In this YA fantasy debut, a wizard’s apprentice must help stop a Necromancer from escaping his prison within a book.
Twelve-year-old Ilien Woodhill lives in the town of Southford, on a world called Nadae. Before leaving on family business, his mother hires a wizard named Gallund as Ilien’s private tutor. Ilien never knew his father, but he does have a magical talking pencil that makes him the target of bullies Peaty and Stanley. Gallund fulfills his duty when he narrowly stops his ward from frying the bullies with a lightning spell. One day, a knight named Thessien visits Gallund with the news that a NiDemon has crossed over from Loehs Sedah—the realm of the dead. NiDemons are the sworn enemies of the Nomadin, the magical race to which Gallund belongs. Gallund decides to take Ilien to safety in the kingdom of Evernden. On the way, they encounter a Nihilic scroll, written in the language of the evil Necromancer Reknamarken. Though Gallund assures Ilien that the Necromancer’s soul has been bound within a book and guarded at Kingsend Castle for the last five centuries, it bodes ill that a pack of shape-shifting “wierwulvs” stalks the land and a menacing voice has invaded the apprentice’s dreams. Opening a trilogy that toys with fantasy conventions like prophecies and helpless princesses, Cormier ably writes for multiple audiences. His youngest readers should relish the talking pencils, maps, and dogs (like Kink and Crank), while fans of more action-oriented stories should enjoy a creature called the Groll, which excels at impaling its victims with a poison-tipped tail. For adults, there’s no shortage of marvelous wisdom on tap, like when Ilien’s magical Globe tells him, “Make up your mind who you want to be...or life will choose for you.” Throughout, the narrative accrues staple characters like Windy, a talented princess, and Anselm, a giant with an incredible secret. The author’s willingness to traumatize his cast and introduce some sly wrinkles makes the journey that much more emotionally resonant.
This novel casts a fresh spell for fans of the boy-wizard genre.