The Magician's Lover
This is a road romance where the magician hero, the self-reliant heroine, and their jinni companion travel from Baghdad to England in 1138. Given the setting and the characters, it could have been a spicy and intriguing read. I admit I may be a bit jaded, but throwing in every conceivable plot device, including staples like cuddling cute babies, a failed rape attempt, and a misunderstanding over a miscarriage, does not replace the need for character development and bonding.
Sophia, daughter of John the Astronomer, was raised in Baghdad. At her father’s death, she is given into the care of Warrick, an English magician in exile, who is trying to locate his teacher, Hua Te, who mysteriously disappeared during a conjuration. Together with Sophia’s jinn servant, Genie, and their friend, Robin, they set out to Byzantium to find Sophia’s family. But the sultan of Baghdad desires some items late in John’s possession, and sends his troops after the travelers. The caravan’s route is winding, taking the travelers through mountain tribes and Venetian traders, dodging enemies every step of the way, until they approach the loving home that awaits Warrick in England.
I had some real problems with this book. Sophia is the screechiest heroine I have ever encountered – this woman would not need a powerknife to cut frozen steak. She does not speak, but screams, shrieks, shouts, and makes demands in a relentlessly shrill voice, preferably when there are enemies around to hear her so that Warrick can rescue the situation. She switches between doe-eyed meekness and loudmouthed idiocy. Her main use for her two feet is putting them in her mouth.
As far as the other characters, Warrick is constantly worried about his magical abilities – when he isn’t explaining something to Sophia, or rescuing her from the bad guys. Sophia’s father, John, was amusing in his pettiness. Genie was too good for this world, which was acceptable since she was a supernatural being, however limited. And I smiled at Genie’s gaudy sense of fashion and love for the comfortable.
Romance has come a long, long way since books like this were standard fare. Let’s face it, clichés become clichés by being repeatedly overused. The Magician’s Lover reads like a plot device manual, overlooking only such classics as amnesia and the rotten ex-girlfriend. And you can’t easily bring pirates or cowboys into the Arabian desert.
Did this book have any good points? In all honesty, given that The Magician’s Lover reads like it was written 20 years ago, Warrick neither rapes nor beats Sophia. Also, it is brave to take on a topic such as medieval Baghdad and Byzantium, even though the handling of the topic leaves much to be desired.
Try this book if you want a look at an old-fashioned romance, without an abusive hero. Then you can turn to more modern romance, and marvel at the difference. We really have come a long way.