Accidental Sorcerer by K E Mills


The Accidental Sorcerer by K E Mills

Published by Orbit, January 2009

489 pages

ISBN: 9781841497273


Review by Mark Yon


One of the great things about comedic fantasy, for me, is that sometimes initial impressions can be deceiving. What reads as light can actually contain deeper thinking, and what at the outset seems to be fluffy can actually be quite harsh. However, set in the context of a Fantasy, satirical jibes can be made without being a polemic. For example, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld stories are perhaps the pinnacle of this, but I’m also thinking the biting satire of Christopher Moore and the well-mannered tone of Jasper Fforde.


KE Mills’ latest (a new book by popular writer Karen Miller) is perhaps something which many readers will find entertaining. It is the tale of a wizard, Gerald Dunwoody, who initially appears to be an inept bureaucrat (Wizard, Third Class), but after being unfairly blamed for an accident at a wand-making factory, he finds himself out of a job but with unusual prodigal talents, created by the work-related accident.


Desperate for a job, Dunwoody takes on a position as a Royal Court Wizard in the small, rather backward and little-known kingdom of New Ottosland. Newly elected Prime Minister (and Princess) Melissande, sister of newly crowned King Lional the 43rd is desperate for anybody to occupy the role, other previous applicants being dissuaded by her mercurial brother.


At this point most readers would expect lots of humorous ‘fish out of water’ type scenarios, bureaucratic misunderstandings and blundering mishaps. And so, at first, it is. I was pleased that the dialogue works better than the author’s earlier books for me initially, perhaps because it is deliberately mannered in a Potter-esque faux-romp style.


However, having initially set itself up as a light-hearted tale, at this point (at about page 260) Accidental Sorcerer takes such an abrupt turn into torture and horror that the feel-good intentions of the first half are smothered by the dark events of the latter part of the book. Often mixing such elements of light and dark can add another dimension to a novel – Pratchett is a master, for example – but for me this didn’t really work. Here the disjointedness is not a subtle blending, with hints and foreshadowing before the volte-face, but instead a gluing together of two seemingly distinct separate parts.


Minor quirks annoyed me further – a female bird called ‘Reg’, the overuse of the word ‘ducky’ as a term of endearment by the previously mentioned bird, the use of place-names as surnames was a little forced – Nether Wallop and Scunthorpe*, for example, and cumulatively these traits may be a distraction for readers.


Similarly there was one major plot solution that was just a little too convenient (though to mention it would create a major spoiler), and one major block of expedient plot resolution in two pages that Scooby-Doo would’ve been proud of.  Though not major issues, they did cause my suspension of disbelief to become a little unsteady.


In summary, though a pseudonym has been used, the book still has the style and prose of a Karen Miller novel. I did enjoy it more than the Kingmaker/Breaker duology, and consequently I suspect a lot of readers will be perfectly happy with the books for the positive reasons I have made above. I am sure that, for all my personal quibbling, the book will tick the right boxes for many readers. The ending sets itself up for further books, of which there are at least two others pending.


This is a humorous fantasy that is not particularly deep, nor complex, but to its credit it doesn’t try to be. Instead it tries to be – and can be – entertaining.



 Extract here:


*I had better make clear, for those who know me, that although I was born in Scunthorpe, I was at pains to make sure that this didn’t affect my reading of the book. In fact, in some ways it made the book funnier, albeit unintentionally.


Mark Yon, January 2009.

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