Dale is a man in trouble, stranded, lost and seriously out of place - transported through a galactic space warp and marooned on Earth by means and enemies unknown! He is worried to discover that his sophisticated, technologically advanced tools and weaponry, normally capable of modifying and controlling the people and the environment around him are now undependable, inconsistent and frequently out of commission entirely. But the tools that he does have and his charismatic force of personality are sufficient to gather around him a ragtag collection of misfits that seem to have also lost their place in the world - a thief bent on reform and self-improvement, an "animal-whisperer" who dropped out of the local wizard's college, the spoiled son of a baron, a demon held in thrall by a sorcerer's spell who can't seem to stay out of trouble and the runaway pacifist son of a cutthroat murderer.
After a near encounter in the forest world of faerie, Dale and his fellowship reach Villenspell, the city of wizards, where they intend to enlist magical aid to help them and their recalcitrant technology survive an assault on the world by Gorgs. But, at this point, the story's plot stalls and Crystalwizard allows her characters to meander almost aimlessly from one encounter to another in the city. Most of this second novel in the series is dedicated to the accumulation of two more members of the fellowship - a failed assassin and a being created by a magical spell from some sort of primordial goo - and a near endless stereotyped shopping spree by the sole female member of the team intended to equip the group for the next leg of their quest.
While "Wizard's Bane", the opening novel in the series, cleverly straddled two worlds - fantasy and science fiction - "Villenspell" seems to have lost its direction and is much more uncomfortably stuck with a foot in two entirely different worlds - adult fantasy and children's literature. At one moment, the "boys will be boys" team is frolicking about town joking with one another like teenagers at a local hangout, bickering over nonsense, punching one another endlessly in the arm and sticking their tongues out at one another. In the next moment, to point out one specific example, a very troubled but entirely adult Dale agonizes over the death of his wife and child and anguishes over whether he can stand the emotional pain of giving himself up to love a second time.
That Crystalwizard is entirely capable of skillful story-telling in either world is not in doubt. Her dialogue continues to flow naturally. The magical teleportation of our group of travelers from Zvothra's storm-wracked valley kingdom to his sister Bethraven's poisonous fountain and the gifting of the magic they so desperately sought is absolutely breathtaking, for example.
But, choose she must. As the fellowship continues their march to the kingdom of Yaybar, where it seems the Gorg are planning the focus of their attack, Crystalwizard will have to decide which audience she is trying to reach if she intends to hold a reader's attention for four more novels through the balance of the series.
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