World of Ethshar - Review of Books
The Magical World of Ethshar
Ethshar is a magical place. It is flat world surrounded by a magical barrier that keeps out toxic gases. There are several types of magic practiced by its various inhabitants. Each variety of magic can be learned by anyone, although their final proficiency will vary greatly due to their own innate abilities. These classes of magic include the following.
Witches tap into their own energy to read minds, start small fires, heal wounds, or levitate objects. Moving an object or starting a fire will expend around the same amount of energy as if the witch performed the skill manually. A witch can literally exhaust herself to death by performing excessive magic.
Wizard can tap into the elemental chaos that permeates their world to perform complex spells. Each spell must be carefully learned and an error can lead to disaster or even death. A wizard's spellbook is very valuable and the best spells are of great value and difficult to learn. Spells also require unusual ingredients, some of which are quite rare like a flower that blooms in the snow or dangerous to obtain like dragon's blood. Simple spells will start a fire, spin a coin, or perform an illusion. The most powerful spells can grant immortality or open a gate to another dimension.
Warlocks have powers similar to witches, but with some important differences. They seem to tap into some type of power that grows with use. A beginning warlock can only levitate a small pebble, while a powerful warlock can levitate a whole building or more. Their powers seem to grow until they have nightmares and eventually disappear to never be seen again. Due to this curse, every warlock limits himself to the amount of power that he is willing to use.
Priests can perform a few useful spells, mostly of divination, although a few provide sustenance or transportation. The deities require very specific prayers and the priests must often practice certain rituals or observe prohibitions on conduct.
There are some classes we know very little about, but are occasionally mentioned. These include demonologists who can summon nefarious creatures and sorcerers that can enchant items using the energy of order (opposite of chaos) that also permeates their world. Also are ritualistic dancers (control weather?) and engineers to build structures and simple machines.
Wizards and Spells
With a Single Spell is about Tobas, an apprentice wizard with a late start. To make matter worse, his master dies after teaching him only a simple fire starting spell. Useful for lighting candles or starting a campfire, but not much else. At least Tobas inherits his master's hut and spellbook.
When Tobas attempts to open the spellbook, disaster strikes. The spellbook was protected by a fire rune that ultimately destroys both itself and the hut. Tobas is forced to wander the world in search of more magic so that he can support himself.
Tobas is somewhat of an underachiever and he seems to encounter various disasters in his search for more knowledge. This book will give you an appreciation for the nature of wizardry in this world.
Published after the Misenchanted Sword, I would suggest reading this book first. It will hook you on the world of Ethshar. I find the books involving magic users to be the most interesting to read.
The other main book involving wizardry is Ithanalin's Restoration where a young apprentice has to find a way to restore her master's spirit after he accidentally fragments it into various nearby objects that become animated and flee the house. She has to use her master's spellbook to find and recover the objects, then restore her master.
In The Spell of the Black Dagger, we are treated to a book with a slightly darker plot as a young girl tries to enchant a dagger after secretly watching a wizard do the same. The spell goes somewhat awry, but gives her a major power that she seriously abuses.
A new magic was unleashed on the world of Ethshar on The Night of Madness. Hundreds of people disappeared, while others discover that they had been granted new powers.
Our newly gifted are hated by the citizens and accused of making the others disappear. They are forced to use their powers to protect themselves against the king and the citizens of Ethshar. Finally they must deal with the wizard's guild.
In The Unwilling Warlord, we are shown the full power of a warlock who has escaped the nightmares. He reappears in The Unwelcome Warlock. In these two books, we further explore the strengths and limitations of warlocks.
More Great Books by Lawrence Watt-Evans
I have read most of the books by Lawrence Watt-Evans and even his earlier books are quite engaging and original. Lawrence writes his books from a first person view with a very strong train of thought within his characters. You not only know their actions, but the thoughts and reasoning that went into their decisions.
The first book involves a cyborg trapped in a war due to a psychotic computer. His side lost the war a long time ago, but the original programmers forgot to include that eventuality in his ship's computer programming. He is doomed to wander the stars forever, spying on planets. This continues until a planet with strange gravity anomalies is discovered. The computer on his ship makes HAL on 2001: The Space Odyssey seem somewhat benign.
Lawrence also wrote several books involving a barbarian type warrior named Garth. The best two books in Garth's adventures are The Seven Altars of Dusarra and The Book of Silence.