The Wizard Hunters: Never quite lives up to its promise

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book review Martha Wells The Wizard HuntersThe Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells

The Wizard Hunters has a great opening line. Unfortunately, it never quite lives up to the promise so tantalizingly held out to us. The good news is the character we meet in that first line, Tremaine, holds up well throughout the book. In general, the characterization is one of the book’s stronger points. The story premise is also a highlight, offering up an unusual meshing of cultures — one with magic and science/technology working side by side, another where technology has yet to form and magic is evil, and yet a third (the Gardier), set on invading the first two through a malevolent combination of science and magic.
The side-by-side use of modern technology and magic adds a welcome freshness to the fantasy, as does the conflict between two cultures, one employing magic and one fearing it, that seemingly must unite to face a common foe. That conflict and alliance is played out on a small scale in The Wizard Hunters, focusing on a small band of characters thrown together into hostile territory.

As mentioned, characterization is strong throughout and the main character is especially well-drawn and an enjoyable presence. A few characters could use some more depth, as could the entire Gardier, a weakness Wells addresses in the next book (The Ships of Air).
The major flaws in Hunters belong to the plot. It is at times a bit repetitive, but the smooth flow, often breezy tone, and likeable characters make this a relatively minor fault. A larger one is the overreliance on deus ex machina (literally) through Tremaine’s use of the mysterious sphere given to her as a child. It too often pops out just when needed, lessening the sense of tension at some of the more climatic moments. Happily, this happens much less in the sequel which is overall I think a better book.

The Wizard Hunters is a solid start to an interesting set-up and if the improvement between the first and second book is any sign, the series should only get better. A solid recommendation with a nod to the idea of reading ahead to the next book.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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