In the opening volume of the sequel trilogy to The Death of the Necromancer, Martha Wells further fleshes out the world she introduced in that Nebula nominated novel. While the events take place in the same gothic, magic-laden world of Ile-Rien, The Wizard Hunters strongly stands on its own as the initial tome of the series, The Fall of Ile Rien. To open the novel, Wells introduces the readers to protagonist Tremaine Valiarde, a young woman at odds with herself: “…Tremaine was trying to find a way to kill herself that would bring in a verdict of natural causes…” This is not the typical protagonist, nor is this the typical fantasy novel. While there are dark creatures, magic and a struggle against a seemingly evil enemy, Wells has laid out a world that is both recognizable and set apart from the one in which we live and more importantly, apart from many that readers of fantasy have visited before. While the novel is set primarily in the nation of Ile Rien, many of the surrounding and neighboring cities and states have familiar sounding names such as Lodun and Vienne. This world is similar to ours in that there are things like automobiles and wireless communicators, similar to other fantasies with dark creatures and magic is fully at work, but set apart from both through the amalgamation of all of these elements into an appealing and richly developed world.
In addition to Tremaine, Wells introduces her friend Gerard, both Tremaine and Gerard are employed by the Defense Department. Ile-Rien is embroiled in a war with the Gardier, a ferocious enemy that appeared ostensibly, out of nowhere and began attacking and subjugating the people of Ile-Rien. Very little is known about the Gardier other than their cold-hearted, single-minded will in destroying everything they see. The only key to salvation lay in the magic sphere created by Tremaine’s father, Nicholas, and his mentor, Arisilde Damal, the greatest sorcerer who ever lived. Readers of The Death of the Necromancer will recognize these names as the primary characters from that novel. Again, reading The Death of the Necromancer is not a necessity for the purposes of wholly appreciating The Wizard Hunters; both novels stand on their own but can be fully enjoyed together. The only remnant left behind by Nicholas and Arisilde is a magical sphere used in defending against magical spells and wards. The Defense Department has been attempting the reproduction of the same magics in Arisilde’s sphere, to no avail. Tremaine reluctantly agrees to assist in discovering the secret to the magical sphere. In the delving and attempts at unlocking the mysteries of the sphere, Tremaine and Gerard are transported to the world where the Gardier rule, specifically they are transported near the very nexus of Gardier activity. They discover a similar situation in this world, the Gardier rule through fear, superior technology and magic, they also realize how large a threat the Gardier pose. There they meet Ilias and Giliead, two natives of this world who have also attempted to fight back against the Gardier. And this is only the first few chapters. Wells weaves a rather intricate plot, revealing a bit about the Gardier, while also revealing a world full of magic to the reader and hinting at much below the surface yet to be revealed. There are surprising developments and ingenious scenarios peppered along the way that, while not fully explored in this novel, will hopefully be expanded and further revealed in subsequent volumes.
One of the major strengths of this novel is Wells ability in depicting a world that is rich with life and magic while at the same time, dark and with the prospect of a gloomy change for the gloomy. Indeed the world is a vibrant character in its own right. The people of this world are authentic, alive and fully realized. Wells offers readers a smartly told tale of a people in a desperate struggle. While there is a sense of closure to The Wizard Hunters, there are many questions left unanswered by the end of the novel. While this is both an opening volume and a sequel, Wells crafts a story abundant with magic and real characters, which stands on its own as a fine, compelling read.
Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford
© 2003 Rob Bedford