If you happen to come upon this book and you haven’t read the three previous books, The Accidental Sorceror, Witches Incorporated and Wizard Squared – don’t. Go back to the beginning and track down these other books, first. Otherwise there will be a whole raft of asides and references that you will simply miss or find irritating, which would be a real shame.
This is a really interesting fantasy series – it started off quite light with plenty of humour and some sharp-tongued exchanges between the main characters, who nonetheless are very fond of each other. But in the third book of the series, the whole premise takes a left turn into something a whole lot nastier and darker, making Wizard Squared a compelling page-turner. So, can Mills sustain that angst and tension in Wizard Undercover?
Wedding bells are ringing for the constantly battling nations of Splotze and Borovnik and the upcoming royal nuptials could at last put an end to their dangerous hostilities. But in a development that hardly bodes well, one of Gerald’s fellow janitors goes missing – after delivering a dire warning of danger surrounding the marriage treaty. So Gerald must embark on a perilous mission to uncover the troublemakers, before wedded bliss becomes international war. But going undercover isn’t as easy as it looks, even with Melissande and Emmerabiblia for camouflage. Soon Gerald finds himself fighting for his life as well as world peace.
But poor old Gerald is still reeling from his terrible experiences in the previous instalment – should someone still traumatised and possibly unstable be sent out without a suitable recovery time? And if international relations and potential war looms, is that sufficient reason to also risk two spirited young women? These are the kinds of moral questions that confronts Gerald’s devious superior, Sir Alec.
Other than that, we still have the wonderfully bossy Reg, a talking bird who has adopted Gerald and has a frighteningly indepth knowledge of all sorts of gnarly magic – although there are now some uncomfortable issues around Reg, after the fallout from shocking events described in the previous book… There is a love interest between Gerald and his best friend’s sister, Emmerabiblia Markham. However after the last book, where all these characters were confronted with a terrible evil and many of them simply didn’t prevail, there is the after-echo of that experience that still reverberates through this story. I found it added a darker twist that Mills skilfully played on throughout the book.
I was worried that after the last book, I would find this something of an anti-climax, but of course Mills is far too experienced and adept to commit that kind of crime against her readers. While this episode in the series doesn’t hit the same savage climaxes as those in Wizard Squared, there is still plenty of tension and pace as Gerald desperately tries to pinpoint exactly who is creating such vile magic. I also very much appreciated the fact that Mills isn’t minded to roll her adventures blithely forward without showing the battle scars still evident in all her main characters after their terrible experiences. All in all, a great addition to the series which left me wanting more.