In Sauvain’s epic fantasy, an aging sorcerer recruits three teenagers to study at the Collegium Sorcerorum; on their way, they’ll face thrilling adventures, romantic encounters and life lessons.
Set in the mysterious Dark Ages, the novel begins with an eccentric, mule-riding vagabond successfully luring 14-year-old Thaddeus from his parents’ home in Beewicke. The nearly 1,000-year-old sorcerer, Master Silvestrus (reminiscent of Dumbledore), recruits Thaddeus of Beewicke, Anders of Brightfield and Rolland of Fountaindale—a prominent thief—as his three apprentices. They are to travel to the Collegium, learn the art of sorcery and play their part in fulfilling an age-old prophecy. Sauvain’s detail-rich paragraphs and astute sense of character development are comparable to the Harry Potter series. Here, however, sorcery is more experimental and requires one to believe and have been intimate with a beloved. While Thaddeus is the clear-cut protagonist, the characters of Rolland, Anders and Asullus are arguably more compelling and memorable. Asullus, the talking mule, is hilarious and loyal to a fault. Anders, having studied under numerous scholars, is the intelligent one. Rolland, an orphan who grew up on the streets and steals for survival, quickly develops an entertaining love/hate relationship with Asullus. Together, Master Silvestrus and company tackle adventures featuring robbers, ogres, deceptive butterflies, spirits, fairies, elves, talking trees, demons, a peculiar dog named Bellis, the cursed Cin army of cowards and more. Although splendid characterizations, engaging plot twists and humorous dialogues are the pillars of Sauvain’s narrative, a number of characters seem rushed and far too temporary; for example, Ethne enters the novel early as Thaddeus’ love interest, but there’s no sign of her in the remaining 548 pages. Sean Bodley’s illustrations and maps add depth to the setting, the extensive glossary allows readers to understand Lingua Imperatoria and the section on “Dramatis Personae” is instrumental in explaining who each character is and the role he plays.
Despite taking an entire book to get to the Collegium, Sauvain’s ensemble of unique characters enduring precarious situations delivers great fun and anticipation for the ensuing books in the saga.