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Reviewed by Estic Ridgewalker

Lord Brother
By Carolyn Kephart

Paperback - 185 pages (January 7 2002)
Rating: 9

Lord Brother is the “sequel” to Carolyn Kephart’s acclaimed fantasy novel, Wysard. I use the term “sequel” loosely because, according to the author’s web site, the two novels were written as a single novel. Indeed, it reads like one larger work and I would highly recommend having both on hand and reading them consecutively, as one novel. However, in case some time has elapsed since reading the first book, this volume begins with an introductory summary of the events of Wysard, reminding us of just who the various characters are and how the various plots and subplots fit together. It is an excellent summary and most welcome by this reader, for it goes a long way in refreshing one’s memory of the previous novel. In addition, a guide to pronunciation of the various proper names is also included.

Lord Brother continues the story of Ryel as he hunts for the elusive spell which will allow him to be reunited with his mentor, and father, Edris. We follow along a whirlwind of a journey as Ryel confronts the evils of the demon, Dagar and his pawn, Lord Michael, as they try to fulfill their desire of spreading darkness across the world. The stakes seem ever higher as we travel with Ryel through exotic locales on his quest, experiencing his successes and failures right along with him.

On the surface, this is a classic tale of good versus evil, of young innocence encountering the evils of the world, and having to conquer them to achieve certain goals. But Ms. Kephart’s style turns this story into something much more. We really get to know these characters, not through endless descriptive passages to which so many authors resort, but rather through their actions and interactions with others. And Ryel is no single-dimensional character either. Over the course of the two books he grows as a result of his experiences, changing from a somewhat naïve dependent boy to a powerful Wysard capable of amazing healing abilities and magic as well as into an insightful, worldly man. Once again the author’s word choice is superb, allowing her phrasing to carry the quality of the prose to a level on par with classical literature.

My chief complaint about this novel has nothing to do with the author, but rather the publisher. I’m not sure what typeface was used but it does not lend itself to easy readability. Combined with the smaller font size, getting through the entire volume was a bit tedious. The result does, however, serve to cram more words on each page, and thus make this volume nearly identical in length to its predecessor, which may have been the objective. But if producing a matching companion volume to Wysard was the goal, they failed here too, due to the different bindings used.

Such complaints are trivial in the end, however, for reading Lord Brother is necessary to complete the story of Ryel and his adventures. Certainly, there is room for additional tales involving these characters or others in this marvelous world and perhaps, someday, Ms. Kephart will return to it. But for now, this reader is most satisfied with the two-volume story as it stands and humbly awaits whatever this author may turn out next.