“Yes, this entire book is a prologue.” I kept that in mind whilst reading Wizard’s Ruse. I love prologues, I like reading introductions into worlds. And this gave me all of that.
In a fantasy world, most of the book takes place (both in the present and twenty years prior) at the Academy of Sayzr Magic. A school that teaches (a dwindling number of students as time goes on) not just magic, but in searching for those who can become master Sayzrs. Learning about psychetropes, fractal patterns, and the like – not the generic topics found in most magical schools. Yet the school is not the focus, it is simply around where other more important things happen.
Twenty years before, a dwarve finds an ancient scroll and asks for two children to help him get to a place of safety away from those who killed his companions trying to get it. In the present, those two children are nearing graduation. But T’Ralo was inspired by that day and wishes to become a warrior, not a mage. Simultaneously, he is the only person at the school at all who truly bothers to care for Sissishal – a brilliant girl who finds it tiring to act in everyone else’s world as hardly anyone bothers to act in hers.
The threads between the different times, as well as the other places brought up in this novel, weave together to an ending of this prologue to prepare a reader for what promises to be a fantastic tale – in all senses of the word. Needless to say, I loved this book. I wish I had been able to crack it open sooner, because I find it a waste only just finished it.
While many characters are named, I was not lost amongst the cast. Certain ideas that were suggested early in the book were easy to piece together with what came later. Smallbrook not only knows how to weave an original high fantasy world, but can do so without immediately following the “main character” at all times. And without losing the reader, something I have found many fantasy books doing as they try to become epics. Sure, a book was required to write the prologue, but it still felt like a book. Open-ended, but stopping at the most appropriate part.
What pleased me the most about this book is the portrayal of Sissi. It is no secret to the reader she is autistic, just as it is no secret that most people in her school and town have any idea what that actually means. Yet T’Ralo, her best friend, is so realistic. He understands what she needs in patterns. He works with her to put things not-in-the-schedule in the schedule as needed. He can be frustrated by her as well, but it never comes across as because of her. Just because of what she does with situations.
As for Sissi herself, reading how she perceives people is a delight. She finishes a homework assignment by saying that she can’t analyze the feelings of characters from a puppet show, because they are puppets. Meanwhile, you see from her POV and from other’s POVs how she can analyze everyone around her. As well as her considering that the teacher isn’t standing in the right place because she would rather be staring at the cliffs. I think as I write more, I will be able to better define Sissi’s character and how wonderful for me it is to read about her. Right now, I flounder. Much better that you read this book for yourself.
The story goes back and forth between the present and twenty years before. While I couldn’t always predict when the Red Bear chapters would come, I was equally happy for another was as I was a return to the present. I wanted to know about both outcomes. Sometimes flashbacks have less impetus on a reader when you are aware partially of the fates of some of the characters involved. I had no such certainties in these chapters, despite knowing exactly, where several of the characters would definitely be, twenty years from then.
I don’t actually have any cons here. I found one spelling error, the word “priest” as “preist”. Not egregious in the slightest.
Wait. I lied. I’m more than a little frustrated that the next book isn’t out. So I take back what I said before. Probably best I didn’t read this sooner. My mind drives me insane when I have to wait for a book.