Elizabeth Boyer,
Wizard's War #1: The Troll's Grindstone
(Del Rey, 1986)

Leifr is something of a Scipling (mortal) ne'er-do-well, on the run from those who would do him harm, when he's approached by a somewhat mad Alfar (elf) who wants him to cross into another plane and impersonate a missing Alfar ne'er-do-well in order to appease a dying father, steal a magically blunted sword and a missing magical grindstone, and take another man's revenge against an evil wizard.

Sure, why not.

Having reconnected with Elizabeth Boyer's World of the Alfar series from the 1980s, I decided to carry through with her second four-book series -- one I owned but, for reasons unknown, had never read. It's about time I did, because Boyer continues in a very similar vein of entertaining, Scandinavian-flavored fantasies that still hold up as being better than most fantasies I remember from that decade.

This time, however, instead of dumping her characters after each book and introducing a new cast set in the same Nordic otherworld, she apparently will carry this merry crew forward through the series. Frankly, I'm eager to see how she does with so much room to develop her tale.

Her hero in this book, Leifr, is persuaded by a scruffy old beggar to impersonate the long-lost heir Fridmarr, who vanished in disgrace a long time before. He manages to fool Thurid, a somewhat hapless wizard in his household, and Ljosa, the woman Fridmarr wronged long ago, but soon finds himself embroiled in a plot to restore a mystical pentacle spread over a broad landscape and destroy the evil wizard Sorkvir.

Although Boyer's otherworld in this series is largely like the world described in her previous series, there are differences. Now, for instance, the Alfar (elves) have carbuncles (small gems) that contain their magic and memories, and apparently people can take those thoughts and abilities simply by possessing the stone. You can even slit open your skin, insert the rock and become the other person, apparently.

It's an odd twist to her world, which is strongly inflected with Scandinavian culture and lore. I didn't really love the concept, but it's one that's fairly easy to ignore.

Otherwise, I enjoyed Grindstone immensely and look forward to finally reading the rest of this series.

book review by
Tom Knapp

22 July 2017

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