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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating world -- setup for a potentially cool series -- just OK plot
The single characteristic of Lawrence Watt-Evans's books that has struck me most insistently over time is the way he features basically ordinary people in heroic roles. This doesn't mean nebbishes or losers: for the most part his heroes are fairly heroic, but they are heroic for reasons that make sense for regular people. The Wizard Lord is a practically perfect example...
Published on June 16, 2006 by Richard R. Horton

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Oh"
Normally I wouldn't give a good effort so low a rating, and I do think this novel is a good effort. Regardless of that fact it has some staggering issues that really can't be ignored.

If you read the book you will become well aware of why I titled my review with a single word. The main character, the Swordsman (or whichever name the author refers to him as on...
Published on May 20, 2007 by T. D. Newton


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating world -- setup for a potentially cool series -- just OK plot, June 16, 2006
By 
Richard R. Horton (Webster Groves, MO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The single characteristic of Lawrence Watt-Evans's books that has struck me most insistently over time is the way he features basically ordinary people in heroic roles. This doesn't mean nebbishes or losers: for the most part his heroes are fairly heroic, but they are heroic for reasons that make sense for regular people. The Wizard Lord is a practically perfect example of this.

The main character is a young man named Breaker. He lives in the town of Mad Oak, a fairly ordinary rural town, part of a land called Barokan. Barokan is ruled by a Wizard Lord, who makes sure that the weather is fine, and that particularly vile criminals are punished, and in general that life goes on smoothly. For centuries this system has worked well. One problem is the occasional Dark Lord -- a Wizard Lord gone mad -- and their control is a group of 8 heroes, The Chosen -- the World's Greatest Swordsman, Archer, Thief, Leader, etc. The other magical aspect of this land is the omnipresent "ler," spirits with whom local Priests and Priestesses must negotiate to allow people to live in each area. The "ler," and their individual desires, seem to cause Barokan to be a rather fractured set of small towns, with fairly limited trade and travel.

One day the Chosen Swordsman comes to Mad Oak. It turns out he is old, ready to retire, and he wishes to recruit a successor. Breaker, perhaps a bit to his surprise, agrees to take the job. This despite his lack of desire to kill anyone: but there has not been a Dark Lord for over a century, so what's the risk? (100 percent as the reader knows!) So after months of training, and a magical ceremony to transfer the Swordsman's special magical abilities to Breaker, he becomes the new Swordsman. After which -- perhaps just a bit late! -- the old Swordsman reveals reluctantly that he has some slight misgivings about the current Wizard Lord.

So Breaker decides to travel the world, or at least Barokan, and to try to meet his fellow Chosen, and to learn if the Wizard Lord really has gone mad. Of course he learns eventually that the lord has -- he has murdered an entire town. Several of his fellow Chosen agree that the Wizard Lord must be taken down, but others are surprisingly reluctant, for different reasons. It's clear something odd is going on (and most readers will guess the outline of the problem fairly quickly) but they push through to force a resolution.

The Wizard Lord is the first of a trilogy, but it comes to a definite close. However, questions have been raised about the very structure of Barokan society, particularly by Breaker. I am sure subsequent volumes will address those questions. The novel itself is ever readable, quite enjoyable, and just plain, well, sensible. The magical system is fairly original and interesting. Not quite as much happens as in many fantasy novels, and the closing battle is really rather abruptly presented. But as I said, the novel is striking for the way each of the powerful magical characters is portrayed as basically ordinary (even the Wizard Lord). There is a real sense that these are regular people, acting the way any of us would act had we grown up in this somewhat unusual world. And I have a feeling that there is considerable potential for more action and more intrigue in subsequent novels: that this book is very much a scene setter, an introduction. I enjoyed it, though I rank it as Watt-Evans at closer to the middle than the top of his range.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Oh", May 20, 2007
This review is from: The Wizard Lord (The Annals of the Chosen, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
Normally I wouldn't give a good effort so low a rating, and I do think this novel is a good effort. Regardless of that fact it has some staggering issues that really can't be ignored.

If you read the book you will become well aware of why I titled my review with a single word. The main character, the Swordsman (or whichever name the author refers to him as on any given page), is quite possibly the most obnoxious character I've ever looked through the eyes of. When he's not constantly reviewing the plot in his head or speculating on possibilities that go nowhere, he loves to blithely respond with the single word, "Oh." This grows more annoying as the book wears on and more noticeable every single time.

The other characters, though less annoying since they are not the main focus, have their own foibles. Any and all conversations and scenes involving the Thief, for example, are completely useless and might just as well have been subtracted from the book entirely. The ending somehow makes quite a bit of the book make sense but this should apply more to the plot than the characters' habits and conversations.

As I mentioned with the Thief's scenes, there are quite a few parts of the book that are simply worthless. My apologies to the author but filling the space in between important things with useless scenes where nothing happens doesn't improve a story. The plot does little enough to make me care in the first place but wedge in a couple of chapters where absolutely nothing happens and I am more likely to put the book down permanently.

