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Ryel is a wysard (wizard) in the city of Markul. He is a healer and has spent over half his life studying his art (magic) in Markul. However, after accidentally bringing about the death of his mentor, Edris, he finds himself drawn into ever more perilous quests. A demon speaks to him and drives him forward from one task to another. Ryel eventually comes to realize that his mentorís spirit is still alive in a void between life and death. He must wage a battle with the demon for Edrisí soul while simultaneously preventing the demon from taking control of the world.
This is not the typical fantasy novel. In most fantasy novels, a lad that doesnít realize he has magical powers is thrust into the arms of a mentor that must train him and propel him towards a goal that will save the world. In Wysard, the main character, Ryel, is already a very powerful magic-user before he begins his quest to save the world. I found this premise refreshing. The prose is rich and descriptive but still very easy to read. The character development of Ryel is strong and is accomplished primarily by flashbacks to momentous events that shaped him. The plot gets off to a slow start but picks up momentum in the second half of the book.
There are a few flaws in this novel, which is not unusual for an authorís first effort, but they did not detract from my enjoyment of the novel. Besides Ryel, the other characters in the novel did not receive the same amount of character development and often appeared a bit shallowly defined by comparison.
A major annoyance is that the novel is being published in two parts. After conversing with the author, I found that this decision was made by the publisher, so don't blame this decision on Ms. Kephart. Consequently, there are a myriad of mysteries and characters introduced in Wysard that are not concluded or investigated in this volume. The last 10 pages of the novel are used primarily as an information dump to set up new action sequences for the following book (most likely caused by the publisher's decision to split the novel). I donít mind novels taking more than one volume to tell a story, but I didnít feel that enough of the elements of the plot were concluded in this first volume. When reading a multiple volume series of books, I prefer each novel to be somewhat self-contained and to wrap up some major plot points in each volume. This probably could not be done effectively with Wysard since it was written as a single volume (and in my opinion, should have been published as such). But such are the foibles of the publishing world. But never fear, the story will conclude in the second volume and our curiosity will be satisfied!
So, if you are looking for a fantasy novel that is not run-of-the-mill, give Wysard a try. I'll be patiently waiting for volume two!
Reviewed by Alan
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