Elizabeth Boyer,
World of the Alfar #4: The Wizard & the Warlord
(Del Rey, 1983)

Elizabeth Boyer was among my favorite fantasy authors when I was a teenager and now, too many decades later, I can still see why. Re-reading her World of the Alfar series has reminded me why I liked high fantasy so much in my younger years.

The hero in this novel, Sigurd, is kind of annoying. An orphan raised by his grandmother, he is short-tempered and distrustful of all the wrong people, all the while cozying up with those he should avoid. I am surprised his friends stick with him as long as they do. Of course, that also means he has the most room to grow as a character by book's end, so there's that.

And he has good friends, particularly the good-natured elf Rolfr and the apprentice wizard Mikla. He also has good enemies, including a twisted dark elf and a deceitful wizard, plus a few mysterious characters we're not quite sure about, an awesomely atypical troll and a powerful dwarven smith. The triple-headed creature that dogs his heels throughout the book -- and an angry wizard zombie who wants his stolen sword back -- add extra spice.

Although the previous books in Boyer's Alfar series have included strong female characters, this one fails in that department. While Ansy and Ingvold were vital to their respective plots, the main female lead here -- Ragnhild -- has one memorable scene and otherwise is just someone Sigurd thinks about a lot.

However, the book's biggest weakness comes near the end, when one of the tale's biggest problems is solved by a ridiculously simple spell. I won't say anything more about it, but come on, if that's all it took, why didn't someone do it years before?

Its flaws aside, The Wizard & the Warlord is a great high-fantasy novel that anyone who enjoys Scandinavian lore will love. It's a shame this is a final book in the series, although I have yet to read her four-book Wizard's War series and should probably give it a try.

book review by
Tom Knapp

1 July 2017

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