Wizard of the Pigeons
(Voyager, £6.99, 298 pages, paperback, first published 1986,
this edition published 5 August 2002.)
Once the success of Robin Hobb (the pseudonym of Megan Lindholm) was
established, it was only a matter of time before Lindholm's earlier,
less well known, Wizard of the Pigeons dates from 1986 and is
a fine example of her early style.
In Seattle (or is it the Emerald City?) a number of people wander the
streets. To the casual observer they are outsiders, tramps, the homeless:
Wizard himself, the novel's central character, Cassie, who may be a
sorceress, and Rasputin, who is even more of a hobo than Wizard. But
actually they are supernatural characters, living by strict rules, helping,
even guarding the city. Wizard's rules include remaining celibate and
never having more than a dollar in his pocket. As his days progress,
he realises that something bad is coming to Seattle, something that,
he discovers, emanates from his own past, though it is deeply buried.
Through the people of Seattle, including Lynda, with whom he has a reluctant
relationship, he comes to terms with this evil and with his past.
Written in the intense, personal style that won over so many readers
of her "Assassin" trilogy, this is a slice of real-life fantasy with
style and generosity to spare. (By 'real-life fantasy' I mean lots of
local interest, a focus on the minutiae of daily life, and plenty of
descriptions of hovels and cold railway stations.) Lindholm's style
works well with the picture of Seattle and its inhabitants that she
builds up, while her skill with character means that the reader can
empathise with the cast.
The ending almost wrong-foots the reader with its revelations of Vietnam,
but pulls back at the last minute to present a more acceptable finale.
An enjoyable novel from an author who has proved that fantasy can be
original, superbly written and a joy to read.
Review by Stephen Palmer.
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