The Wizard of Rainbows by Mark A Cropper
Review by Floresiensis
There is a road of darkness and awful peril, a path that shall take you to places beyond the knowledge of men. The Lord-of-Mists has awakened in his dark realm with one purpose - to enslave the world, leaving nothing but a despairing, colourless void. The bonds are loosened. The winds cry of it. The earth trembles because of it. They tell of powers reaching out, scheming, plotting, and grovelling for what they desire. The Goblin Horde marches to war against the armies of Elves and Men. The Warriors-of-Mist have broken free of their bindings, soon the Ice-Queen will plunge the Earth into an everlasting winter. And The Wizard-of-Rainbows has lost his magic!
The Wizard of Rainbows is story about a journey, both physical and spiritual, and of a pilgrimage for knowledge. The Wizard/Pilgrim meets many companions along his way that help him to frame a better idea of who and what he is, indeed, many of his companions know his destiny better than he does himself. There is the passing of many years during the telling of the tale as the Pilgrim moves from childhood into adulthood. The Wizard of Rainbows is an epic fantasy, good and evil are clearly defined and the central figure is the Wizard/Pilgrim. Companions join, leave and rejoin throughout the tale – there are is mixture of humans, elves, dwarves and goblins that will please fantasy readers. The book stated on the back that fans of Tolkien’s Middle-earth would love The Wizard of Rainbows and this concerned me slightly as I was worried that it may just be a re-working of The Lord of the Rings. These fears, however, were groundless and I was surprised to find that the opening of the book was not only excellent but also nothing at all like the mock-Tolkien that I might have expected. The narrative was sparkling, featuring pleasing depth, more Le Guin than Tolkien. The first chapter was excellent, as good a beginning as I have come across for a long time.
‘And you?’ the Baron asked the youngest. ‘What shall you become?’
’I am to be…’ He lifted his eyes to meet the stern, chill visage, which now transfixed him. Fear dried his words on his tongue and sat as stone in his heart as he struggled to find an answer. At first there were no words. Then within his mind came an image, a vision of the brightest of all the wonders of the world. ‘I am to be… ‘The Wizard of Rainbows.’
The characters were all described in admirable detail, were easy to imagine and were also, very importantly, likeable. In The Wizard of Rainbows, neither the pilgrim nor the book follows any particular path and I liked this as it gave the book endless possibilities. The pilgrim cuts a Ghandi like figure, refusing to kill or harm and preaching a non-aggressive mantra. There are two major several love stories, the Pilgrim and the Fire Dancer and, my favourite, Fassael and Icicle. These relationships are tender and the feelings that the characters have for each other are clearly and lovingly wrought.
The Wizard of Rainbows is told in the third person narrative and this helps to tell the story from multiple perspectives. Every place that the Wizard visits in described colourfully with attention to detail; from the land of Herath, to the Carrow of Dwarvenholm, the great city of Varista to the simple and spiritual place that is Finestre; all these locations come alive and remain in the reader’s mental imagery. The things that I most liked were the elements that make a great fantasy novel; battle, laughter, love, good food, companionship, hate, friendship and honour. Of all the characters, Icicle was my favourite, not since reading Stan Nicholl’s Orcs have I encountered such life (and language) attributed to an historically one-dimensional species such as the goblin. The Pilgrims encounter with the goblin Icicle is my favourite moment; on the back of the book it reads (Contains strong language), it was not until this event that this made any sense, the goblins are, let’s say, foul-mouthed (colourful language). The only part of the book that I did not like was the portrayal of the desert people, the way they spoke, acted and some of the words they used didn’t sit well with me.
He looks up at her seeking reassurance that this will indeed be the case. However, when he turns back to Cog, his scream becomes the only sound in the universe. The spear point hangs once again before the warrior’s breast. He snatches the weapon, stamps on it shattering the shaft. He stands there looking at the pieces on the ground, not daring to look aside. He blinks. The spear is gone, gone back to its deadly flight. I’m powerless, he realises. There’s nothing that I can do. When time starts again Cog will die.
Mark A. Cropper has obviously taken a lot of delight from the fantasy genre over the years. I greatly enjoyed The Wizard of Rainbows; it is a rollicking read that is thoroughly absorbing. One way in which I can tell if I am enjoying a book is whether I open the book with the intention of enjoying the developing story or just to complete it so that I can start on something else – The Wizard of Rainbows falls into the first category; I always looked forward to reading it and I was always rewarded for my time. I found that the second half of the book was stronger then the first, it appears that the author really found his feet mid-way through and the narrative become stronger, the plot better defined and the character development benefited as a result. There are comparisons with JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series and the more fantasy-based offerings of the late David Gemmell. You can also throw in comparisons with Raymond E. Feist’s Magician and Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books. One thing that stayed with me after finishing the book was the way in which the author approached the battle scenes - the emphasis was very much on the futility and horror of war and not the honour, bravery and glory that many fantasy authors incorporate into these chapters. Mark A. Cropper joined the army as a sixteen year old and hated the experience; perhaps this explains the approach to the battle scenes. This is not a perfect book, but it is subtle and clever and there are numerous glimpses of the excellence that Mark A. Cropper is capable of. I look forward to reading his next offering and would recommend The Wizard of Rainbows to epic fantasy lovers.
Jean from Blackpool
It was an honour to be given a copy of this book by Mark, wondering if I would read it , as this is something I do far to little of. I began slowly, becoming more engrossed with each time I picked it up, living the fantasies becoming more involved as I read from page to page. A book that is for all who like a fantasy. I haven't read a book from cover to cover for some 20 years but mastered this with great enjoyment. Would be nice to see a film or ballad now. Congratulations to Mark A Cropper, a first book with such success.
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