When The Accidental Sorcerer opens, our hero is on an important mission from the Department of Thaumaturgy to inspect safety standards at Stuttley’s Superior Staff Factory. As it turns out, there’s a good reason Stuttley’s hasn’t been filing its safety reports. Luckless Gerald is caught in the middle of a catastrophe. He emerges mostly unscathed, but also unemployed. His brilliant friend Monk Markham encourages him to apply to the vacant position of Royal Court Wizard in the Kingdom of New Ottosland. He soon finds himself working alongside acerbic fashion disaster Princess Melissande, daffy butterfly lover Prince Rupert, and–most importantly–King Lional the Forty-Third of New Ottosland, who has big plans for his kingdom and for Gerald.
I really enjoyed this book. Mills has a deft touch with dialogue and a snappy sense of humor. It’s obvious from the start that poor Gerald is in way over his head and Mills has a lot of fun showing him try to keep up with all of the insane things happening in New Ottosland. This is made more difficult by the fact that King Lional is–how shall we put this? There’s really no delicate way to say this–a gigantic asshole, and completely unpredictable to boot. (Hats off to Mills for creating the most loathsome character I’ve encountered in years.) The first two-thirds of the book are a fast-paced, funny cross between JK Rowling, Terry Pratchett, and Patricia Wrede.
Why did I say the first two-thirds of the book? Well, around that two-thirds mark, the book undergoes a major shift in tone. I won’t spoil what happens, but I will say that things get very dark very quickly. I’m still conflicted about whether I felt that was effective storytelling. On the one hand, you could argue that the sudden turn of events takes the reader by surprise the same way it takes Gerald by surprise. On the other hand, the suddenness of the change in tone makes the story feel fragmented–the final third of The Accidental Sorcerer almost seems like a different book.
Despite that quibble, this was an entertaining read, and Gerald remains terrifically sympathetic throughout the book. I would recommend The Accidental Sorcerer to any fantasy fans who like a solid dose of humor in their reading, with a warning that it’s not all fun and games in Mills’s world.
Rating: Library Loan