Friday, January 11, 2008

Hilari Bell

The Wizard Test
by Hilari Bell
Recommended Age: 12+

In this rather slender, but very original fantasy by the author of The Goblin Wood, a “Watcherlad” named Dayven finds his honor put to the ultimate test. Or rather, one test after another – but it all ends up being part of the same test.

Dayven belongs to a tribe called the Tharn, who have been intermittently at war with the neighboring Cenzar for some three generations – ever since the Tharn captured the Town-within-the-Walls, where Dayven aspires to become a Guardian. The Guardians are an elite order of soldiers, sworn to honor and the acceptance of one’s rightful destiny. In total contrast to the Guardians stand the Wizards, who seem to hold no loyalty to anyone, and who meddle in the destiny of men. Even though Wizards are tolerated (barely) on account of their healing magic, Dayven’s deepest fear is that he will become a wizard...and lose the destiny he dreams of with his best friend and cousin Soren.

But then the awful day comes – Dayven’s fourteenth birthday, when he takes the test that proves he has the power of a wizard. From that point onward, his destiny becomes unclear, and the lines between honor and dishonor, and between right and wrong, become increasingly tangled. His overlord wants Dayven to spy on the wizards; the wizards assign Dayven as an apprentice to a maverick named Reddick; Reddick wants Dayven to spy on Cenzar; and the closer he grows to all the different people he is spying on, the more Dayven finds himself torn. On every side of him he finds a bond of loyalty and friendship that he must betray in order to do what he knows is right. This puts Dayven in a perilous and painful position, in which the fate of the very land itself hangs on his decision.

Colorful, heartfelt, deeply imaginative, this brief story both stirs the imagination and touches the emotions. Anyone who has had to make hard choices, risking the friendship of the people he or she cares about the most, will sympathize with Dayven – and as for those who haven’t, they may well remember Dayven when that time comes.

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