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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Wizard of the Grove

Reviewed: July 21, 2009
By: Tanya Huff
Publisher: DAW Books
576 pages, $10.99

This book is an omnibus edition of two late 1980s fantasy novels by Tanya Huff, who writes fantasy, science fiction and horror/thriller fiction. She is part of the Bakka mafia, that group of Canadian SF writers who have worked, at one time or another, at Canada’s oldest surviving SF book store, Bakka, in Toronto.

Child of the Grove introduces us to the world of this story, a world which once was ravaged by a great war of wizards who achieved great power. misused it and brought about their own doom by attempting to create life itself. Usurping the power of the creator gods, these wizards made dragons out of the stuff of the earth, little knowing that the dragons would turn on them and destroy them. All but one.

This first novel is epic in its sweep, taking us through several generations of the royal family of Ardhan. In the early part of the novel we meet Rael, the son of Ardhan’s king and one of the mystic ladies of the Grove. Of mixed heritage, Rael must lead his people in a defensive war against the empire of Melac, which is secretly controlled by Kraydak, the last of the wizards. Much to my surprise this war was over by page 87, Rael was living happily ever after with his new wife and a two generations were passing before the next part of the story.

As it turned out the real meat of the tale was the story of Crystal, the child of the book’s title. She was destined - one might even say bred - to be the counter force to the growing power of the last remaining wizard. A wizard herself, schooled by centaurs and guided by a dwarf, she discovers the way to end Kraydak’s reign of terror once and for all.

When it comes to sequels, many writers find themselves retelling the original story with just a slight spin to the plot. Huff did something quite different. Instead of enlarging on the epic battle story of the first book, The Last Wizard reduces the scale of Crystal’s story by delving more into her mystical origins, focusing on her internal conflicts and fashioning a love story.

What do you do when you’ve accomplished your purpose in life before your 20th birthday, when the all the goals you had have been reached and you need a reason to carry on? This week we might think of people like Neil Armstrong whose peak achievement was walking on the moon in July of 1969. or even the late Michael Jackson, whose musical career and personal life peaked with the album Thriller in 1982. One of these men found a way to have a productive, satisfying life; the other self-destructed.

This is the kind of challenge that faces Crystal, She’d like to help rebuild the towns and cities that were ravaged during the struggle between her and Kraydak, but no one wants to trust a wizard any more. No one will let her be normal.

Then there is the matter of her creation, which was through an amalgam of the power of seven elder goddesses. The remnants of their personalities still exist within Crystal and, without an external threat to focus them, these powers struggle to be free. What could be more dangerous than a powerful wizard with multiple personality disorder?

Into this mix come two brothers, Jago and Raulin. Survivors of the great wars these two adventurers are on a quest to discover the great treasure of the wizard Aryalan. They are two quite different personalities and helping them on their quest seems to give Crystal some small reason to carry on. Until now her only steady companion had been Lord Death, whom only she can see, and that relationship is rather complicated.

So we have a quest, a love story and a journey of self discovery which leads to a surprising conclusion.

Tanya Huff is undoubtedly best known as the author of the Blood series of horror/mystery novels featuring detective Vicki Nelson and her partner/lover Henry Fitzroy, who happens to be the vampire son of Henry VIII. There are five novels and one short story collection in this series and it was the inspiration for the television series Blood Ties, which aired on the Lifetime and Space channels. She has written 31 novels since Child of the Grove, which was her first in 1988.

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