Book Review: Madwand by Roger Zelazny

Madwand by Roger Zelazny is a science fiction/fantasy novel that I found literally tucked away in a dusty corner of my local library. It is not much of an insult to the writer, as that is where they hide all science fiction/fantasy that is not for children or young adults. Perhaps I will dedicate an article to why I think that is sometime, but for now, I am digressing. I did not come across Madwand by chance. I read a short story novel by Zelazny several years ago and have been itching to get my hands on more stuff by him ever since. The problem was, I lent the book out and the man's crazy last name made it impossible for me to find his work.

Finally, I figured out the name of the short story anthology and marched -- okay, drove -- to the library. I could not find anything in their computer and nothing in the fiction section (angry face). A few trips later, I found the dejected science fiction/fantasy section at the back of the nonfiction section (pointedly angry face). There, I found a mere three novels by this man, who has apparently written many more than that.

I grabbed one of the lonely Roger Zelazny novels and scurried away. Looking back, I am relatively certain I did not give it much of a once over. I did not want to miss my window of opportunity. You never know when the one other adult science fiction/fantasy fan in straightlacedville would show up and snatch it out of my claws. When I got home, I Googled the book and discovered that it is a sequel. Ugh. Well, I was not about to bring Madwand back to a library that a quick phone call showed did not have the first book. With that reasoning in mind, I read Madwand without the benefit of reading its precursor, Changeling. Luckily, it proved to be a decent stand-alone novel.

Basically, Madwand is about a sorcerer who was raised in a dimension without sorcerers. I am assuming it was Earth, but I will have to read Changeling to get that information. Before the start of Madwand, he returns to the world he was hidden from at birth. There happen to be many sorcerers there, but Pol -- our antihero of sorts -- was not raised to be a sorcerer, so he is a "madwand." So, we have an untrained, morally ambiguous sorcerer surrounded by other sorcerers of all ilks, dragons, deception, thieves, dwarves that live in factory/castle shells, a demon for a sometime narrator, glimpses of advanced dimensions full of nightmarish creatures and just about everything else you want from a sci-fi/fantasy novel. The best part is that Roger Zelazny is articulate. Oh, yes, you can forget about the last twenty years of pandering to middle school reading levels. Old school fantasy has literary finesse.

I get the sense that Madwand is better as a sequel. I really felt the lack of back-story as I read it. Of course, it can be read alone, as mentioned above, but I really wanted to know how Pol came to be where he was and I did not want to know from simple allusions (not illusions . . . snort) to his childhood and how he got to the world of castles and deceitful wizards. I will let you all know when I get my hands on Changeling.

Shelly Barclay

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