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Book cover art by Janny Wurts.
Review © 2006 by Thomas M. Wagner.

Janny Wurts has developed a respectable fan following via her long-running The Wars of Light and Shadow series. Newcomers to her work might do better starting there than with this so-so debut effort, first released in 1982 then revised in 1989 for reissue. There's nothing about Sorcerer's Legacy that's particularly bad. Like Wurts' cover paintings, it's an entirely workmanlike effort, average to a fault, revealing competent craftsmanship if not anything like inspired talent. Sporting the usual catalogue of first-novel flaws, it's a book that offers fantasy fans little they won't find better done elsewhere.

Our heroine is Elienne, widow of the Duke of Trathmere, who has just been violently pwned by his enemies. Weeping in one of her late husband's dungeons, awaiting what I think is ordinarily termed a fate worse than death, Elienne is rescued by the sudden appearance of the sorcerer Ielond, from the distant kingdom of Pendaire. Ielond has been searching through time itself for a wife for Pendaire's prince Darion, who, due to his apparent sterility, will soon be forced to forfeit Pendaire's throne to his wicked uncle Jieles and Jieles' wicked wicked advisor, the sorcerer Faisix. Elienne bears her late husband's child, and is sufficiently early in her pregnancy that the infant can be passed off as Darion's. In gratitude for saving her life, Elienne agrees to the match. But it isn't until Ielond reveals that he has sacrificed his own life (in what seems like an inordinately complicated approach to the search) to save his prince that she is won over on a personal level.

She arrives in Pandaire, where the good and bad guys are quickly lined up for her and our inspection. Faisix and Jeiles are hissable enough you can imagine diplomas in moustache-twirling up on their walls. The mage Taroith and his assistant Kennaird are allies. There a sad traumatized child, Jeiles's daughter Minska, who will figure into things. And Darion is said to be off in a drunken stupor, but just looking at him Elienne can tell he's been drugged.

Elienne, despite being a stock fantasy Imperiled Heroine, is appealing enough. (She's got heaps of Attitude, which I imagine was a lot fresher in 1982 than it is today.) And Wurts deftly handles the stock Palace Intrigue in which Elienne finds herself caught up, crafting a story that will hold the interest of fantasy readers looking for an afternoon's diversion.

One big demerit goes out for having a really dumb villain who overplays his hand early in the game. Having already told Elienne that Darion is passed out drunk, Faisix nevertheless sends an agent magically disguised as Darion to her chambers to ravish her. As if she wouldn't remember. When this plan is foiled, and Faisix unsuccessfully tries to frame Taroith for disguising the man, Faisix immediately teleports from the courtroom to Elienne's chambers, essentially advertising his guilt for all the castle to see. To succeed in pulling off a coup, a villain ought to have a little bit of cunning instead of being such a ham-fisted idiot. Ham-fisted idiots aren't particularly scary bad guys.

There's also the little matter of what consequences will result from the story's ultimate outcome. I mean...what's this place Pendaire like, anyway? Except stormy and wet, that is? Throwing me into the midst of a battle for a kingdom's throne without giving me some idea as to what's at stake for the kingdom in question should the good guys (and gals) lose doesn't go a long way towards gripping me as a reader. But then, this is a romantic fantasy, where all we're really supposed to care about is our damsel in distress at the hands of dastardly men. If that floats your boat, hop on. You know how it's going to end anyway.

Wurts would go on to collaborate on a top-selling trilogy with Raymond E. Feist, so clearly there was something in this debut that spoke to her readers and colleagues. Wurts' fans who have followed her later work with eagerness may find it worth their while hunting this one down in used bookstores to see how she got her start. There's not much of a legacy here for anyone else.