I’d like to thank David Wade for sending me the review copy of The Conjurers. I quite enjoyed it.
There are some writers who can tell a good story but whose prose is rather flat. Other writers can string pretty words together but aren’t really storytellers. David Wade doesn’t fall into either category. The man not only tells a gripping tale, he does so with an elegance of language that’s several cuts above what you find in your typical fantasy novel.
The Conjurers is a tale of sorcery in 14th century Europe. In Ireland, Eamon and his younger sister are pursued by brigands under the control of a local sorceress, Shairshee. In Genoa, Teresa suspects her older brother has been killed by the magician to whom he’s apprenticed and sets out to seek the truth.
All three of the young people are fated to experience hardship and the loss of family members before they discover their true heritage.
It’s not really accurate to call this a sword and sorcery novel, because there’s really not any swordplay except in a few scenes. But there’s plenty of sorcery to make up for it. Eamon and Teresa are the main viewpoint characters, but Wade also shows us what some of the bad guys are up to through their eyes.
Now there’s a mindset among writers that you need to make your villain sympathetic, give him (or her) some characteristics the reader can identify with. David Wade doesn’t subscribe to that philosophy, at least not in this book. While the Irish sorceress Sairshee is somewhat sympathetic, the others are simply pure evil. They want power, power to make themselves gods and they answer to no law but their own. I found this to be refreshing. There are people out there who are simply evil, no two ways about it. That’s a nice change from the morally ambiguous villains in so much fantasy today.
The pace of the book is nice and steady and by steady I mean pedal pretty much to the floor. Eamon and Caitlin hardly have a chance to catch their breath. Teresa’s story arc isn’t in such a rush, but from what I can gather from the internal chronology in the book, her story actually begins before Eamon’s in spite of the book starting with Eamon.
Wade’s prose is elegant without being overwritten. It’s not quite lush, but you won’t find the ghost of Hemingway here. It was a pleasure to read.
The only negatives I found were the ending seemed a bit rushed, especially Teresa’s storyline, and the young people (all of whom have magical abilities) seemed a bit too powerful compared to the accomplished diabolists they were facing.
The positives outweighed the negatives by a great deal, though. The characters are interesting and people I care about. Sairshee was a surprisingly flawed character and one I’d like to know more about. Even the minor characters had more depth than minor characters usually have. And like I said, the prose was better than what you see in most books without being over-done. I’d certainly read another book by David Wade. I don’t know if he has a sequel planned, but I’d like to know who these people are who have been breeding Teresa’s family for several generations.
Finally, although the protagonists of this novel are teenagers, David Wade told me in an email that he’s marketing The Conjurers to adults. There are a few places where I think the story might be a bit mature for younger YA readers, although older or more mature YA readers should be able to handle it. (Things get pretty dark in places and involve human sacrifice in magic rituals.)
So if you’re looking for a historical fantasy that’s engrossing, well-written, and fast paced, The Conjurers is a great place to start.