Grasping for the Wind Rotating Header Image

Book Review: The Curse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurts

# Genre: Epic/High Fantasy
# Paperback: 841 pages
# Publisher: HarperCollins UK
# Publication Date: May 1, 2009
# ISBN-10: 0586210695
# ISBN-13: 978-0586210697
# Author Website: Janny Wurts
# Book Website

The Curse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurts is one of the classics of the 1990’s wave of epic fantasy. The story is primarily of two half-brothers, the princes of two different kingdoms, who find themselves on the wrong side of a magical gate. When the story opens, Arithon, dark-haired prince of a pirate nation and master of the magic of shadows is captured by his hated enemy. Lysaer, the golden-haired and born with the magic of light finds himself Arithon’s jailer. But just as Arithon is about to be sentenced to death by Lysaer’s father, a curse from their long-dead mother ties their fates together. Sent through a gate with no possibility of return, the two brothers find themselves heirs to a prophecy five generations old.

Wurts hits all the great aspects of epic fantasy in the 1990’s in this narrative. She has the slow build of character, the medieval European setting, and the wizardly magic. Arithon and Asandir find themselves under the tutelage of a wise old wizard and his drunken apprentice, with Arithon attempting to throw off the yoke of prophecy in small victories and Lysaer, complacently following the lead of (supposedly) wiser heads. In this sense the plot line is tired and has be done before, but at the time this tale was written, these types of stories were all the rage in speculative fiction.

The story perhaps builds a little too slowly. A great deal of time is spent on the homeworld of Arithon and Lysaer, when the story could probably have begun at Arithon’s trial and progressed from there. And, as the half-brothers move across the face of the new land in which they find themselves, they again move slowly as they travel toward a destination so that the reader is nearly halfway through the book before plot progress is made. Readers of Kristin Britain’s Green Rider or Raymond E. Feist’s (with whom Wurts has collaborated) Midkemia series of novels. The Curse of the Mistwraith shares many common elements with those stories, and reads much like those works.

But what makes Wurts story unusual is not her plot, characters, or setting. It is the novel’s construction that makes this story unique. Though there are 18 sections within the story, there are actually many more chapters within the section. This may not seem so unusual, but Wurts does not follow the standard format of three sections, chapters, and then sections within chapters so common among novels. By having so many sections, each with several chapters within it, Wurts creates a different reading experience. Additionally, each section is led by three short paragraphs that keep different subplots moving. Each paragraph ends in an ellipsis, leading the reader to know that what is described in these short paragraphs is important to the story, but that the paragraph is only a lead-in to something more, something added later to the story.

If you are looking for a good traditional fantasy, Wurts is certainly a good place to look. Her creative novel construction adds a bit of variety to the subgenre and her story is interesting, if a bit on the long side. The Curse of the Mistwraith is the first of a seven (research reveals that the copy I have list only seven, but there are actually eight with a ninth on the way) novel series by Wurts and is a good place to go if you enjoy long fiction in the traditional epic fantasy vein.