Tuesday, March 11, 2008

John Morressy

Kedrigern Chronicles, Vol. 1:
The Domesticated Wizard
by John Morressy
Recommended Age: 14+

This is the first volume of a three- or possibly four-volume collection of the novels and short stories featuring the wizard Kedrigern and his appropriately named wife, Princess. In these witty, tongue-in-cheek stories, we follow the adventures of a youngish wizard – somewhere between 160 and 170 years old, which is like a normal man’s mid-thirties – in a medieval-type world full of daft warlords, spoiled princesses, brutal barbarians, clever rogues, and good-looking young royals who have been turned into talking toads.

The first such royal that we meet is Princess. Kedrigern transforms her back into a lovely princess, but an unintended result of the spell is that she can only say “Brereep.” Hence the first novel of this collection, A Voice for Princess, based in part on the author’s original short stories about Kedrigern. Ostracized by the Guild of Wizards due to his well-founded objections to Alchemists, and inclined by nature to stay at home researching temporal magic in solitude, Kedrigern is repeatedly forced – either by pressure from his wife, or by demands from rich noblemen – to undertake difficult travels and practice his widely respected speciality of counterspells.

Amid the perils of this first novel and the subsequent stories, the couple goes through several distressing transformations and a lot of dangerous, weird, and often hilarious encounters. My favorite is the one in which Kedrigern averts an alien invasion.

The titles included in this book include A Voice for Princess and The Questing of Kedrigern (novels dating from 1986 and -87), and the short stories “Spirits from the Vasty Deep,” “Hey, Ho, the Wind and the Rain,” “The Quality of Murphy” (which actually features a different wizard, named Conhoon), “Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall,” “Nest Egg,” “Floored,” several introductions by the author, and an afterword that I especially recommend because of its very persuasive explanation of why an author with proven chops in “serious fiction” should turn to writing fantasy. I would like to quote it in part...
Writing fantasy and science fiction frees me from the minutiae of the immediate moment. I can show individuals taking a stand, making choices and decisions and succeeding or failing on their own merits. I can deal with bigger problems than those on the nightly news broadcasts. I can look at the lighter side of the human predicament, and show that humor has a place in every world, real or fantastic, past or future. By writing about imaginary beings in imaginary worlds, I have more freedom to do the things that I believe a writer can and should do.
...I wish I could quote this afterword at greater length, but I would rather respect the author’s rights and give you more of a reason to pick up this book for yourself. I had never read anything by Morressy before this, so it was very convenient to find the Kedrigern stories collected in a volume like this. I would only quibble that the typesetting was a bit sloppy. Nevertheless these stories are very readable, very enjoyable – clean but with a subtle touch of naughtiness, romantic yet not heavy-handed, lighthearted and sometimes downright hilarious yet with a sense of continuity and, may I even say, reality that invites you back again and again. I will be looking for volumes 2 and 3, titled Dudgeon and Dragons and Occupational Hazards – and I hope and expect to see a volume 4 yet.

1 comment:

Magister said...

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that we will see vols. 3& 4 anytime soon, after Meisha Merlin closing down. :-(