Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills

The Accidental Sorcerer has about a hundred pages of plot in its bloated 535 pages of book. Fifty if you take out the arguments. There are no subplots.

It starts out as a light, fun fantasy. I was willing to put up with tedious arguments, and people yelling at each other in a way that's supposed to be amusing but isn't, because I think there's not enough light fantasies out there and I'm willing to overlook a lot when I find one. But halfway through the book, the tone turns dark and the arguments give way to an out-of-the-blue torture scene and page after weary page of self-recrimination and tears.

It's exactly as though the author wrote the first half of the book, lost interest, and set it aside for a few years. Then she came back and decided to finish it, only she no longer wanted to write a light fantasy. The change of tone is startling and unwelcome. Then, toward the climax of the book, the characters start to argue and banter again--and it's repellent because it's not even slightly funny anymore. You can't go from light to dark and back to light in tone and expect the reader to be okay with it. Not this reader, anyway.

As for the teaspoonful of plot, it's barely enough to carry the light fantasy the book started out as. It wilts under the weight of torture and death. Here's the plot, and I may possibly drop a few spoilers: Gerald Dunwoody is a third grade wizard who barely managed to get his degree through a correspondence program in magic. He's not happy with his job as a Department of Thaumaturgy inspector-in-training, but it was all he could get. Then he attempts to stop an explosion in a staff factory and suddenly he can work magic far beyond his previous abilities. Since he's being blamed for the staff factory melt-down and has lost his job, he answers an ad for a royal wizard in the small country of New Ottosland, only to discover that the king is beyond unreasonable and into mad, and Gerald is expected to help him impersonate the neighboring country's gods so that New Ottosland can take over and loot the country's precious gems. Also, a talking raven.

That's it. Don't think I left anything out because I didn't. That's the entire plot, minus the big fight at the end which isn't actually all that big. As I said, there are no subplots. None. A book this length should be so full of subplots it should resemble a tapestry, but The Accidental Sorcerer is a single strand of yarn. The length comes from long and unnecessary arguments--everyone is always shouting at everyone else--and as a result the pacing is painfully slow. The denoument seriously lasts 60 pages. I skimmed it, because I didn't care about any of the characters and it was all just setting up for the sequel anyway. And no, I won't be reading the sequel. I wish I could have the hours back that I wasted reading this book.

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