Book Review: Wizard of the Grove

Do you have a book that, when rereading it, causes you to vividly remember where you were the first time you read it? Wizard of the Grove is that book for me. I spent the summer of 2002 travelling in Quebec and Ontario. I remember picking out the book before I left Montreal, annoyed because I had finished Lord of the Rings v.1 but didn't bring v.2, and really all I wanted to do was keep reading that but there was no point buying the additional volumes that I already had at home. It took me forever to find a book that seemed long enough to last me for my trip in Ontario, and I also didn't want to start a massive series because assumably I'd be finishing up Lord of the Rings for the rest of the summer when I got home. Anyway, picking out this book was an ordeal.

It was a fantastic read though. I remember sitting in the park near Niagara Falls, reading while I wasted time until it got dark and they lit up the Falls. I remember I was listening to La Bottine Souriante's Anthologie I on my discman (!). It was really hot in Ontario that summer. I was not super impressed with the town of Niagara, but the Falls themselves were pretty. I was too cheap to go on the boat tours or behind the falls, as this was my first time ever encountering PST. Also I'm just cheap. So I sat on the grass and read my book.

Then it sat on the shelf for thirteen years. It moved with me a few times. I could never manage to donate it during various book culls. I guess there was a reason, as a couple months ago I picked it off the shelf, sure it would be the perfect size to take on my flight to Las Vegas to watch the Continental Cup of Curling. 

And it was. Perfect.

Wizard of the Grove
By Tanya Huff
(1998)
576 pages

Wizard of the Grove collects together two novels, Child of the Grove (1988) and The Last Wizard (1989). It chronicles the story of Crystal, a young female wizard who was created for one purpose: to destroy the last living evil wizard. The first novel is about the history of how she came to be, her family, and the lead up to and resolution of a great war. The second novel deals with the aftermath of the war, and follows Crystal as she travels to the last wizard tower with two new companions. So the first is about war, the second is about a journey, and they're both full of world building and your usual fantasy characters like dragons and goddesses and beasts and of course wizards and their magic.

The first novel is stronger, and more brutal, whereas the second is more adventurous. There are elements of love in both, though as someone who dislikes romance in books, I didn't find these storylines overpowering. And actually, my favourite part is Crystal's friendship with Lord Death. I can understand why young adult me really liked these novels, as they were fantasy, but not hardcore fantasy, and romance, but not hardcore romance. Huff has created interesting characters and an interesting world and I enjoyed myself immensely reading this book on both occasions.

Perhaps the main reason why I enjoyed this omnibus was the presence of a strong female lead in a fantasy novel - like when does that ever happen?! (And if you know of any other fantasy books with strong female leads, please please please leave me a comment!) She's not a pathetic pushover or one who is searching for a man to save her either, she's a proper kick ass character. There's also a healthy dose of humour to offset the brutality (especially in the first novel), and who doesn't love a book with Death as a character?

I'd recommend this to any woman who likes fantasy stories with strong female characters. And bonus - they rereleased the book in 2012 with an updated cover so it's still around. I'm going to track down more of Huff's work too, which is something I've always meant to do. There's a reason this book has survived on my shelves after all these years, and it's not going anywhere. It will stay in it's spot until I'm ready for another reread in another thirteen years!

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