The Wysard, by Carolyn Kephart

the-wysard-by-carolyn-kephart coverGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Sterling House
Published: 1999
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by Lisa DuMond

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Wysards and magick and daimons? With a combination like that, plausibility usually goes up in smoke. No fear. Kephart has taken care of that problem with extremely vibrant storytelling. Her characters are complete and complex, even those with the gift of magick have their “off days.” Her settings are photo-realistic, vivid and often grim. She describes with such clarity that every object seems tangible, every action seem to be taking place at that moment. Things that would appear to be outrageous, take on an air of authenticity.

Magick and mystery and ghosts aside, this is a struggle for a young man to fulfill his destiny and become a true leader. It’s as much a coming of-age tale as a fairy tale. Ryel, the wysard of the title, is on a quest to save his homeland, and, just possibly, the world.

Something is sapping the very magic from the air at Markul. This secluded fortress is a classroom for those seeking to learn the Art and a shelter for those whose magick would be enough to get them killed in the World. With the power draining around them though, it will not be a safe haven for long; someone or something desires all the power. It also desires Ryel Mirai.

Ryel came to Markul as a boy, forced to leave his home to cultivate the forces within him. He stands now as a man and the Lord of Markul. As its leader, it is up to Ryel to defeat the evil influences and save his people. Soon, he will learn that it is not only the wysards of Markul he must save, but, in fact, the entire world.

Kephart’s creation of the wysard enclaves and the other societies is a solid and fascinating construct. The wysards are as human, as fallible, as any human. The wild, yet reserved, horse traders of the Steppe are fierce as warriors, living in the perpetual chill of the land. The rich inhabitants of Almancar are equally wild, but in a fashion that would outrage Ryel’s clan.

Oddly, although wintry mountains, steppes, and valleys dominate the landscape, Wysard has a definite Arabian Nights feel to it. The cast is more Aladdin than King Arthur or Berzerker, and a more interesting construct for the variation.

Each character is a product of the community that raised them. Yet, each manages in some way to reach outside those teachings — some to become greater than their upbringings, some to sink into the depths of depravity. Ryel will find his nemesis in one who is dwelling in the shadows between life and death.

Fair play just went out the window. Ryel and his helpers will have to use every weapon within their considerable arsenal to win this battle. Still, Ryel could never be mistaken for one of the corrupt combatants.

But, are they going to emerge triumphant? There’s good and bad news on that front, and they are the same bit of news: this is only the first half of Ryel’s story. You may curse the fact that you will be left hanging at the end of Wysard. You may be thrilled that there are even more adventures to come.

Like many of the weapons in the book, it is a double-edged sword. Unlike some of the unfortunate characters we see dispensed in a flurry of blood and steel, the reader is in a win-win situation. With a book this involving and entertaining, the promise of a second volume can only be good news.

Just be patient. It will be worth the wait.

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