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A Bad Spell in Yurt (The Royal Wizard of Yurt Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
ABSIY is comic fantasy, along the lines of Diana Wynne Jones or Robert Asprin. In it, a recent graduate of the wizard school applies for a job as the royal wizard of a tiny kingdom named Yurt...and he gets it. Unfortunately, he wasn't a terribly good student, so when he arrives at the royal castle to find sinister goings-on - the "bad spell" of the title - he doesn't really have the expertise to deal with them.
[Note: What follows may include some (mild) spoilers. I'm certainly not giving away the ending, but I am complaining a bit, and it's hard to do that without getting specific.]
I want to be clear that I really did enjoy this, quite a lot, but I'm not going to pretend it's perfect. The character development was lacking, for one thing. Daimbert (and BTW, I don't think I really registered the MC's name until the very end - the book is told in first person, and pretty much no one ever calls him by name...seems to me that not drilling the protagonist's name into your readers counts as a negative of its own) is sometimes pretty hard to relate to. He alternates between terrified determination and awkward ridiculousness - which works well for him - but some of his thoughts and actions are a bit incomprehensible. When a book is written in first person, one would hope that you'd come away understanding every nuance of the main character's motivations. In this book, though, I found myself wondering more than once why he was behaving the way he was.
One example might be the chaplain. When Daimbert - it still feels weird typing that name, like I ought to be calling him "Wizard" or "Whippersnapper" - arrives at the castle, he makes up his mind that the chaplain, a young man near his own age, shall become his friend. The author then proceeds to make the chaplain fairly unlikeable, obnoxiously pious with zero sense of humor, who goes on and on at great length about evil influences. Yet, Daimbert never wavers in his decision that the chaplain - funny, now I can't seem to recall his name, either - is now his closest friend. It was odd.
Not all the characters were like that. I rather liked the king and queen, I liked the duchess, I enjoyed the old wizard, and Lady Maria was entertaining. But if you're after characters with depth and nuance, you won't find them in this book. Even the characters I grew fond of were pretty flat.
I also wondered about the idea that Daimbert was left to deal with the Bad Spell by himself. Now sure, I could understand him being reluctant to ask for help - he was quite determined to not let on how over his head he was. But...are we really to believe the more experienced characters were willing to risk the kingdom since it wasn't their problem? That seemed unlikely to me.
Possibly the oddest aspect of this book was the religion. Now, I read lots of fantasy. LOTS. I feel quite at home in worlds where religion plays a large role. Thing is, in most of those worlds, the religion is...made up. I mean, sure, it probably resembles the religions we're familiar with, but it's still imaginary. In ABSIY, Brittain imports Christianity. Like, actual, unadulterated, regular Christianity. It was very startling; to hear a chaplain from a magical kingdom in another world talk about Christ dying for all their sins invoked a dissonance that jarred me right out of the story.
Yet, you'll see I still rated the book four stars. If ABSIY's imperfections were to turn another reader off - which it evidently has, if Goodreads is any indication - I would fully understand. However, I still liked it. Kind of a lot. Do you ever have days where you don't want to read/watch/play/think about anything intense, or scary, or deep? Where all you want is something light and a bit mindless into which you can escape for a few hours? Because I do. (Regularly.) And this book turned out to be exactly what the doctor ordered. It was cute. It was funny - in a gentle-smile sort of way rather than a laugh-out-loud way. It was entertaining. And Yurt, the setting, was delightful.
So, a masterpiece this is not. But if you're in the mood for a light comic fantasy along the lines of Howl's Moving Castle or Myth Adventures, you might enjoy this as much as I did. (And if you're wondering, at the 50% mark I still wasn't sure whether I wanted to continue the series. By the time it was done, though, I had book 2 bought and waiting for me.)
EDIT: I came back to edit this because I wanted you all to know - I did buy and read book two. And three, four, and five, and I'm in the middle of book six right now. This review is like most of my reviews; even when I like something, I still tend to call out the various ways it could've been better. So while I'm not apologizing for that, and while I still think the book is a solid four stars, I feel like I ought to let you all know that man, does this series get better! The author keeps her same cheerful tone, but the setting fills in, the characters deepen...this series has turned out to be one I'll be re-reading time and time again. This book is good. Later, they get great.
Throughout, the author balances humor, character and conflict, building the mystery-like puzzle while developing her fantasy world. True, it isn't as wildly original and inventive as the Harry Potter books (but what is?), and the references to Christianity seem a bit odd in a fantasy, but they do fit the medieval tone.
In many cases, I stop reading books partway through. In this case, I had a hard time putting down my Kindle, and quickly picked it up again, all the way to the end. I look forward to reading more books in the series.
The wizard actually becomes competent, although the morals in this book are portrayed as classically Christian (Christianity exists in this world) and the author makes no move to rock the theological boat. That's going to be a big plus or a minus for you, depending on your own background. All in all this story is full of humor, yet still takes itself seriously.
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