Do you groan every time you come to the end of a Diana Wynne Jones tale? Or pine for another Neil Gaian masterpiece? Fear not, I’ve found you another author with the same quirky humour and deft storytelling skills. For those of you interested in such things, K.E. Mills has also written the fine fantasy Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology – a thoroughly worthwhile read – under the name Karen Miller. She has also written some of the Stargate and Star Wars tie-in novels, so is thoroughlyexperienced as a science fiction/fantasy writer – and it shows.
Gerald Dunwoody is a wizard. Just 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. Career disaster strikes again. Luckily, an influential friend manages to get him a post. So it’s off to New Ottosland to be the new court Wizard for King Lional. His back-up, an ensorcelled bird with a mysterious past, seems dubious. But it’s New Ottosland or nothing.
Unfortunately, King Lional isn’t the vain, self-centred young man he appeared to be. With a Princess in danger, a bird-brained back-up and a kingdom to save, Gerald soon finds himself out of his depth. And if he can’t keep this job, how can he become the wizard he was destined to be…?
All the characters are well drawn, particularly the main protagonist, whose flounderings are nicely counter-pointed by his humorous musings and his constant fights with the bird who has adopted him. It is the slight eccentricity of all the characters that I find so appealing. From the no-nonsense Princess – whose tweedy efficiency put me in mind of my PE teacher – to Rex, Gerald’s feathered companion no one in this novel is exactly normal. Just as in Wynne Jones tales, when events continue to stack up, there is an initial false sense of security before the narrative becomes a whole lot darker in tone and action. The story steadily pulls you in – and by the time the climax crackles across the pages, it is impossible to put the book down.
Despite having the memory of a concussed goldfish where books are concerned, I generally remember Gaiman’s and Wynne Jones’s offerings – and I suspect it will be the case with this book.