The Fifth Sorceress by Robert Newcomb

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This book had me at “Not since Terry Goodkind unsheathed the Sword of Truth…” that I knew I must read it. Wizard’s First Rule is my favorite book of all time so you can see my excitement when I found this. I can’t say I was greatly disappointed nor was I absolutely thrilled.

First, it took me much longer to read it than it should have because of the extreme wordiness and repetitiveness that tires even the most seasoned reader. The constant explanations were word heavy and completely unrealistic. People don’t have a back and forth banter explaining pages worth of information. That’s not how dialogue works. And this was from both the pro and antagonists. Everyone talked way too much and said too little.

On a positive note, it definitely delivered in terms of evil vs good, providing extreme sides of both as is usual in magical worlds. The sorceresses were actually very believable, with their madness and convictions. The actions seemed right for their characters. Wigg (aka “Zed”) and Tristian had their own unique characteristics, though not ones I find particularly attractive. Tristian sounds 18 not 30, but I understand why the writer made it that way.

The biggest drawback of the plot was the constant and almost flippant use of deus ex machina. About to die? Magic stuff no one ever knew about! Don’t have time? Here’s a portal! Haven’t learned the craft? It’s ok because magic! And I thought Goodkind was bad, this was so terribly overused I expected it at every turn (and, sadly, got). In a world where magic is only what the writer says it is when he says it is, the entire plot seems useless.

Don’t let that take away from the grand adventure that this book is, though. From the prologue to the very last chapter, I was interested to find out what happens next. It is definitely epic in its battles and a true fantasy in its creatures. A destiny, a quest, a terrible tragedy – the true beginnings of a great novel. I would give it a solid 3 stars (on the Goodreads scale), especially considering it was this writer’s first.

Overall I enjoyed it, but I’m not in any hurry to read the next in the series and I’m not tucking this one away to recommend as a great fantasy one must read. However, maybe one day I will come back and revisit the series.

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