Wednesday, January 25, 2012

So Then: With a Single Spell



Years and years ago (well, in 2010) I saw Jo Walton's review of Lawrence Watt-Evans' Ethshar books on tor.com, and she made them sound light and fun so I stuck them on my new Goodreads TBR list, which I then ignored for ages until the past few months when I started more systematically working my way through it.  My goal is to be only 12 months behind, but I'm about twelve months behind that goal.  This requested-reading fast probably won't help much, either.

Anyway, Walton is right in that With a Single Spell is a frothy read that is easily sipped in a few hours.  It's about a young man figuring out how to have make a living without any skills beyond the single spell he acquired in his short apprenticeship, preferably a living that doesn't require a lot of work because he admits he's rather lazy.  It's the kind of book where you just hang out and see what happens to a character for a while; there doesn't seem to be a unifying thematic arc where the writer ties up stuff with a bow -- if we are lucky (if the author does it right), we meet up with the character just when things start getting interesting, and then leave when we aren't terribly worried about anything that is still going on.  Watts-Evans does it just right, with Tobas traveling a bit to show off his world and society, worrying just enough about what to do that I saw what the options are in his society.

When Stephen Gould does this, the characters usually display impressive ingenuity and intelligence, using the doo-dad or spell to maximum capability.  Watt-Evan's protagonist isn't as ambitious, being willing and persistent but not especially perceptive.  On the other hand, the book itself is perceptive and snarky and enjoys puncturing cliches about fantasy worlds with wizards and dragons and princesses.  If I hadn't waited to read this book until it was overdue, I'd offer to my fantasy-fan seventh grader to read; maybe he'll have a chance at the next one.  I've stuck some more of Watt-Evans' books on the TBR list.


1 comment:

Patty said...

Ooh...this sounds like a lovely book to step into!!!