Madwand is a short novel by Roger Zelazny, and while not one of Mr. Zelazny’s best, it remains an entertaining fantasy.
The plot of the novel is fairly straightforward. There is an evil magician named Spier who has a plan for opening a malevolent gateway, and thereby using the powers unleashed to set himself up as the potentate of a magical realm.
The main character, Pol Detson, is a young sorcerer who seems to stumble into his destiny of opposition without any great drive to do so, other than that he is attacked early in the work and seems curious as to why.
The novel takes its name from Pol’s condition of being devoid of formal training in the ways of magic. Rogue talents, it seems, are referred to as “madwands.”
Of interest to me was the character of Belphanior, a demon cursed to serve the interests of Pol, although at the beginning, Belphanior has no clear understanding of his own nature or purpose in the world.
Seeing the world through the eyes of this demon is arguably the most entertaining part of the book.
There is a great scene where Belphanior meets another demon able to show him the ropes, and while Belphanior helps this nightmare being in a murder assigned by the creature’s master, the demon hands Belphanior a bloody limb and says “here, do something artistic with this.” A memorable line.
There are dragons and magical battles. dreamscapes and mistaken identities, but for my money, Belphanior steals the show, and I think he must have for Zelazny too, as the demon gets the last word and comes to feel protective of his “accursed master” Pol, even though he has been advised that demons live in anticipation of ultimate vengeance against their masters.
Madwand is the middle book of a trilogy, starting with Changeling. The third book was never written. If you don’t mind entering a world where the beginning is all hints and allusions and the ending leaves storms brewing on the horizon, then Madwand can be a good read for a quiet summer’s day from one of the masters of modern fantasy, Roger Zelazny.
Madwand by Roger Zelazny
Published by SF Ace Books, a Division of Charter Communications Inc.