When I got back from vacation, I didn’t feel like reading anything lengthy, so I picked up Debra Doyle and James Macdonald’s Circle of Magic series, six books that were recently re-published, some under different names:
- School of Wizardry
- Secret of the Tower (formerly Tournament and Tower)
- The Wizard’s Statute (formerly City by the Sea)
- Danger in the Palace (formerly The Prince’s Players)
- The Wizard’s Castle (formerly The Prisoners of Bell Castle)
- The High King’s Daughter
Reprinted in 2000-01 with new covers, the publisher was clearly hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the Harry Potter books: the protagonist is about fifteen for the bulk of the series, and the old covers (I have the third in an old edition) show him as a teen. The new ones, on the other hand, have a pre-adolescent boy on most of the covers. I like the old titles better, by and large, as less generic, but if it helped them sell, I shall not fuss.
[ Speaking of clearly hoping to capitalize on Harry Potter: I spotted a twenty-anniversary edition of Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be A Wizard that, well, take a look at this pastel cover for yourself. Fortunately the paperbacks’ covers have not been changed. ]
I don’t know the technical term for this format, but the physical books are slightly taller than a standard mass-market paperback and all about 140 pages. They’re clearly written for a fairly young audience, and after the first book, I was afraid that they were written at too young a level, as I found it rather predictable. I have faith in Doyle and Macdonald, however (and these each take me about twenty minutes to read), so I persevered, and I was rewarded: these do get more complex and interesting as they go. The series leans very heavily on conservation of characters—I think as many may re-appear, as only appear once—and this allows the authors to play with expectations and to show multiple sides of characters. It also helps tie the individual book-episodes together into more of a continuing story.
These were good solid storytelling, just as I expect from Doyle and Macdonald. If you know young Harry Potter fans, you could do worse than to give them these books.