Published: 1 March, 1989 by Spectra
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Next up on my stack of pulpy vintage trash… Sorcerer’s Legacy by Janny Wurts.
The basic premise is this: a woman named Elienne has sex with her husband. She’s pregnant, but doesn’t know it yet. The next morning, an invading army kills her husband, and Elienne is captured and thrown into a cell. She’s then visited by a wizard with an unusual story. He is traveling from across time and space because in his kingdom, a prince has to have an heir by a certain age in order to take the throne, otherwise he is killed and the next in line takes over. An evil wizard sacrificed a virgin to curse Prince Darion with infertility. Because Elienne is so early in her pregnancy, it shouldn’t be detectable by magic, and so if she finds Darion and sleeps with him quickly, she should be able to pass of her husband’s child as his. And since Elienne’s current situation is hopeless, she decides to go along with the wizard’s plan, messed up though it may be.
And so Elienne is carried away from her home through the icy plains of magic. The wizard who transported her through time is killed in the process, and so Elienne is left on her own to navigate court politics in a foreign kingdom, and to try to keep herself, prince Darion, and her child from getting killed in a plot to seize the throne. Can Elienne, a total transplant to this life, manage to battle an evil wizard to ensure Darion’s succession? And can she do it while maintaining her resolve not to develop feelings for him?
The book starts out as the kind of pulpy fantasy that I know and love. Wizards, dark magic, and intrigue are my jam. Unfortunately, many parts of the book fell flat to me, largely because I’m too empathetic. Elienne’s life is one of tragedy. Her entire adventure is rooted in tragic loss, and I really wanted her story to become happier, and for her adventures to bring her some kind of ultimate fulfillment. And for a hot minute, that was happening. She found her prince and actually liked him. She helped him to become a legitimate successor to the throne, all the while battling the evil wizard who was his Regent. She rescued a little girl from an abusive situation, and became friends with her. And she delivered a child. And this is where I’m going to switch into spoiler/rage mode, because the ending of the book made me angry. View Spoiler »WHY DOES THIS BOOK HAVE SO MANY DEAD CHILDREN??????? Elienne’s child gets MURDERED by the girl she rescued from abuse who is being mind controlled by an evil wizard, then the child is so wracked by grief that she KILLS HERSELF to try to give the good wizards a chance to cure Darion’s infertility, because the spell can be reversed the same way it was cast, through the sacrifice of a virgin. And then there’s the typical happily-ever-after moment, except it’s not happy, BECAUSE ALL THE CHILDREN ARE DEAD. This isn’t a happy ending at all. And I’m sure that our main character is going to need years and years of therapy to be able to have anything even close to a normal life because her happily-ever-after life is built on the blood of children. RAAAAAAGE. « Hide Spoiler
If it were me writing the book, I’d have ended it differently. I would have used the prophecy and the time travel shenanigans to make it so that even though the Elienne’s child wasn’t Darion’s, that he still had the royal bloodline, just from a different point in the space-time continuum, because Elienne’s dead husband was related to Darion generations ago in the past. (This was my theory for most of the book, and I was sad it didn’t go that way.) This would have completely prevented the scenario in the spoilers above from being necessary, and would have made the story into a fun time travel sorcery romp, instead of taking it to a dark place that ruined my enjoyment of the novel.
Verdict: This book had potential, but due to the details hidden behind the spoiler tag, I couldn’t really enjoy it. And it could have so easily been salvaged!