All the same, it was a good effort and I do plan to read the next book in the cycle (in the hopes that the characters are less annoying and the story is more exciting). The writing style is very informative and the "world" made enough sense to sustain its mythology throughout. The novel is by no means terrible but I have certainly read much better books lately. If the second book is indeed good then I would recommend this only on the basis that it covers past events.

But if Erren/Swordsman/Sword/Breaker/whatever his name is keeps saying "Oh" you can guarantee I will be writing a similar review to this one in the near future.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gathering of the Chosen, January 21, 2008
By 
This review is from: The Wizard Lord (The Annals of the Chosen, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
The Wizard Lord (2006) is the first fantasy novel in the Annals of the Chosen series. The Wizard Lord rules all of Barokan, although he has limitations on his authority. He can kill rogue wizards and any criminal who flees into the wilderness, but not innocent people. If he exceeds his limits and becomes a Dark Lord, the Chosen will gather to kill him.

In this novel, Breaker is a young man in the village of Mad Oak. As the villagers are celebrating the completion of the barley harvest, two wizards and the Swordsman -- one of the Chosen -- come into town looking for a new Swordsman. Breaker is the only one to volunteer for the position.

Breaker gets a good scolding from his mother. She sees the affair as him agreeing to become a killer. Breaker can't convince her that the position is purely ceremonial. After all, there hasn't been a Dark Lord for over one hundred years.

Breaker won't become the Swordsman unless he has learned how to use a sword and then defeats the Old Swordsman in a duel to first blood. For the next few months, he practices with the Old Swordsman and is unable to even touch him while practicing.

The Old Swordsman, however, is able to touch him almost anywhere on his body, but Breaker is beginning to hold him at bay for longer intervals. His friends see what the Old Swordsman can do to him and think that he is an easy mark. After several efforts to fence with him and receiving sound defeats, they start calling him the New Swordsman.

In this story, the day finally comes for the ritual duel. Naturally, the Old Swordsman is not allowed to use his magic in this duel, but decades of practice still give him a substantial edge. Although the Old Swordsman agrees to leave an opening for Breaker, the opening moves by the Old Swordsman are powerful and quick.

The Wizard Lord can see and talk through the lower animals. He uses a rabbit to watch the duel. Breaker has never heard a talking rabbit before, but is told that this is one of the many powers bestowed on the Wizard Lord.

Breaker begins to wonder if the Old Swordsman has changed his mind. Then the rabbit makes a comment and the Old Swordsman is momentarily distracted. Breaker lunges and gets a hit on his opponent's shoulder. He has won and undergoes the rituals that make him the greatest swordsman of the land.

Before the Old Swordsman leaves Mad Oak, he confides to Breaker that he is worried about the Wizard Lord. Unlike prior Wizard Lords, the current Lord has constructed his home away from any village. He has more temper than the previous two Lords and seems less predictable and less rational. But the Old Swordsman only has suspicions without any proof.

Breaker decides that he will visit the Wizard Lord after the spring planting. Besides, he needs -- and wants -- to go out into the wider world and learn more about the land. After all, he has never before been away from Mad Oak.

The story tells of the trek of Breaker out into the greater world of Barokan. He learns much about the strange customs and unusual ways of other villages. He also learns that the Seer -- another Chosen -- has passed through villages ahead of him and he decides to visit her prior to traveling to the Wizard Lord.

Months later, he is thinking about returning home when a guide arrives to lead him to the Seer. He also will meet the Scholar -- another Chosen -- in the town of Tumbled Sheep. There he receives news that seem to confirm the Old Swordsman's suspicions.

Breaker is new to the Chosen and he questions almost everything. He wonders if the Seer and Scholar are impostors or have lied to him. As he eventually meets the other Chosen, he questions their identities and actions. He must have been noted for his incessant questioning even as a child.

This tale is very different from other novels by the author, but the characters have similar aspects. Overall, this novel is very readable. Still, it is difficult to foresee how the sequels will continue this tale. Enjoy!

Highly recommended for Watt-Evans fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of magical powers, daring quests and tangled relationships.

-Arthur W. Jordin
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could do better - and has done, May 12, 2006
By 
I won't repeat the plot which is briefly described elsewhere.

To start with the positive, the world Mr Watt-Evans has built as background to the story is not without interest. It is refreshing to read a story where humans are perhaps not the dominant force in the world, that position being filled by the numerous spirits (known as ler). It is also refreshing to have a world where the people do not take killing and torturing for granted.

The principal character, the Swordsman, has some character development (mainly in the last few pages), but not a lot. However, he is a likeable enough young man that he is not the weak point of the story.

The rest of the characters are even more superficial. Even more disappointingly, to the extent they have characters, most of them are venal. Many of the Chosen heroes spend much of the second half of the book avoiding their responsibilities. It just doesn't seem to fit with the largely peaceable society Mr Watt-Evans has described.

Spoiler Alert.

Another disappointment is the cliche betrayal. Why do so many authors, particularly fantasy and popular fiction authors, have betrayal as one of their constant themes? It's just so overused .

Spoiler End.

The book also contains large amounts of conversation. For me, well written conversation is a big plus in a book. Unfortunately, the conversations in this book are often tedious, used mainly to pass on information about the world and the plot, but not to show character (eg. the language used is identical no matter who is talking) and certainly never to add any leavening humor.

