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Friday, March 23, 2007

Fred Patten Reviews The Spriggan Mirror


The Spriggan Mirror
Author: Lawrence Watt-Evans
Publisher: Wildside Press
ISBN; 10: 0-8095-5672-3
ISBN; 13: 978-0-8095-5672-4

This ninth of s-f author Watt-Evans’ popular “Legends of Ethshar” light fantasies stands on its own, but it helps to have read the second novel, With a Single Spell, first. In it the neophyte wizard Tobas accidentally conjured a mirror that became a doorway allowing small, green, froglike manikins to enter the world. In the subsequent novels spriggans remain in the background, rather like intelligent mice; annoying vermin to be shooed away.

Now the spriggans have multiplied to plaguelike numbers. The all-powerful Wizards’ Guild decides to destroy the mirror that is their entry portal. Since the mirror has been lost, and Tobas is clearly incompetent, the Guild drafts Gresh the Supplier to help him find and destroy it – or else. Gresh specializes in finding the rare and often dangerous items that the many kinds of magicians of Ethshar – sorcerers, witches, warlocks, necromancers, diviners, theurgists, demonologists, and others -- need for their spells. So if anyone can find a hidden magic mirror, he should be able to; right?

The Spriggan Mirror is Gresh’s adventure. He is not reluctant to search for the mirror; his reputation is at stake, and the reward offered is high. But he resents being ordered to drop everything else to do the wizards’ bidding. The quest is complicated from the start when the well-meaning but ineffectual Tobas’ two wives insist on accompanying them on his flying carpet into the Small Kingdoms where the mirror was last seen and the spriggans are coming from.

What follows is more of a magical domestic comedy than the usual Ethshar adventure. Gresh finds himself mediating between Tobas’ two squabbling wives while the latter is temporarily transformed into a fire-breathing dragon. Gresh is nonplussed when the spriggans frantically plead that breaking the mirror will kill them all. The tiny green creatures are nuisances, but Gresh does not want to be responsible for a Holocaust of any intelligent beings. Yet it is dangerous to ignore the orders of the autocratic Guild. Does Gresh have the time and the skill to work out a solution that will satisfy everyone?

Watt-Evans has admirably crafted a tale that is amusing yet thoughtful, cleverly original, and that adds new dimensions to his Ethshar canon. The Spriggan Mirror is highly recommended to fans of sophisticated modern fantasy in the Arabian Nights tradition.

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