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Wizard of the Pigeons

by Megan Lindholm

(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, cover scannovels were published. 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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