The kingdom is verging on bankruptcy.

And King Lional himself demands that Gerald impress him, or be sent on his way.

Sweating under pressure, Gerald somehow manages to turn Lional’s cat into a lion. A level 12 transmogrification spell? Impossible! Such a feat is beyond the skills of a mere Third Grade wizard. But what if Gerald isn’t a Third Grade Wizard anymore? What if the events at Stuttley’s have… changed him?

Completing the royal ensemble is Prince Rupert, more interested in his butterfly house than the running of a nearly bankrupt kingdom or royal politics. He is quite obviously mad, and yet Gerald has the sinking feeling that Rupert might be the saner of the two brothers when Lional announces that Gerald will be his secret weapon in the negotiations against Kallarap.

Adding a sinister feel to proceedings, it soon comes to light that Gerald’s five predecessors in the position of advisor to King Lional, all First Grade wizards, have not been seen since they supposedly left New Ottosland…

Why is Lional determined to provoke war against his neighbours? What happened to the missing wizards? And what does he want with Gerald?

The book is engaging and fast-paced, as well as humorous, though perhaps written more in a young adult style. If that bothers you, give the book a miss, but I found the story compelling and well-written. Though hardly the most competent wizard, Gerald draws you in with his personality, his well-meaning dedication, and his genuine attempts to make the best of a bad situation. When things turn really pear-shaped, he is really tested, and the decisions he makes will shape the man he will become.

A mostly fun, light-hearted read interspersed with darker moments, the book is a solid, well-written effort and definitely worth your time. 

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