Monday, January 20, 2014

THE WILL OF THE WANDERER by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

The Will of the Wanderer is a 1988 fantasy novel by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the first in their Rose of the Prophet trilogy. Here, a god demands that two warring clans unite through marriage to combat a larger threat.

The Arabian setting is a breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre, which is obviously dominated by Tolkien-influenced analogs of Europe—although all the characters here are, for some reason, still explicitly white. The writers’ desert world is vividly described—it really comes to life—and the swashbuckling action fits the setting well.  

But the writers take these Arabian sensibilities and go way over the top with them. The Will of the Wanderer is a sitcom, a romantic comedy largely devoid of romance (it’s not very funny, either). Nearly every character is conveniently clueless; nearly everyone’s response to most any development is an emotional knee-jerk overreaction or something comparably ridiculous. The world is thoroughly populated by cartoon characters, mortal and immortal alike. This can make it hard to invest in the dramatic proceedings.

The plot, which operates on two levels—one with the gods and one with the humans—works well enough, although it gets pulled down by all the aforementioned frustrating buffoonery, without which nearly all the conflict would be satisfactorily resolved by the end of this volume. Moreover, the silly tone the authors use to handle their gods, faith, and religions might come across to the reader as mocking of real-world religion and its establishments, whether intentional or not.

In sum, then, The Will of the Wanderer is a passably entertaining but frequently irritating novel. I won’t be continuing with this trilogy.