The Accidental Sorcerer by K. E. Mills | Goodreads
I’ve seen a bunch of reviews hating on the characters in this book (particularly Melissande and Reg) but I want to say straight off that I thought they were excellent. Both practical, capable, and not there to serve as love-interests — whoopeeee. Reg in particular gave me a couple of chuckles. Also, once I thought of it there’s no way to un-see it, but I’ve found a young Melissande. Auburn hair, stocky, practical, frumpy yet also awesome….?
Ottosland is deftly drawn as a sort of nostalgic Edwardian Britain, and the magical departments are full of all of the bureaucratic ho-humming and putt-putting which made the Ministry of Magic such an unpleasantly dull yet also strangely menacing villain in Harry Potter. This book is also chock-full a British style humour reminiscent of Terry Pratchett, full of odd juxtaposition and a sense of magical realism. By this I mean that ridiculously named characters (such as Saint Snodgrass and Wizard Bonadingo) stumble around a ridiculous world (full of things like etheretic transductors and jam toast), and hurl old fashioned insults such as ‘buffoon’ ‘ninny’ and ‘laggardly great sausage’ at eachother. (Okay, I made the sausage one up, but it fits really well).
Like Terry Pratchett, the surface droll-ery also hides dark and unsettling undertones. Because I was expecting it from reading a few reviews, I wasn’t as taken aback by the darker turn the novel takes 2/3 of the way in. Actually, I have to largely disagree with the consensus from a lot of reviewers that it was a jarring change; I thought it worked really well. There are a few clues early on which suggest that the novel will not be as happy go lucky as it seems (the perverse attitudes of Department officials, Gerald’s utter bleakness about his future) and the evilness builds up smoothly from the moment we realise that Lionel is more than just your average prick.
Unfortunately, the colony of New Ottosland is nowhere near as well drawn as the Old Ottosland of the first 100 pages. In fact, the only things we know for sure exist in New Ottosland are the Royal Zoo and the Royal Duckpond. There is zero description of anything outside the palace, and almost no mention of anyone outside of the five main cast members which leaves the story feeling somewhat groundless, and the plot overly simplistic.
What also doesn’t work so well is how seriously everyone starts to take themselves within the last 150 pages of the novel. It’s all I wish I was dead this and So much blood on my hands that. The shocking/tragic impact of Lionel’s dragon burning 100 peasants to death is officially 0% moving whatsoever, mainly because Mills fails to even introduce any of the characters before their miserly end. So how can you expect us to give a crap about them? In fact, little descriptions are shoe-horned in post-BBQing: “That’s Arabella from the kitchens, she always give me extra pudding!” Alas woe! Um no, big effing deal? Arabella never even had a line before she got her face fried off. Maybe if Mills had spent more time developing a bigger cast, and less time having Reg repeat the same 6 insults over and over for 57 pages, the climax of the book would have had some emotional punch. Or maybe just an emotional poke. Or just SOMETHING. (it had nothing. dis make maddy sad).
Speaking of the devil(bird), let’s talk about Reg. Certainly, I like her a lot as a character. And her endless insulting running of the mouth was pretty fun. Or at least it was, until the 100 page mark, and the dawning realisation that Reg was never…going…to stop. Every sentence would end with an exclamation point for ever more. Every time there was conversation, Reg would interrupt to scream repetitive insults for three paragraphs. THERE WAS JUST TOO MUCH . A random sample:
“Oy you! Princess Tearaway! What’s the bleeding rush!” “His duty!” shrieked Reg, “What about yours!” “Sartorial disaster of a princess!” “You’ve fallen arse over tea kettle for Madam Fashion Disaster haven’t you!” “Let me tell you what, ducky, I won’t have it!” “You, me, parasols at 50 paces!” “Who is responsible for that jackdaw nest I’m sure you’re pleased to call a hairdo!” “Appearance of intelligence my arse!” “Give me strength! If only she wasn’t such a box of a girl!” “At least the dungeons would be quiet!” “Oy you, princess Diva, put a sock in it!” “Now can we please get on with it!”
Yes Reg, can we please get on with it? It. Is. EXHAUSTING.
She also never stops insinuating that Lionel’s got mental health issues. He’s “raving” he’s “barmy” he’s “demented” and “round the bend”, not to mention “stark raving bonkers” and a “lunatic”. NO, Reg, he’s just narcissistic and EVIL. It completely undermines the maliciousness of his actions to keep going on about him being mad, not to mention undermining the issues faced by people who actually have mental health problems.
I got fed up extremely quickly of Reg’s endless and stupid insults of Melissande’s appearance. There is zero character/relationship growth between the two characters, mainly because Reg doesn’t let Melissande get a word in (despite the fact that Melissande is a Prime Minister, and Reg is a bird). In fact, although Reg is clearly the main culprit, can we talk about how patronisingly Gerald’s internal voice also is about Melissande’s ‘frumpiness’ and ‘ugliness’ quite unnecessarily for a good 100 pages? For crying out loud, she’s a prime minister running a country — and all they can think about is the fact that she doesn’t wear heels? There’s even a horrific Pygmalion scene where Melissande is just so unbearably ugly that Gerald just has to magic her pretty, just the way men like it. *VOMS IN MOUTH*
Fortunately, Gerald’s attitude tones down a little bit once it is revealed that Melissande is dressing frumpish on purpose to ‘hide’ herself from Lionel, and avoid any potential ‘marry off the princess’ scenarios. But Reg’s attitude doesn’t, and as pretty much every character in the book says about 34 times over she needs to put a sock in it. This novel could be (and quite frankly should be) a good 50 pages shorter if she had.
Finally, I’ve GOT to mention a thing which drove me around the bend for the entire novel — what the frick species of bird is Reg????!!!! There are literally MILLIONS TO CHOOSE FROM and they are all SO DIFFERENT!?! That’s like saying she’s a Is she a penguin?? An eagle??? A parrot?? I love birds and tHIS ANNOYS ME SO MUCH
What ARE Reg?? in fact what are bIRB??
Moi Rating (the rating of moi)
Fun, but not that fun. Probs won’t be picking up the sequel.
*I didn’t even watch Stranger Things but the Barb fandom is a seething internet whirlpool of normcore and discontent which is impossible to avoid so let’s just all agree that BARB IS QUEEN OF OUR HEARTS AND ALWAYS SHALL BE *pants*
See ya next time! 😀 x