LOST IN SPACE Reviews of Unknown or Underappreciated Books: A Wizard In Rhyme Series by Christopher Stasheff

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Her Majesty's Wizard CoverHello and welcome to what will be an occasional feature on my blog!

So – what, exactly, do I mean by ‘unknown or underappreciated’?

To put it simply – not everyone is a Kevin J. Anderson or David Weber or Eric Flint or Robert Heinlein. Some authors – I would venture to say, MOST authors – produce perfectly fine books: readable, enjoyable, well-structured, skillfully plotted and with fully-developed characters. And yet, something happens.

They never quite get the recognition they deserve. The book slides into obscurity, and the author – having watched their baby disappear from the public eye – often follows.

Well, no more!

Oathbound WizardI’ve been reading SF for basically my entire conscious life, and when I like a book, I hold onto it. So, for you lucky, lucky readers, I’m diving back into my stacks to find books which deserve another shot at the sunlight.

So we’ve discussed, the first book in the series. In recap, a PhD candidate in our Earth picks up a piece of parchment and, after struggling to translate it, is transported to an alternate universe. There, magic works by rhyme and magical power is based on your allegiance to either the Christian God or Satan. Still, it’s an entertaining romp.

Witch DoctorThe second book, , continues the story three years later. Matthew, now Lord Wizard and betrothed to Queen Alisande, makes a foolish oath and is immediately whisked away by the Powers of Good to fulfill his oath, or die trying. In essence, if the first book examines the power of Good and Evil, then the second follows up on the theme of REALLY MEANING WHAT YOU SAY. It is not enough to merely pledge yourself to one or the other; you must back your words with actions.

In Matthew’s friend Saul is likewise transported to this universe. He, however, is a stubborn cuss and refuses to pledge to either side, but has enough knowledge and such a strong sense of self that he is able to wield magic by force of will. Throughout the book he struggles with temptation towards both sides but, through self-knowledge and self-reliance, remains true to himself. He sees both sides, the need to be good but the (in his eyes) foolish rules by which otherwise minor lapses are counted as sins. Thus, he plays one off the other, doing good and then breaking a rule to ‘balance’ his soul.

Secular WizardThat, alas, marks the high point of the series. sees Matthew on a self-imposed espionage mission to the neighboring country of Latruria, where the new-crowned king is purely concerned with worldly prosperity. The thinly-disguised morality tale follows his trek deeper into the country, where, lacking a spiritual balance, the population slips into debauchery and despair. In the end the king is forced to realize that, while classical philosophy may guide thoughts, good and evil are real and tangible presences in his world and he need declare for one or the other.

, , , and continue the tale, yet none add to the basic premise established in the first three books. And while has moments of well-crafted fantasy, there are too many flaws and a too-rigorous adherence to the strictures developed in the first books for these latter books to carry the same punch. There is a place for belief in any writing, should the author choose so. However, when it interferes with the storytelling, perhaps the story should take precedence again.

My SonThe other issue I have with the series is a common problem: closure. Specifically, lack thereof. Though there are eight books in the series, there is no sense of completion, that the stories have been told. Rather, the last books take and develop a new character and then – nothing. While it could have been an attempt to revive the series, it is still disappointing that we, as readers, are left hanging.

So, in summary – go ahead and read the first three books as a trilogy. The first and third, as in most trilogies, are the strongest books, but the second will stand. Then, forget the rest.

Moving forward – I welcome your comments and suggestions! If there is a book YOU want me to review, drop me a line! You can find me on Facebook (very creatively, Adam Gaffen) or you can send an email to OR you can simply leave a comment here!

Thanks – and I’ll be back soon with another lost treasure! Hello and welcome to what will be an occasional feature on my blog!
So – what, exactly, do I mean by ‘unknown or underappreciated’?

Haunted WizardTo put it simply – not everyone is a Kevin J. Anderson or David Weber or Eric Flint or Robert Heinlein. Some authors – I would venture to say, MOST authors – produce perfectly fine books: readable, enjoyable, well-structured, skillfully plotted and with fully-developed characters. And yet, something happens.

They never quite get the recognition they deserve. The book slides into obscurity, and the author – having watched their baby disappear from the public eye – often follows.
Well, no more!

I’ve been reading SF for basically my entire conscious life, and when I like a book, I hold onto it. So, for you lucky, lucky readers, I’m diving back into my stacks to find books which deserve another shot at the sunlight.

So we’ve discussed , the first book in the series. In recap, a PhD candidate in our Earth picks up a piece of parchment and, after struggling to translate it, is transported to an alternate universe. There, magic works by rhyme and magical power is based on your allegiance to either the Christian God or Satan. Still, it’s an entertaining romp.

The second book, , continues the story three years later. Matthew, now Lord Wizard and betrothed to Queen Alisande, makes a foolish oath and is immediately whisked away by the Powers of Good to fulfill his oath, or die trying. In essence, if the first book examines the power of Good and Evil, then the second follows up on the theme of REALLY MEANING WHAT YOU SAY. It is not enough to merely pledge yourself to one or the other; you must back your words with actions.

Crusading WizardIn Matthew’s friend Saul is likewise transported to this universe. He, however, is a stubborn cuss and refuses to pledge to either side, but has enough knowledge and such a strong sense of self that he is able to wield magic by force of will. Throughout the book he struggles with temptation towards both sides but, through self-knowledge and self-reliance, remains true to himself. He sees both sides, the need to be good but the (in his eyes) foolish rules by which otherwise minor lapses are counted as sins. Thus, he plays one off the other, doing good and then breaking a rule to ‘balance’ his soul.

That, alas, marks the high point of the series. sees Matthew on a self-imposed espionage mission to the neighboring country of Latruria, where the new-crowned king is purely concerned with worldly prosperity. The thinly-disguised morality tale follows his trek deeper into the country, where, lacking a spiritual balance, the population slips into debauchery and despair. In the end the king is forced to realize that, while classical philosophy may guide thoughts, good and evil are real and tangible presences in his world and he need declare for one or the other.

, , , and continue the tale, yet none add to the basic premise established in the first three books. And while has moments of well-crafted fantasy, there are too many flaws and a too-rigorous adherence to the strictures developed in the first books for these latter books to carry the same punch. There is a place for belief in any writing, should the author choose so. However, when it interferes with the storytelling, perhaps the story should take precedence again.

Feline WizardThe other issue I have with the series is a common problem: closure. Specifically, lack thereof. Though there are eight books in the series, there is no sense of completion, that the stories have been told. Rather, the last books take and develop a new character and then – nothing. While it could have been an attempt to revive the series, it is still disappointing that we, as readers, are left hanging.

So, in summary – go ahead and read the first three books as a trilogy. The first and third, as in most trilogies, are the strongest books, but the second will stand. Then, forget the rest.

Moving forward – I welcome your comments and suggestions! If there is a book YOU want me to review, drop me a line! You can find me on Facebook (very creatively, Adam Gaffen) or you can send an ">email to OR you can simply leave a comment here!

Thanks – and I’ll be back soon with another lost treasure!

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