A Bad Spell in Yurt
(The Royal Wizard of Yurt series, Book 1)
C. Dale Brittain
DESCRIPTION: Newly-graduated wizard Daimbert thought he'd found the perfect job when he accepted the role of Royal Wizard of Yurt. It's an insignificant little
kingdom, a perfect match for his meager skills. Cast a few weather spells, work a few illusions, keep the king amused and the populace awed - what more could such a place
demand of him? But something's not right in Yurt, an evil presence that lurks at the edge of his perception. Someone's been dabbling in black magic, and whatever they've
summoned won't leave without a fight, and likely a soul. This will take high-end wizardry, not to mention cunning and deduction to root out the mage and a keen grasp of
demonic negotiations. Too bad Daimbert can't even touch his book on demonology without getting the willies...
REVIEW: It looked like a lightweight, fun little fantasy, with whimsy and a dash of detective work around the edges. Unfortunately, it reads very stale and
dated, even for having originally been published in 1991, riddled with tired cliches. Daimbert's highly ineffective as a wizard and a character, spending
more time making excuses for his lack of knowledge and ability than actually doing anything about... well, anything, from locating the source of the shapeless evil to detecting the source of the black magic to
bringing his own skills up to par for the inevitable confrontation. He even fails to win much respect from Yurt's inhabitants, most of whom see through the facade to the fairly flimsy, barely-passing neophyte behind the robes. Most of his time is spent socializing with Yurt's inhabitants (shallow stereotypes, every one of them), none of whom ever come off as credible suspects, and navigating a tempestuous friendship with Joachim, the castle chaplain. Speaking of the church, this is another pothole that kept my suspension of disbelief from getting airborne: Brittain imports Christianity whole-hog into this otherwise independent fantasy world - making it a source of even greater miracles than wizardry can dream of, to the point where one wonders why people even bother learning magic when the church stands just across the road. Indeed, a good portion of the plot is about the concept of damnation and how one's soul is judged. Even leaving out the question of why inhabitants of an imaginary world would follow a real-world religion, I wanted a fantasy, not a treatise on salvation. I also wanted fun, but the humor's as vapid as the story and characters. The plot unfolds slowly, usually in spite of Daimbert rather than due to anything he actually does to advance it, winding up with a climax that I just plain couldn't care about. The wrap-up is far too long, full of explanatory speeches, and it ends on an odd, ill-struck final note that doesn't quite feel like a conclusion, even the conclusion of Book 1 of a series. A Bad Spell in Yurt is, as I expected, a lightweight tale - but more due to lack of substance than whimsy.
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