Off the Shelf - "Spellsinger"

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

SpellsingerHere we do a little time travel. I had read and reviewed The Moment of the Magician(*) already which was at last two books ahead of this, here, Spellsinger. I had mentioned in that review that I wasn't aware of how the unlikely pre-law student figure of Jon-Tom (aka Jonathan Thomas Merriweather) suddenly found himself surrounded by bipedal marsupials, mammals, intelligent birds and wizardly turtles - those being a few of the normal things. It was obvious that he was somehow accidentally pulled…but finally I can reveal the true secret.

Clothahump the wizard-turtle feels and dreams of a "great evil" coming to the Warmlands from the Greendowns, lair of the insectoid (Sectaurs?) Plated Folk. But they have a new, non-understandable (to him) magic. So he attempts to pull through a magician from another world to help cope with this strange new magic in hopes that someone from another world would understand it. Feeling that the term "engineer" is synonymous with "wizard," only in technological terms, he fucks up and pulls through a sanitation engineer - Jon Tom, who mops floors for extra money as he studies law. And this is how Jon-Tom the spellsinger finds himself where he is - lending more than a portion to the fact that he was stoned out of his gourd when the wizard called so his mind was susceptible to being drafted. Pass me a joint, I wanna hang out with a socialist dragon too.

Spellsinger begins the well-known series by Alan Dean Foster. It opens with the usual gambit - preface of a terrible battle where evil wins, which is fairly typical of the fantasy trilogy+ genre. Jon-Tom makes his first appearance in the Bellwoods, trips up Mudge the otter and eventually wanders off to Clothahump to get the gist on what the hell he's doing there. He also discovers his spellsinging abilities, which isn't as controllable as he likes. After attempting to pull through, using a combination of Jon's new-found spellsinging magic and Clothahump's ritual magic, a new engineer to replace Jon-Tom, the plan backfires yet again to bring through another UCLA student, Flora, who joins the quest to figure out what the evil magic is that give the Plated Folk the upper hand on this, their umpteenth attempt to take over the Warmlands.

The novel wasn't nearly as fun as The Moment of the Magician. For some reason I found the latter portion of JT's story more whimsical and interesting. I think a lot of it has to do with JT's constant internal squabbles with himself - the whole "woe is me I'm not supposed to BE here today" Clerks thing going on throughout the book. And the plot itself didn't really get started until the second visit to Clothahump's tree, when the ragtag group finally set out for Polastrindu in an effort to gather support against the coming invasion - of which only Clothahump realizes the true magical danger thereof. The first half of the book was Mudge and Jon Tom rambling about Lynchbany and other areas, causing trouble, getting into bar brawls, and doing basically what I did when I was his age…only without an otter.

Highlights of the book however do show up. While I found the appearance of the horse-god M'nemaxa mostly cheesy, I thought the idea of "gneeches" (those things that you catch in the corner of your eye but never really get the chance to see) quite interesting. I also found the first meeting of Falameezaar the socialist dragon to be fun, as he was one of my favorite characters in The Moment of the Magician. Beyond these though, it was mostly humdrum stuff.

Whether or not I have the continuing sequel to Spellsinger (The Hour of the Gate) in my basement stash, I know not. If I do I will of course read it and hope that the plot moves along a bit better without so much bandying about. If I was aware of a great terrible evil lurking around the corner of my world, a dice game and a brew at the bar of a skunk stripper wouldn't be quite what I'd be doing.

Buy The Album
Buy "Spellsinger"

(*) Legends #121, April 2002.

"Spellsinger" by Alan Dean Foster
Published by Warner Books
Copyright © 1983 by Alan Dead Foster
ISBN: 1857231627

Legends Online