Book Review: Magician Apprentice

According to the reviews on Amazon.com, this book is really excellent, but I think that it — Magician: Apprentice — is pretty bad. It’s kind of annoying to write a book review saying that something is bad because usually the idea of such posts is to encourage people to pick up something they would never have heard about. With negative reviews about obscure topics, I’m basically saying “here’s something you would have never bought, but don’t buy it.” My advice isn’t very helpful. Nonetheless, I’ll provide a warning for buying or reading this book, which I think is quite bad.

Originally, I felt bad contemplating this post because writing a book is really hard and I respect people for trying to do it. But now that I see that this author is wildly successful, I feel better about throwing in my dislike for his book.

I have several main problem. The first is that the world that this novel takes place in is just plain boring. There is not really a single unique race, creature, political organization, or law of nature to set it apart from any number of other fantasy stories. There are elves, there are dwarfs, and there are dragons. Another huge problem is that there is no map. Any alternate universe story worth its salt is going to have a map to help the reader keep track of everything. That’s a small step that makes a story tons more immersive and this book doesn’t have it and so the adventure is just a romp through a sequence of bizarre sounding kingdoms that have no geographic context to back them up.

All this would be fine if the book advanced a really tight, character driven story with intricate villains, schemers, allies, and lovers. But that stuff is nowhere. The main character’s name is Pug, yes, can you believe that? Pug. His best friend is Thomas and of course one is the magician and the other is the handsome strong knight. Another thing that is so infuriating is that the story supposedly takes place in a hard-scrabble medieval fishing village, and everyone is so cheery about everything all the time. There are no schemers or anything. In fact, it almost seems like there is no SIN at all. Pug falls down and is rescued by the kindly wizard. Pug gets attacked and is rescued by Thomas his kindly brother (well Pug was actually adopted, a cliche plot point that has no bearing on anything). Pug gets in a fight with another squire but they kiss and make up and become friends. The king’s sons? Both model citizens. In fact, every character feels exactly the same because their motivations are just the same kind of superficial kindness and politeness. Everyone has everyone else’s best interest at heart. I even kept a mental record of how many times a new character was introduced with a few lines of description and then Pug’s judgment that the person was “likeable” or “trustworthy.” I think four characters are introduced that way.

Of course there has to be a villain in this story, and it comes in the form of an undefined race that simply wants to conquer the planet. For most of the book we don’t know why, but eventually we find out, through the musings of the characters, that they want the metal of earth. Yea, they came through a magic portal with gobs of bloodthirsty invaders in order to get some metal. Couldn’t they have just traded for it? The characters even consider that option but dismiss because it must not be “their way.”

This book is the first of a two part series and I will not be reading the second. I could not care less about the happenings in this magical world (I’m not sure the place is even given a name).



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