Prequel to Dragonborn (2012), this haunting fable interweaves stories about magic with the magic of stories.
When even the simplest spells turn feral, wizard apprentice Cabbage and his master, Flaxfield, search for the origin of this deadly “wild magic.” Their hunt leads to Bee, an apprentice whose immense potential has been secretly leeched for years by her abusive master, distorting the natural order of magic. When he steals her wizard name, the explosive blowback looses a terrible evil, and it’s up to the pair of apprentices to seal it. Despite the cataclysmic stakes, this is no standard epic adventure, all quests and derring-do. There are dread abominations and ghastly slaughters (all the more nightmarish for their elliptical portrayal), but nothing is more monstrous than human selfishness, cowardice and vanity. Against these, no heroic exploit stands more valiant and glorious than the small acts of kindness, loyalty and trust that take place within a quiet library, a humble inn and a wounded spirit. Lyrical prose of lapidary precision and restraint etches a character-driven narrative of intimate enchantments, evoking terrible beauty from blazing infernos, subtle whimsy from nonsensical banter, bone-chilling horror from slithering beetles, and soul-piercing wonder from a simple “Yes.” Although it stands fully on its own, knowledge of the companion novel will enrich appreciation of this tale, and the revelations here will cast new light upon the former; readers of both will long for the story’s resolution.
Terrifying, moving, inspiring and enthralling. (Fantasy. 12 & up)