Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Evil Wizard Smallbone

When Nick finally runs away from his abusive uncle and bullying cousin, he nearly dies in the snow.  He is saved when he finds Evil Wizard Books and its proprietor, the Evil Wizard Smallbone.  Smallbone decides to take Nick on as an apprentice rather than leaving him to freeze to death.

Nick's apprenticeship consists mainly of cooking and cleaning, and when he doesn't perform adequately, he might get transformed into a spider.  The wizard believes Nick is illiterate, but the bookstore has a mind of its own and gives Nick books and spells he needs to perform his duties in his new home.

Meanwhile, Smallbone Cove is under threat of invading were-coyotes under the direction of the ancient and evil loup-garou, Fidelou.  The wards set up to protect the town hundreds of years ago are failing, and Smallbone and his apprentice will have to figure out how to restore them or see the village destroyed.

No one is quite what they seem in Delia Sherman's delightful story of magic and shape-shifting.  Nick will have to learn how to see the truth about the people in his new life and to recognize his own strengths, as well.

There is plenty to enjoy here for fantasy fans with multiple kinds of shape-shifting including the loup-garou and selkies.  Sherman's sense of wordplay also makes this a charming read.  I found myself longing for more "jeezly" dialogue from Smallbone to relish!

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