The Way Of Wizards, by Tom Cross
In reading this book I kept on waiting for the other shoe to drop. What game was this book referencing? What fictional world was the author trying to appropriate or encourage the reader to become more familiar with? To be sure, there is a larger ethos of which this story is a part, but it feels very small. I kept on waiting for there to be a larger and more detailed world in which the author would be opening a glimpse towards, but instead there was an exceptionally small cast of characters involved and an apparent ignorance of the larger world in which the book itself and its story were set. Perhaps there is some sort of novel or, better yet, series of novels, that this book is connected to, because it is not clear how an author could conceive of himself as a wizard weaving a tale of expansive intrigue while simultaneously providing a very small and constricted world that lacks the sense of wonder that one would expect if one reads about magical worlds of the imagination to the extent that I do .
The contents of this book are pretty mundane, to be honest, heathen but mundane. The author begins rather sensibly by discussing what wizards are and how they weave their power through words and magical artifacts. The author then discusses the narrow geography of the wizards’ domain, the WoN and realm wizards with their power based on one of the four humours. The author then turns to the tools of the trade, learned society–how wizards are educated, and the magical aspect of nature. The book then closes with a look at an unimpressive wizarding war and the permeable connection between the magical and mundane worlds. The book is filled with the whimsical and colorful drawings of the author, who perceives the world of faerie in particularly bright and colorful ways, and likely considers it a good excuse to draw half-naked sprites and mermaids. One can hardly blame him, for from time immemorial the world of magic has been closely connected with rampant and unrestrained sexuality.
There are, of course, a great deal of moral criticisms that can be labeled at this book. For one, the book is a puzzling example of a companion book to an unknown series of stories, with its own threadbare plot and its obvious inspiration from other books and games about magic. On the level of the material itself, the fact that the author glorifies the way of wizardry and is of the vain belief that those who would hold such power through their words and equipment and familiars and innate magical abilities can obtain a balance between the various forces in tension and avoid using their power to change nature when it inconveniences them suggests a high degree of self-deception and delusion. This book is to be praised for its elegant artwork, but the prose lets the reader down, and this is a book that promises more than it delivers, like many people who falsely present themselves as being magical people with powers that they do not possess. Even writing can be seen as such a power, as is the case in this book, and it is highly ironic to say the least that the unreliability and lack of excellence of this book as a written work demonstrate that the author does not have the power over words that he seems to think he does. As a result, this is a pretty book to look at, and one that deserves a fair bit of scrutiny, but is not a book that can form any part of one’s construction of a worldview.
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