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The Magicians of Night by Barbara Hambly
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The Magicians of Night (edition 1992)

by Barbara Hambly

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384539,988 (3.4)3
Member:Stewartry
Title:The Magicians of Night
Authors:Barbara Hambly
Info:Ballantine Books (1992), Mass Market Paperback, 356 pages
Collections:Read, Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:paperback, fantasy

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The Magicians of Night by Barbara Hambly

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Showing 5 of 5
Substance: The series sets up the protagonist (Rhion) in Book 1, so that we will believe what happens in Book 2: a mediocre magician (in his own universe) becomes the naïve pawn of a Nazi "wizard" in the WWII SS Occult Bureau. He becomes progressively less naïve and no longer a pawn, and only comes into his full power when he is ready to give it all away to help others. Although Hambly (writing in 1992) disclaims any current connection, this is a timely story of the importance of men and women of honor. The only mushy parts stem from a lack of clarity about how much power Rhion can draw on (before the events by which the Nazis call it forth); it smacks of the "Superman Syndrome" in which he always has precisely the occult skills that are needed to move the plot along.

Style: The secondary actors are not just cardboard characters (although they are recognizable stereotypes). Excellent melding of universes, although I think Rhion uses too many "anachronisms" and it is not explained how he accumulates them (especially the use of "Christ" as a cuss-word), but otherwise okay. ( )
  librisissimo | Nov 12, 2014 |
Because the Sun-Cross duology seemed very derivative of her earlier works, I did not bother with them for many years. Strong wizard, check. Wizard social pariahs condemned by religion, check. Geek love and angst, check. Some amorphous threat to the world only the strong wizard realizes, check. Reality hopping, check. In fact, these books take these themes much further than her other books. In short, The Rainbow Abyss and The Magicians of Night are a contemplation of genocide. The Sun-Cross is a reference to the swastika, a symbol that goes back millenia in many cultures around the world, but today only references the Nazis for most people.

This grimmest of themes is experienced by the least inspiring of Barbara Hambly's heroes who open The Rainbow Abyss already damaged and downtrodden. Rhion is overweight and drab (he comes to be known as Rhion the Brown), the disowned son of a banker, who is extremely near-sighted as the consequence of casting a too-powerful spell in his youth. His master Jaldis, is blind, mute, and crippled--the mutilations ended his court mage career during a period of political turmoil. He can see and speak in a limited fashion only through magical devices, at great cost. It's winter, and they live in an unheated garret in the slums eking out a meager existence selling love potions and the like, but flee before a lynch mob within the second chapter. A suitably dreary beginning to such a dire topic.

The plot of The Rainbow Abyss spans decades, setting the scene, as it were. Jaldis makes contact with magicians from a world where magic ceased to exist, and he recognizes the implications for their own world--if it's possible to end magic, then the religious zealots would make it happen. Jaldis is determined to cross the Void to understand what happened over there in the hopes of preventing it from occurring in his own world. But life sometimes just gets in the way of ambition--that's the plot of The Rainbow Abyss. Boy meets girl (Tally) and helps her. They go their separate ways. Boy and master wander around. Boy meets girl again, and this time he helps her sister. Complications ensue. Boy resists love, and more complications. Boy stops resisting love, and complications. But what about frail master and crossing the Void? Too sick. Then too broke. Then the expected help doesn't arrive. Boy tries to stop him. But he does it anyway. So boy goes along. End of story, well book 1, anyway.

The Magicians of Night spans a much shorter period. Rhion wakes up in Nazi Germany alone. He doesn't know how to cross the Void, and even if he did, even his master wasn't powerful enough to do it alone. He quickly realizes that he's a prisoner who must unwillingly help the Occult Bureau with their magical experiments. Along the way, he meets an incognito American Jewish woman looking for her father in the concentration camps and a British agent sent to kill him. Most of the story takes place in Germany with Rhion as he struggles to communicate with the wizards back home, to escape, and to help others in desperate straits. Part of the story takes place back in his world, following Tally (remember the girl?), who struggles to find wizards to bring Rhion back home to his family and also to protect their children (in effect, hostages to fortune) from the ever more powerful Cult of Agon as wizards are increasingly targeted for attacks and arrests and a widespread media campaign of fear-mongering and negative stereotypes. In other words, the world of Tally, Rhion, Jaldis, and the rest is at the beginning of the genocide trajectory in The Rainbow Abyss, and Rhion gains terrifying firsthand experience with the end of that trajectory in The Magicians of Night.

These are certainly very serious stories without much fun. But not nearly as disturbing as the Dragonsbane series. And Barbara Hambly does make sure to end on a note of hope and determination. It feels much like the end of the third Terminator movie (Rise of the Machines), where John Connor watches society falling apart, the moment he's dreaded his entire life, and then he steps up to the radio transceiver at Crystal Peak to respond to requests for guidance, so beginning his career as leader of the human resistance. And so Rhion returns home inspired to lead the wizard resistance. ( )
  justchris | Nov 5, 2011 |
SUNCROSS
  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
When I read the description, I wondered whether this fantasy featuring a wizard in early Nazi Germany would be clichéd with cardboard characters. However, Hambly skillfully creates great interactions between the wizard Rhion, his Nazi captors and the people he rescues. The only quibble I have is that the plot set in Rhion's homeworld seemed tacked on and not resolved very well. ( )
  krin5292 | Sep 22, 2008 |
Portly, bespectacled magician dorothies to a WWII concentration camp where he is horrified by Nazi paranormal researchers. ( )
  meersan | Aug 28, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345362594, Mass Market Paperback)

The two wizards, Jaldis and Rhion, had dared the dread Dark Well to answer the desperate call of a world without magic. Jaldis had not survived the dreadful Void. Now Rhion was alone in a world he could not imagine -- the world of Germany in 1940.
The four would-be wizards of the Occult Bureau welcomed him to their home in Schloss Torweg. They wanted his help desperately. But they would not heed his advice against the calling up of dark magic. They needed magic to overcome the enemies they claimed were trying to conquer their fatherland. To that high mission, nothing could be neglected, however dark and ugly.
They lied to him, claiming the Dark Well had been destroyed, removing his only hope of returning to Tally and his two sons. And soon he realized he was no more than a useful prisoner.
But he knew the Dark Well still existed. And somehow, despite whatever they did to him, he must find a way back across the Void!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:32 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

After the death of his mentor, an apprentice wizard must fight to escape a world he doesn't understand When the wizard Jaldis heard the cry from beyond the Void, telling of a world where magic was dead and begging for his aid, he and his apprentice, Rhion, went to help. Crossing the Void takes all of their strength, and when Rhion awakes on the other side, he learns that the task is beyond them. Jaldis is dead, and the portal home gone with him. Now he is trapped in a place called Earth, in a nation beset from all sides by its enemies. The men who called him here need a wizard to save them, and though Rhion is but a novice, he will have to do. He may even find a way home, but only if he can find a way to serve this mysterious empire that they call the Third Reich. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Barbara Hambly, including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author's personal collection.… (more)

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