A Young Man Without Magic: I feel like I have been punished

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Lawrence Watt-Evans The Fall of Sorcerers 1. A Young Man Without MagicA Young Man Without Magic by Lawrence Watt-Evans

A Young Man Without Magic seems to be set in 17th century Europe with characters who could have fallen right out of an Alexandre Dumas novel. So, if you liked The Count of Monte Cristo and think a novel like that with magic added would be great, then A Young Man Without Magic would seem to be a good choice. There is a problem, though… there is no Edmond in this book.

Anrel Murau is a young man without magical talent growing up in an imperial setting where sorcerers are the aristocracy and all others are simply cattle to be cared for. While there are rules under which they have to operate, sorcerers are lightly constrained as long as they can justify how what they are doing is for the greater good. The unmagical masses seem ripe for revolt.

I don’t mind stories that spend a lot of time on talk and less on action. Lawrence Watt-Evans is an author whose previous works I have enjoyed, and so I was willing to trudge through that. The problem is that Anrel is so annoying that I could barely finish the book. It’s as if Watt-Evans is going out of his way to make Anrel resist good ideas, embrace bad ideas, hold to the moral high ground for stupid people, but then lie about things that matter. ARGH!!

Anrel has several opportunities to change things. Each time, it seems that his inclination is to hide in the background and not express an opinion; but when he does disagree with everyone, it leads to a catastrophe. His friends die, he becomes an outlaw, and his life becomes difficult, all because he has a perplexing moral code that doesn’t make any sense to me. Maybe it’s a reflection of his having studied philosophy and law for four years right before the story begins.

Watt-Evans does a good job of world building and creates three memorable characters. The story is replete with opportunities to turn the plot into something less predictable and Anrel into someone less annoying. What frustrates me most is that there’s potential for a really interesting story. A Young Man Without Magic is the first book in a series, but I don’t know if I can recommend it, even with the hope that the second book will be better. I want it to be, because the potential is there; but I feel like I have been punished, not rewarded, by reading A Young Man Without Magic.


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JOHN HULET (on FanLit’s staff July 2007 — March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years.

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