marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Wizard's Shadow

The Wizard's Shadow by Susan Dexter

A stand-alone.  The only repeating elements from earlier stories are geographical.

Crocken, a peddler, is setting out in a fury rather earlier having been jilted.  This takes him to rather wild territory where, after an awkward fall, he meets up with a shadow.  It makes a deal with him, and the next morning, when he's inclined to write it off as imaginary, it sets out to enforce it.
Ensues a hard trek over a swollen river, during which Crocken loses his pony and most of his goods, and into the kingdom of Armyn and its borderlands.  The shadow then takes advantage of a royal hunt, a princess who went astray, and a fierce wild boar to inveigle Crocken into the royal court.  (Surely a man who took on a wild boar with nothing but his knife was a royal, or at least a noble!  What commoner would be so courageous?)

There, and only there, does Crocken begin to disentangle who the shadow is, what the shadow wishes to do, and what the court itself is like.  There is the queen mother, the as yet uncrowned prince, his six sisters (all older), and his protector and uncle Rhisiart -- the shadow insists that Rhisiart betrayed him -- and also the prince's foreign betrothed, and her sole servant Mistress Ivy.  (The princess did not want to bring too many foreigners to the court.)  Not to mention dreams of things long past. . . .

It involves many dreams of things past and prophetic ones as well, dreamed by Mistress Ivy.  A horse that Rhisiart's half-brother urged him to buy, and Rhisiart's desperate desire to never fail his dead brother again.  An attempt to use a shirt to work magic.  An ambush where a shadow pushes a man from a horse.  The death of an insignificant maid-servant.  And much more.
Tags: fiction reviews: high fantasy

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