Wizard at Large
By Terry Brooks
Published by Books in Motion
Read by Cameron Beierle
This is the third offering in the “Magic Kingdom of Landover” series and it, apparently is very popular among fantasy readers. Therefore, take what I am about to say with a grain of salt; I find myself increasingly less enchanted by the series, which involves Ben “Doc” Holliday, corporate lawyer and his new position as the High Lord of Landover, a magical land that exists in some other world that can only be accessed via a magical pendant, unless you are a dragon, it seems. Dragons can go anywhere they want. It also involves Ben’s new love, a green-skinned and haired sylph named, Willow, the Wizard, Questor Thews, and a man Questor turned into a dog, named Abernathy. There are also a fair sized minor cast of characters, some of whom seem to be there just to add extra chapters to the story and some of whom, even if necessary to the plot, are terminally annoying.
By the way, the dragon seems to be the best-drawn character and his only clearly defined trait is that he is a grouch. Of course, he has a right to be grouchy, since Holliday and his minions are apt to force the dragon to do stuff he doesn’t want to do and never do any of them deign to say, “Thank you.”
The characters (dragon included) seem rather one, or at best two-dimensional and there is no real character development, unless you count Questor Thews becoming annoyingly smug in the fact that, for once, his magic seems to be working as he wants it to.
The story, I found somewhat slim as well; Questor claims to have found a way to turn Abernathy back into a man but when he tries it, he botches the magic by sneezing (supposedly, I suspect he just did not know what he was doing) and instead, the man-dog disappears and a fancy bottle shows up in his place. It’s a rather distinctive bottle and Questor ought to have recognized it instantly, but that would have shortened the story, or at least forced Mister Brooks into plotting this one a bit more interestingly. Eventually, Questor remembers that he last saw the bottle in the hands of the former prince of Landover (who along with Questor’s brother, Meeks, sold the kingdom to Holliday – long story – see Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold) and that the bottle contained a “darkling” which in any other world would have just been called a genie or djinn, and one of the more malicious ones.
By the time he remembers that, the bottle has been stolen by the most annoying characters of the series, Pip and Sot – the G’home Gnomes, from whom it is stolen by trolls who kill each other over the bottle and then it ends up in various other hands (which pushes the plot not at all) and eventually it ends up with one of Holliday’s arch nemeses, which gives us a sort of climax… actually the same climax we see in the first two books.
Meanwhile, it is determined that Abernathy ended up in this world with Ben’s pendant (which ought to have meant that he and the pendant was lost) but Questor manages to send Ben and Willow to Los Vegas (Polution is apparently not good for sylphs and other living things) and they must find out where Abernathy is. This turns out not to be much of a problem, nor is their lack of any real money, etc., since Ben just has to call his old partner and get bailed out. Everything is just too darned pat. There’s a problem and they quickly solve it.
I’ll stop the plot description there and just say, I am not really sure just what sort of story this (and the whole series) is supposed to be. Is it supposed to be epic fantasy? Not really. It’s is not quite serious enough. Is it light fantasy? Almost, but then it is not really light enough. Is it supposed to be a satire on the whole fantasy genre? Maybe, since it uses nearly every cliché in the genre, but it is not clearly satirical. It takes itself too seriously. It needs a few jokes to work as a satire. There are situations that could be amusing, but they really are not written that way. Even the G’home Gnomes just come off as annoying and likely deserving of all the kicks in their backsides they receive from the other characters.
It’s sort of a shame. I think the concept is a great one, but it feels like Mister Brooks was just phoning it in while working on his Shanara stories. Then again, thousands of fans disagree with me…
I have to admit that Cameron Beierle read this volume better, for the most part than I felt he did in the previous stories, however, he has still not lost his penchant for really bad “funny voices,” and, worst of all, he is still mispronouncing the word “Paladin.” Considering how important the Paladin is to the series (Ben uses the pendant to become the invincible Paladin – all “deus ex machina” – to defeat his foes at the end of the stories – so far at least) this mispronunciation is not forgivable. The word is used repeatedly and getting it wrong would have been enough to ruin the story for me, had I liked it in the first place.
So, if you are a fan of Terry Brooks, you will probably like the story. If not, I advise looking for something else to read and definitely see if you can find someone else’s reading of it.