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Sunday, 23 June 2013

So you want to be a wizard?

A ten-year-old grandchild and I have been reading Sage Blackwood’s book Jinx the wizard’s apprentice, both of us with great enjoyment.  The cover indicates it’s a new series, and I look forward to the sequels.  It’s a story which references some of the well-known and not-so-well-known European myths – there’s a witch who travels by butter-churn (though her churn can’t possibly be the same as the one I had to use to help my mother make the butter – ours would not have bounced along leaving single indentations in the track, for one thing!), and a little girl who wears a red cloak and hood on her way to visit her grandmother…..

But it set me thinking about several books I’ve read in the last few years about wizards and their apprentices.  So I found my copy of Volume I of the Flaxfield Quartet, Dragonborn, by Toby Forward, and my copy of Hilari Bell’s The wizard test, and have spent some hours dipping into them to remind myself of their stories.  Actually, Toby’s final volume of the series is not yet out (look for it in September 2013), and it’s such a complex tale that I’ll have to read the others again (perhaps if I start with Dragonborn in late July?) to get myself ready for the final title.

If you’d like to be apprenticed to a wizard, it will help if you know how the
three heroes (yes, sorry, they’re all boys) Jinx, Dayven (The wizard test), and Sam (Flaxfield, of course) even got to be noticed as potential wizards.  Well, it seems to be a matter of luck.  Jinx was abandoned in the Urwald (a magical wood) by his uncaring guardians and rescued by a wizard (Simon) whom he met on the path; he recognised the ‘ripples of magic’ pouring off the man – that’s one way to be noticed.  Dayven’s community routinely tested all boys on their fourteenth birthday; and Sam was ‘adopted’ at the age of three by Flaxfield who recognised the magic he had inside him (but that’s all we’re told).

How does the initial recognition move to an apprenticeship?  For Sam, three years after his ‘adoption’ he was offered a contract to sign – as an apprentice, for twelve years he would learn everything Flaxfield knew, and could then go out and work for himself.  Dayven’s power was recognised during his test; he refused to be a wizard initially but after working with Reddick, his assigned tutor, and learning many things besides spells, he realised that being a wizard was his future.  And Jinx?  He was saved from the trolls by Simon, then accepted Simon’s offer of a home and employment – he didn’t have much choice, did he?

All three of these apprentices were fortunate in their masters and were treated with care and respect, with suitable tasks and teaching.  No doubt some stories tell of evil and sadistic masters   – and Sam and Jinx witnessed and experienced some examples of these at various times. Sam was particularly unfortunate, as kindly Flaxfield died halfway through his apprenticeship, and he had to seek a new master.

If you haven’t read any of these, do make a start – Jinx is particularly enjoyable and approachable for upper primary, lower secondary children who enjoy fantasy.  The Flaxfield books are complex – their chronology is not consecutive so they present a challenge to young readers.  Perhaps Volume 4, Starborn, will clarify the series.  And Hilari Bell has provided quite a short but nonetheless interesting story with The wizard test.

Jasmine’s comments on Jinx the wizard’s apprentice
I liked Jinx because it has lots of adventure, and it also is the type of book I enjoy.  I think it is a great book for people around my age, but it is good for all ages.  I also like it because it was about magic, wizards, and witches – they are the kind of things I like reading.

Patsy Jones

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