This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

22 May, 2014


Cover illustration: Mark Stacey

Illustrated by
Mark Stacey

ISBN:  978-1-47280-339-9
Pages: 80
Publisher: Osprey
Published: 20 May 2014

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

From the wise and mysterious soothsayer with his long grey beard to the deathless necromancer practicing his dark magics in a forgotten dungeon, wizards have captured our imaginations since the earliest days of human storytelling, presenting us with some of our greatest heroes and villains. This book collects the tales of the most interesting, popular, and important spell-casters, including such legendary figures as Merlin, Simon Magus, Zhang Guo Lao, Nicolas Flamel, Dr John Dee, and Johann Georg Faust, and examines their place in history and legend. Written in modern language, each tale captures the drama, the tragedy, and the wonderment that has ensured that these stories have survived the passing centuries.

   Despite what you might think at first glance, this book is neither Fantasy or about Fantasy. It is a short introduction to people who have been called wizards through history. That by no means that it is not of interest to fans of Fantasy though, they'll find some stories in this book that will be right up their alley.

    This book starts early, with Ancient Egypt and moves through history before ending with famous names John Dee and Johann Georg Faust. At the length it is it is more of a series of snapshot than a comprehensive guide to wizards, but this is very fulfilling as it is. There are some famous names among those covered, Merlin being the most obvious but I think Nicolas Flamel might not be far behind in the fame stakes because of his association with a certain fictional boy wizard.
   I am actually more interested in the names I have not heard, or have heard just mentioned, and most people will find those here. I was especially pleased to see that there is  several non-Europeans mentioned.

   Above I pointed out that Harry Potter is a fictional wizard, and I have said that this is a book about history. It is, this is a Non-Fiction book. Everything in here is fact, or have at least at one point been considered facts. We may look at the stories in here as myths and legends, but it is that they were believed to be true that fascinates me. And who knows, some of them might be, I wasn't there when the events they tell of happened.
   The stories are really interesting in themselves, and they give a fascinating insight into belief through the ages. But the stories don't really fall apart when the authors presents the factual accounts of the people in them. (Or the facts as we understand them. New evidence changes how we look at history all the time.) That some of these characters are important historical figures is something that will never cease to fascinate me.

    Lesley and David McIntee writes a compelling Non-Fictional narrative. This book is written in an easily accessible style, and the text flows nicely. There's no disconnect with the retelling of old myths and legends and the factual pieces that end each persons part. As far as Non-Fiction goes, this is one of those short volumes that are easy to pick up, and get through.
   This book is illustrated throughout, not only by the credited Mark Stacey, who has done some excellent work but also with different historical images, and even some pictures. The illustrations complement the text very well, and they make for an even more enjoyable reading experience.

   I don't really have any complaints about this book. It does what it sets out to do in a very good way. I came away with some new knowledge, something I always see as a good thing, and I read some fascinating stories. This could be used as pure entertainment for those that are so inclined, Fantasy fans is advised to take a look. But what it is, and what it works best as, is a short introduction to the historical figures that have been known as wizards. This is an excellent starting point for those that want to find out about where Gandalf and Dumbledore have their roots. And it will be an excellent read for all ages.

   If I was to make a couple of wishes (, that don't reflect in any way on this book) , it would be that Osprey does another volume that covers the modern Mages, like Waite and Crowley, and it would be nice to have a volume similar to this about witches.

REVIEW: Myths and Legends: Robin Hood

LINKS: David McIntee  Osprey

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