Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review, Number 3, March 1982, pp. 11-12
Zelazny, Roger. Madwand. Ace, NY, November 1981. 282 p. $6.95, paper. ISBN 0- 441-51510-X. SF Book Club, Garden City, NY, February 1982. $2.98. No ISBN. Phantasia Press. 13101 Lincoln, Huntington Woods, MI 48070, July 1981. 254 P· $35. ISBN 0-932096-11-5. Limited, signed, numbered, boxed first edition (now OP).
Madwand is a rarity: an enjoyable, literate book. Blending both science fiction and fantasy (a Zelazny specialty), the novel covers Pol Detson’s efforts to master his magic powers and understand the universe in which he lives. Though the son of a great sorcerer, Detson was raised in a universe governed by science, not magic, and did not serve the usual apprenticeship. As a result, he is a wild, undisciplined talent–a madwand.
Because of attempts on his life, Detson is forced to postpone his study of magic. His father, the evil Lord of Rondoval, was killed while trying to gain control of the world, and Detson suspects he will remain threatened until he discovers exactly what his father was doing. Political considerations –his own tainted ancestry, competing factions within the sorcerer’s guild, and individual power plays– guarantee that Detson will not have an easy time.
Perhaps the most interesting character in the book is a formless, indistinct being of uncertain origin and purpose. At first, this entity is not even sure of its own existence. After this problem is overcome (a hilarious restatement of “I think, therefore I am”), it seeks to find itself–a difficult task for an invisible being. It discovers a fondness for “terminating” rats and bunnies, but otherwise the path to self discovery is a hard one , These first-person (first thing?) reflections are scattered throughout the novel, and provide a gentle and often comic counterpoint to the main action.
Placed in the same universe and with some of the same characters as Changeling (Ace, 1980), Madwand focuses on different problems and can be enjoyed independently. The interior illustrations by Judy King Rieniets are both accurate and appropriate. She obviously read the novel. You should, too. –Lawrence I. Charters