Ile-Rien is in peril. A mysterious army known only as the Gardier has surrounded the country, attacking in ominous black airships. Hope is not lost though, for a magical sphere created by Ile-Rien's greatest sorcerer may hold the key to defeating the faceless enemy. But the sphere is unpredictable and has already claimed several lives. When a magical spell goes disastrously awry, young Tremaine Valiarde and a brave band are transported to another world--a world of rough magics, evil mages, honorable warriors, and a secret Gardier base.
We start out with the character of Tremaine in Ile-Rien. This starts off full of interest--I really liked the beginning. Her nation is under attack by mysterious enemies, and losing. Because of her ownership of a sphere, she is pulled into the resistance, which is trying to follow the enemy back into another dimension where their attack bases are located. A second frame of reference is with the natives of that world (Syrnai), two men who are wizard hunters. After really good introductions to both point of view characters, the story settles down to rather more mundane exploration of each other's cultures, us against the dual bad guys, explosions and rescues. It's the first of a trilogy, so although it ends at a certain climax, there is obviously much more to come.
What I liked: the characters of Tremaine and Ilias.
What I didn't like: rather plebian us-against-them action. It wasn't bad, but it didn't catch me up and make me not want to put the book down. In the nature of trilogies, this may change in later books.
From what I have read, The Death of the Necromancer (the pre-story) may be a stronger book. I actually thought it was going to deal with the Syrnaic backstory, which appears to be considerable, but it doesn't. It is all Ile-Rien backstory.
At this point, I would give this a lukewarm recommendation. It is at least on a par with most fantasy being published, probably better than many, but not on my A or B list.
Though this is only the first book in a trilogy, if you've read the other stories Martha Wells has set in Ile-Rien you'll enjoy this one too.
If I have to mark it down for anything it's that the plot depends a little too much on 'deus ex machina' plot devices; though in regards to this book that is ironic in its own way.
If Death of the Necromancer has parallels to the Victorian era, The Wizard Hunters has clear parallels to World War II. Basically, it’s taking Ile-Rien, a setting I’ve grown to love through Wells’s previous books, and literally blowing it up. For Ile-Rien is under attack from a mysterious and unknown enemy, the Gardier, who’s black airships seem to appear out of nowhere and who display no mercy.
I think The Wizard Hunters would have had a lot less of an impact on me if I hadn’t read Death of the Necromancer. The most emotional part of the book for me was seeing the destruction wrecked on a setting I’d loved and the dire fates of the previous book’s cast.
But The Wizard Hunters itself wasn’t that great. I wouldn’t call it bad, but it falls more in the category of mediocre. What draws me again and again to Martha Wells’s work is the imagination she displays in crafting her worlds, but both worlds of The Wizard Hunters (there’s two) felt like places I’d seen before. I really love the overall idea – mysterious invaders from another world appearing out of no where. It was sort of a fantasy take on alien invasion. However, there wasn’t much I found thrilling about the book. I was mostly tepid on how the plot played out and the new character cast, and I did have trouble remembering who some of the minor characters were.
All that said, I may give the second book in the trilogy a shot at some point, it just won’t be high up on my to read list. So far I haven’t read a novel by Martha Wells that I’ve outright disliked or even not enjoyed enough to finish. And I do have enough lingering interest in the invasion plotline to want to see how everything plays out.
Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.