Friday, February 22, 2008

Wizards in Fantasy

A man waves his hand and a bolt of lightning crashes into a monster. Brandishing a staff, a woman speaks a spell that crumbles a stone wall into dust. Man or woman, wizards are a primary element of Fantasy. They play important roles in many novels. Merlin is perhaps one of the most familiar wizards in Fantasy, appearing in many Fantasy novels (see previous article Merlin in Fantasy). There are many other wizards that can match or rival Merlin in power and popularity. They appear in a wide range of Fantasy books.

One wizard who is well known in Fantasy after Merlin is Gandalf. He appears in Lord of the Rings and the The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Gandalf is liked by the Hobbits, but can be an imposing figure. Considered a powerful wizard, he doesn’t use much magic openly except in his battle with the Balrog. Mr. Tolkien created a realistic character with wisdom and personal flaws. His portrayal of Gandalf became an inspiration to be emulated by many other Fantasy authors over the years.

Another wizard with an interesting life story is Ged of the Earthsea books. He starts out as a powerful, arrogant youth who learns responsibility for his powers. The creation of Ursula K LeGuin, Ged’s life is told through four books. From youth to Archmage to a journey beyond death, Ged’s story demonstrates the magic life brings with its changes. Ged is an unforgettable wizard. His story is told in A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu.

Not all wizards are men. Fantasy author Maggie Furey’s Aurian is a woman to be reckoned with carefully. Aurian is the daughter of two powerful magicians. She undergoes training in a society where ordinary people are considered little more than servants. Her story is told in four books: Aurian, Harp of Winds, Sword of Flame, and Dhiammara. Aurian’s life is one of struggle, love, sadness and loss. She is an interesting character of a powerful woman with a vulnerable side.

Some wizards are very young in age and the author traces their story through their training in school or as an apprentice. Harry Potter is the latest young wizard who has become popular in books and movies. J.K. Rowling’s contributions to wizards of Fantasy are:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Young Harry is an orphan who grows up in an abusive family but discovers his parents were really wizards. He goes to the magic school to learn to be a wizard and has many adventures. This is an excellent series for all ages that traces a young man growing up in an enchanting world.

Another interesting woman wizard is Lythande of the Blue Star. The wizards of her order must keep themselves ready for the final battle between good and chaos. While waiting, they must keep one secret about themselves. If another wizard discovers their secret, they lose their powers and can be killed. Lythande must keep her secret as she helps people on her travels. Her stories can be found in the book Lythande.

Harry Potter is not the only young wizard in training. Fantasy author Diane Duane writes a series of books about young people in training to be wizards. Young Nita and Kit from our world find a doorway into a world where they learn magic and have adventures. They face real world issues of adolescents in each book. The series consists of six books:

So You Want To Be a Wizard
Deep Wizardry
High Wizardry
A Wizard Abroad
A Wizard's Dilemma
A Wizard Alone

Wizards are an essential part of Fantasy books. Whether man or woman, young or old, good or evil, they bring interesting touches to the stories they appear in. Merlin, Ged and now Harry Potter are all part of our collective memories. Wizards wield magic in various ways, but admired most for their wisdom and advice. They will always play important roles in the Fantasy genre.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Review: _Sword and Sorceress XXII_ edited by Elisabeth Waters

The late author Marion Zimmer Bradley created an anthology Fantasy series that had stories of women magic users and warriors by new and established authors. Now, there is a new addition to the series thanks to the publisher Norilana books. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress XXII edited by Elisabeth Waters contains new entertaining stories of extraordinary women. Many of the stories will catch readers’ interests.

The anthology opens with “Edra’s Arrow” by Esther M. Friesner. Edra is a hunter for her tribe. There is no game to be found and her people are starving. Her sister claims it is Edra’s fault for defying the gods by being a hunter, which is a man’s job. Edra must find the true cause of the trouble to save her people. Ms. Friesner provides a serious story with good characters.

“Pearl of Fire” by Deborah J. Ross tells the story of Rayzel and her harsh dilemma. She receives the Pearl of Fire, usually handed down in her family to men, by mistake. Invulnerable to weapons, she must spend a lonely life in war, fighting many battles. Rayzel must find a way to free herself from such a life. Ms. Ross gives readers a thought provoking story about war and overcoming hardship.

Fantasy author Dave Smeds presents a different story with “Bearing Shadows.” Aerise is a pregnant women living in a community that makes it’s living by wine making. One afternoon people notice her abdomen is glowing with light. This indicates that a Shadow Man, mysterious people that live like ghosts, fathered her baby. She is exiled by her people for life. Aerise goes on a long journey to get her life back. The author explores a difficult issue through interesting situations in the story.

In “Child of the Father” by Alan Morland, Larion must help his lover Anya save her little cousin. The little girl is taken by a corrupt priesthood that rapes young girls. Led by a vicious high priest, the religion controls the country ruthlessly. Larion and his companions try to free the people from the priest with magic and cunning. Ms. Morland delivers a good story of vivid images with a neat twist to the ending.

“Skin and Bones” by Heather Rose Jones takes place in world where clans of shapeshifters that use skins to change exist. Asholi is a skin singer working for a governor of a city. Her employer asks her to seek out a clan of her people to offer them employment. She finds a troubling group of people with a secret. Events escalate when her love interest is kidnapped. Ms. Jones creates a great story of a strange race that has an interesting culture.

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress XXII edited by Elisabeth Waters is another good anthology in a long series. It is a welcome addition for readers. Many of the stories are entertaining, ranging from adventurous to thought provoking. The publisher Norilana Books can be commended for continuing this series for readers who love it. Hopefully they will publish more.