Sorcerer’s Legacy by Janny Wurts
Sorcerer’s Legacy is the first book written by Janny Wurts and it’s a wonderful breath of fresh air because it’s a self-contained story. Much of modern fantasy seems bent of many volumes and epic scope while Legacy is content to be a single volume and a complete story.
It is essential to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship that Wurts puts into her writing and for one familiar with her more recent works, this novel is just plain fun. The storyline follows a female main character, Elienne, whose life has been destroyed. Her husband is dead, the Kingdom they ruled has been conquered and she is about to be victimized by the conquerors.
From such difficult circumstances we are lead to a whole new world where Elienne is given a chance to start again. This new world is fraught will magic and her situation becomes immediately intertwined with the political machinations of an evil Sorcerer. The pace of the story is quick and the characters who are used are interesting and in some ways very, very familiar to those familiar with recent work by Wurts.
Central to the theme of this story are honesty and courage. The main character accepts a situation that is not ideal for her and requires a degree of deception that is in many respects alien to her personality. She is strongly defiant, fiercely independent, but with the classic heroic characteristics of loyalty and even compassion for those who wrong her. Elienne leads us on a harrowing course until at last she is able to triumph in the end although not without considerable pain and loss in the process.
If you are a Janny Wurts fan, then this book is worth searching for high and low to add to your collection. If you are not familiar with her work then this represents a great way to get a taste and see if you like it without investing yourself is a huge epic.
Most readers are probably familiar with Janny Wurts’ epic fantasy series THE WARS OF LIGHT AND SHADOW or the EMPIRE trilogy she wrote with Raymond E. Feist back in the ‘80s, but Wurts also wrote a few stand-alone fantasies, two of which have just been released in audio format.
Sorcerer’s Legacy, Wurts’ debut novel first published in 1981, is one of these. In some ways it feels like a 1981 high fantasy novel (e.g. the medieval setting) but, in the most important ways, it stands out. The story is about Elienne, the recently widowed and pregnant wife of the ruler of a conquered country. She’s been taken captive and awaits what’s certain to be a nasty fate when a wizard from another country saves her on the condition that she marries his endangered prince. She has no choice but to agree, of course, and off she goes to an unfamiliar land where she is alone and unloved and expected to marry a stranger while she grieves her lost husband. At this new court she discovers not only the political intrigue she expects, but also treachery, violence, torture, child abuse, and black magic. Elienne has no idea who she can trust and her only sure ally is the prince she’s supposed to marry.
How does Sorcerer’s Legacy stand out from so many of the other high fantasy novels published in the early ‘80s? First of all, it’s a stand-alone novel — hooray! (Though many readers will wish it was the first of a series.) It’s also got a terrific heroine. The setting is medieval, but Elienne doesn’t try to unrealistically bust out of her traditional gender role. She’s foul-mouthed, independently-minded, tough and opinionated, but Wurts doesn’t try to convince us that Elienne could whip ten men in a sword fight. Elienne’s feminine traits are actually her greatest strengths — she’s compassionate, protective, and loving.
The story is also fast-paced and the plot is almost completely unpredictable — two qualities that I don’t expect to find in a high fantasy novel written in 1982 but that I have come to expect from Janny Wurts after reading her excellent stand-alone To Ride Hell’s Chasm. Everything does not turn out well in the end — there is much loss and grief — but there is also beauty and hope.
The audio production of Sorcerer’s Legacy, produced by Audible, is wonderful. Narrator Emily Gray has a lovely voice and handles Wurts’ complicated sentences with ease. The book was a delight to listen to. Sorcerer’s Legacy is an impressive debut and the audio version does it justice.
One of my favorites of Janny’s works !