I don't think I will read any more in this series unless reviews indicate a substantial improvement.

To end, for those who haven't read them yet, try and find Mr Watt-Evans original 4 book series starting with the Lure of the Basilisk to see what an entertaining writer Mr Watt-Evans can be at the peak of his game. (They were republished in 1 volume as Lords of Dus in 2002.) I have regularly reread them for the last 25 years and can still enjoy them.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What's going on here!!, March 23, 2006
Usually Lawrence Watt-Evans writes a really good story, however this time I'm not so sure. The read is simple and the characters come off as childish for most of the book. Furthermore, the book, being the first of three, seems to drag quite a bit only to race foreward in the final pages to a point where the quest is suddenly at its end. A good sign is that the characters get a bit more serious at the end , which may mean the next books to come will be better. I hope they do so that they can compete with the Dragon Weather series.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, March 25, 2006
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It took a long time to get moving, and even then there seemed to be some resistance to making things happen. I really liked the world he built and the characters, but it could have been done with tighter prose and more intense imagery. Not his best work. I will still look forward to the next volume.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, March 10, 2009
This review is from: The Wizard Lord (The Annals of the Chosen, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
Lawrence Watt-Evans is almost unique among modern fantasy writers in that he can write a short, entertaining stand alone book rather then a 7 book 800 page per book opus that constantly goes in circles. He's also unique in his avoidance of most fantasy cliches. In this book for example, you'd expect the Swordsman to hook up with the Babe - he doesn't. You'd expect the bad guy to be out to conquer the world in the name of evil - instead, he just wants revenge for past slights done to him. Most of the people in his books in fact, seem to be making decisions based on some kind of logic. You'd expect the heroes to be heroic, instead they're kind of whiny and hesitant - including the main character.

On the flip side though, the stakes in some of his books often seem slight and the resolutions seem anti climatic. That's one weakness in this book, the heroes victory isn't that strenuous and you never felt the danger was that great. If I'd been the bad guy and had his powers, I'm pretty sure I could have done a lot more to stop the heroes. Also, as someone else pointed out, his characters here are a little to whiny and less sympathetic then they could be.

Regardless though, I still recommend the book because it's an enjoyable read and a different view of fantasy then your likely to get anywhere else.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, December 7, 2007
By 
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This review is from: The Wizard Lord (The Annals of the Chosen, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
I'm a big fan of LWE's other works - most notably the Etheshar and Dragon Weather series - so I was sadly disappointed by this book. I won't get into too many specifics, as other reviewers cover them pretty well. I simply found the story very boring and slow-paced. The entire story seems to be an agonizing buildup to the highly anticipated clash with the wizard lord - a true anti-climax covered very quickly. Very unsatisfying! I also couldn't appreciate any of the characters. This is so uncharacteristic of LWE's other work whose characters normally create a great deal of empathy within the reader. I can't recommend this book and have no plans to read the rest of this series unless reviewers convince me otherwise.

Update 2009: I did read the second in the series ("Ninth Talisman") and found that to be a much more enjoyable book than this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent plot, GREAT characters!, September 4, 2007
By 
Jon E Watte "hplus" (Menlo Park, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Wizard Lord (The Annals of the Chosen, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
This book is about the characters, and especially about the main character "Breaker" who starts out as a farmer lout. You may not understand this character if you prefer books where the hero is always fast, smart, and good-looking -- Breaker is not. In fact, you probably will see where the plot is going well before Breaker does, but that's not the point. The point is to follow this character.

I picked this up because it's been a while since I read any Sword-and-Sorcery, and I was in for a long flight. It certainly fit that bill, in an interesting and, to me, very pleasant way. I have the next in the series on hold at the library.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A Closed Book, May 29, 2009
This review is from: The Wizard Lord (The Annals of the Chosen, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
The only way I can describe this book is closed. The author makes many limitations on the environment and the people that inhabit it. Ultimately this makes it seem like the characters that are mentioned are the only spinning gears in this story. Out of all the characters in the entire book, even the minor ones that say only a word or two, there are only a couple that have any ambition. Everyone is content doing their job and task just seems reluctant to do anything ambitious or outside the norm.

Cities are nonexistent or just never talked about and the entire country is made up of small villages that are only connected by small trails. If you don't follow these trails the wild ler (pesky spirits that inhabit the land and most often then not are angry selfish things yet towns worship them for some reason even though they cause more harm then good) attack or w/e it is they can do.

If you mix these types of people (people that just want to get through the day and never try to better themselves or their situations)and an environment that puts extreme limitations on how people and towns interact leaving you with without the power to speculate whats happening in the world outside of the characters.

All of this coupled with a bland hero archetype for the main character and his gang lazy 'heroes', that want to be anywhere else but where they are and doing something else then what they are doing at any given point, lead to a generic fantasy story that doesn't entice imagination or thought.
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The Wizard Lord (The Annals of the Chosen, Book 1)
The Wizard Lord (The Annals of the Chosen, Book 1) by Lawrence Watt-Evans (Mass Market Paperback - April 3, 2007)
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