Friday, 24 September 1999

Christopher Stasheff: The Oathbound Wizard (1993)

Edition: Legend, 1996
Review number: 335

Sequel to Her Majesty's Wizard, The Oathbound Wizard continues the story of student Matt after he has been thrust into another world in which he is a powerful magician. The best thing about the first book was the idea of a fantasy novel which took medieval Catholicism seriously, and that is carried over in a diluted form into The Oathbound Wizard. (The power of faith is somewhat lessened, probably to improve the verisimilitude of the plot.)

Matt has been unable to marry his beloved Queen Alisande of Merovence, because she cannot feel it is right for her country for her to marry one not of noble blood. (Because of the idea of the divine appointment of rulers, she usually instinctively knows the right course of action to take for the benefit of her people. Though she does feel that it would be right to marry Matt, her scruples derive from the suspicion that her love for him is overcoming her supernatural knowledge.) After three years, Matt is very frustrated, and in a moment of temper swears an oath that he will overthrow the evil usurping sorcerer holding the throne of the neighbouring kingdom of Ibile. Meaning this as a figure of speech to express his emotion, he has forgotten the spiritual power of words in this world, and so he is committed to a quest.

In this second novel, Stasheff is not quite so careful about the background as in Her Majesty's Wizard. He manages, for example, to get the names of the kings of England wrong. This is in discussion with Robin Hood, conjured up from another parallel universe, and I suspect that the reason that the king following Richard and John is named Edward rather than Henry is related to his background reading on the Robin Hood legend. The tales, now traditionally associated with Richard I's crusading, apparently developed during the reign of Edward III, and it may be that Stasheff assumed he followed the earlier kings.

As the novelty of the first in the series has worn off, the second does not seem nearly as good.

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