Thraxas and the Sorcerers
by Martin Scott
Review by John Berlyne
Orbit Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1841490776
Date: 01 November 2001 List Price £5.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK /
When Martin Scott won the World Fantasy Award last year for Thraxas (see John's review and interview with Martin Scott) there were many raised eyebrows and pursed lips. It seemed that the establishment felt that this unknown British writer was something of an upstart and had no right to take such a prestigious award. Certainly nobody was more surprised at winning than Scott himself. To my mind, such shake ups can only be healthy for the industry and it was mostly those who hadn't actually read Thraxas who were up in arms. Since writing that first novel, Scott has gone on to create a series of works centered around this beer swilling, food shoveling, infinitely flawed private investigator and with each book, he goes from strength to strength.
In this latest offering the annual sorcerer's convention comes to Turai, the Romanesque city state in which our (anti) hero practices his craft. Perhaps with an ironic poke at the behind-the-scenes goings on at such gatherings, Scott has Thraxas hired by Cicerius, the only incorruptible politician in Turai, to make sure that their city's candidate in the elections for Chief of the Sorcerer's Guild gains the post - by any means possible. That the candidate Lisutaris, is a dope fiend nonpareil who spends most of her time completely out of her head doesn't help much. Nor the fact that rival states will stop at nothing (including murder, the hiring of assassins, bribery, cheating, election rigging, perverting the course of justice etc.) to get their own candidates elected.
Thraxas, displaying wonderful social ineptitude, allows matters to further complicate themselves, attracting problems like a magnet attracts iron filings. He totally mishandles the problems of his love sick buxom side kick, Makri; his favorite baker dies from an dwa overdose (the city has an appalling drug problem) and to top it all a sorcerer is murdered in his office and he finds himself having to dispose of the body. Just a normal day in Turai in other words!
In a world where the average fantasy novel will break your foot should you drop it, the Thraxas novels are real tonic. Short and sharp, wry and witty, these stories are richly detailed and deceptively simple in their execution. Tightly plotted with no dead-ends or red herrings, they are compact and written with a crisp precision I admire enormously. Above all this, they are damn funny too! Martin Scott's work certainly rivals other British humorous fantasists - Pratchett, Rankin, Holt etc. and he completely outranks them all when it comes to the economy of his writing - this perhaps deriving from his work in comics. Thraxas and the Sorcerers shows that Scott is certainly no upstart - in fact he's number one chariot! If he continues to write to this high and highly entertaining standard, his place in the genre is assured and I wouldn't be at all surprised if more accolades were to follow.