Darrell Schweitzer
The Mask of the Sorcerer
Hodder and Stoughton 1995

Sekenre, son of Vashtem the sorcerer, lives in his father's strange house. They're not a very happy family, his father the most feared man in all the City of Reeds, maybe in the whole country and his mother being murdered by him when Sekenre is still quite young. And it doesn't get any better when Vashtem dies and travels upriver to the Land of the Dead. When Vashtem - now dead - also kills Sekenre's sister, and the citizens of the City of Reeds turns against him, he sees no other way than to seek the advice of the ancient Sybil, who lives under the city. She gives him the means to, while still alive, travel upriver to the Land of the Dead, the stomach of Surat-Kemad, the crocodile god. He undertakes the trip, but nothing turns out the way he hoped.

"Night-black sorcery, doom-dark mystery in a world of utter strangeness", it says on the cover. And for once the cover is right. This is indeed a dark and strange tale, not even close to any other fantasy novel I've ever read. It is a unique story, more like a myth than an ordinary novel, in a unique world. The world is in many ways inspired by the Egyptian civilization, but to that Mr. Schweitzer has added a personal flavor of true horror. Becoming a sorcerer is becoming a monster, but you're not only a murderer but also a victim. At least Sekenre is, a good-hearted boy trapped in a destiny noone could wish for: hated by everybody, haunted by evil souls within his own and hunted by every other sorcerer, all longing for the enormous amount of knowledge hidden inside him, while Sekenre himself still struggles to get the hold of even the most basic understanding of what sorcery is all about.

So - if you want something happy to lighten up your gloomy days, this isn't the one. But if you want a story fitting your darkest mood, I can recommend it. And I don't think anyone who reads it can avoid becoming fascinated by Sekenre's lonesome and painful struggle for survival and wisdom.

Karl Henriksson

Reviews - FantasyLinks - BoardRoom - Top 5

Henriksson & Henriksson 1996.