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Fantasy League Round 3: Dog Wizard


No, this is not a canine version of Harry Potter.  It’s time for the last book in the Windrose series by Barbara Hambly, following The Silent Tower and The Silicon Mage.

As ever, spoilers abound below.

***

There are no words for how wrong this cover is. Suffice it to say, the wizard doesn’t look like that, and the monster doesn’t look like that, and that’s not what the fight looked like anyway.

This time around, Antryg gets summoned back for Ferryth by the Council of Wizards.  Despite his reticence, he eventually goes along with it since Joanna’s been abducted.  The wizards want him, with his knowledge of the Void, to help solve an ongoing catastrophe involving way, way too many Gates opening uncontrollably to other worlds.  Of course, they all deny knowing where Joanna is…

1.  Obligatory Power Down — Antryg, as declared by the villain of the last two books, is the most powerful wizard in the world.  So, obviously, we have to do something about that.  To the point of introducing the Master Spells possessed by the Archmage, just so Antryg can be put under a geas that prevents him from using his magic to solve the problem immediately.  This seems a bit dumb on the part of the wizards, since he’s much less effective at finding the source of the problem, but he does pretty well for himself anyway.  Partly because of the Master Spells, and because of the repetition of “not using my superpowers” from the first two books, this feels forced.

2.  Why the Exploit is Tricky — Leaving entirely aside the problem of politics and diplomacy, the exploit Michael mentioned before has a technical problem that shows up now. In particular, the wizards have started working on it, experimenting with making Gates to other world.  But they’re doing it where a bunch of ley lines converge.  This would imply a certain amount of stupidity on the part of the wizards, especially since they keep scrying to carefully make sure that no unintended Gates or abominations or whatever show up.  … and then somebody props a Gate open.  And keeps it hidden.  For a couple of months.  Apparently, the consequences of this are an increasing number of Gates popping up at random everywhere along the ley lines, letting in everything from waters to monsters to airborne toxins to local alterations of the laws of magic and physics… and the rate is accelerating.  Oops.  Of course, none of this is quantified, so it’s hard to tell if this is consistent with the minutes-duration Gates we’ve seen before.

3.  Why Are We Not Dead? — So, Gates are opening up to lots of worlds.  And doing things.  Why are there no gates that open up to worlds where, say, the strong force is so much weaker that everything disintegrates?  Or an airless world, sucking away the atmosphere?  Or otherwise rapidly dooming anybody dumb enough to get close?  Also, Joanna had to do CPR on Antryg after that last monster.  And he was getting up and walking around after that?

4.  You Fail Biology Forever — NineTenTwo/the Dead God (the poor alien is referred to by both names; his full name gets translated as a messy alphanumerical designation) shows back up again, helpfully bringing along a bunch of his technology along with him.  Including breathing apparatus.  He’s got a fascinating description, actually — start with a bigger-than-human sized dragon.  Make it walk on two legs, and remove the wings.  Now mummify it.  Give it a strange glowy thing above the eyes, which is also apparently part of what it uses to speak, and remove the mouth.  Put hardened claws on the end of all four arms; put one mouth inside each of the upper two arms, and small long/tentacles for manipulating objects.  And… yeah.  This is pretty absurd.  At least it’s not actually flying.  And the psychokinesis from the previous book seems to have disappeared… maybe that only works when it’s a disembodied spirit… but now I’m just making excuses.

5.  Genre Blindness — Witchfinder Silvorglim, I’m looking at you.  Sure, you’re obsessed with the idea that all wizards except those “saved” by the Church are the incarnation of evil… but trying to wipe them out when they have just as much to lose from all the nastiness that’s been happening just doesn’t quite make sense.  And Seldes Katne… wow.  I’m sorry, Seldes, why did you think using some dangerous ancient magical devices to hold a Gate open was a good idea?  You wanted to maintain the reality field where your magic went from “low power” to having having the power to back all of your knowledge?  Fine.  If you had that power, and enough to open a Gate to abduct Joanna to motivate Antryg to help you (though the other wizards got to him first), why didn’t you just open a Gate to go through to that world in the first place?  Particularly since that’s what you let Antryg do for you at the end, even after you were responsible for all the badness?

6.  Genre Savvy — I’ll leave the series on a high note, since at least the protagonists tend to be delightfully pragmatic.  Near the end of the story, Antryg is considering leaving Joanna, since he keeps drawing down all sorts of crazy on her.  Her response?  “Whether or not you come back to LA, you know that if the Council comes looking for you, they’re going to start with me anyway.  This way, instead of being apart and miserable, we can both get laid while we’re waiting for the next disaster.”

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