Tuesday, April 2, 2019

REVIEW: Wizard for Hire: Apprentice Needed

Leven Thumps was one of the first books Katrina ever recommended to me, introducing me to the wonderfully weird world of author Obert Skye. His new novel, Wizard for Hire, started last year and took me on another ride into his brain. This year, the wizard is back for more.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Wizard for Hire: Apprentice Needed courtesy of Shadow Mountain.
Opinions are my own.

Ozzy Toffy’s adventure continues when one dark and windy night, he gets out of bed, jumps out his window, and walks straight into the ocean. More than ever, Ozzy could really use the services of Rin, the wizard he hired to help find his parents—but Rin is missing. Will Rin return and save the day?

Wizard for Hire was one of those books you read and think, “This was a the kind of book that doesn't need a sequel. It told the story it needed to tell, all of the characters had good arcs, and it had a satisfying ending.” And then the publisher tweets at you that it’s the first in a five book series and you’re instantly ready for more.

Hands down the best aspect of the Wizard for Hire series is its tight cast of characters. Due to the length of most books and my reading speed/time, I’m not someone who rereads books when sequels come out. So I am often confused by suddenly being thrust into a world I haven’t been in for almost a year. But with Apprentice Needed we really only have four characters of consequence and they’re all so colorfully detailed just their name is enough to jog my memory and bring me back into their stories.

Ozzy’s parents were taken from him when he was seven, forcing him to grow up alone in a house cut off from the rest of society. This created some adorable scenes of innocence and naivete as he both entered society in his teen years and encountered a man who claims to be a wizard, despite never showing any visible believable magic.

Months since his encounter with Rin the wizard, Ozzy has spent some more time in civilization and has started to question whether or not Rin really is a wizard or just a mentally unwell man. Despite this, Ozzy still wants nothing more in this book than to be reunited with Rin, showing just how important their encounter was in the first book.

Sigi, Rin’s daughter and Ozzy’s sorta love interest who he’s been staying with, has a larger role in this installment as a voice of reason constantly spouting the same two phrases: “we should call mom” and “magic isn’t real.” As Rin’s daughter, she saw firsthand how magic tore her family apart and kept her father away from her for most of her childhood. In the face of danger, Sigi would still rather be with her safe and boring but dependable mother than her adventurous and allegedly magical father.

Clark, the sentient mechanical bird built by Ozzy’s father, once again steals the show. I’d only really remembered that he wasn’t quite familiar with the “human” world, which is the cause of some comedy. But I’d totally forgotten about his borderline sexual attraction to all things metal and mechanical. While he is the least developed character in the series, he is probably the most memorable and this entry ends with some nice set up for him to have a larger role later.

Rin, the wizard himself, returns with an explosion of his own brand of bizarreness the first book was known for. Once again, everyone he crosses outright denies the existence of magic and understandably call him crazy. The only ones who believe him - Ozzy and Clark - still pester him to actually do some magic.

But no matter what, Rin continues to prove that there is magic all around us. His secret weapon this book is calling an Uber on his phone. He does this all the time and it’s funny every time. We also get tons of wonderful worldbuilding for Quarfelt, the wizarding world that may or may not even exist.

Whether he’s talking about some absurd laws about trousers that may very well exist only in his head or spouting off some insightful knowledge that could easily be hidden inside of a fortune cookie, everything Rin says adds to his mysterious persona. Has he lost his marbles? Is he an elaborate con man? Or is he truly hiding something magical?

While the main characters are all memorable and well written, the villains at the core of the book’s plot are anything but. The name of our “big bad” is just Ray and he’s recovering from the failure of Charles in the last book and getting impatient with Jon in this one. These three random, generic names don’t do anything to help me remember anything about any of these characters.

They want Ozzy because he has the secret to his parent’s work. That’s it. They also want Clark because he’s a talking bird, but otherwise, the villains don’t really have a lot of character here nor are they really driving much of any kind of plot to speak of. It doesn’t help that “bland” is Jon’s only defining characteristic as if the author is poking fun at his own inability to create an interesting villain.

Our heroes race to or from some location, questioning magic and uncovering secrets along the way. The villains and the plot in general just serve as a backdrop for banter between a boy, a bird, and a wizard. The final sequence especially feels like it’s happening for no reason, like an entire area in a video game that exists entirely for dramatic cut scenes.

Of course, now that we’re just knee deep in a book series, many of these questionable choices may just be setting up developments in future books. I would prefer it if each book could stand on its own, but I do love a good series too.

My favorite parts of the first book were Ozzy and Clark’s fish out of water antics. Now that their innocence is gone, that aspect will likely never return. But Apprentice Needed is still a great book with wonderfully quirky characters. The plot and their obstacles may be a bit confusingly uninteresting, but I could read a book where these four characters just eat meals together.

This is a magical story that’ll make you question the magic all around you and take you on a road trip in a car filled with the most interesting cast of characters out there: a wizard, an apprentice, a sophomore, and a robotic bird.

Wizard for Hire: Apprentice Needed is a story filled with humor and excitement that shows us the magic in everyday things.

Click here to read my review of the first Wizard for Hire book and click here to order your copy of Apprentice Needed today.