Wandmaker is told in third-person from multiple viewpoints, though readers spend the majority of time in the head of the primary young protagonist: Henry Leach. Henry is the 7th son of a 7th son—and from the get-go is clearly a catalyst to the larger story arc. He is kind-natured and ambitious, but largely clueless as to what he’s getting himself into. (Some may appreciate the resulting learn-as-he-goes approach taken with the storytelling.) The vocabulary usage is strong, and the subtle south-eastern Native American elements (more prominent in the 2nd half) add a unique angle of approach.
What I Liked:
The most robust part of this tale was, by far, the intricacies paid to the creation of wands—including the personalizing and variations thereof. The author initially gained notoriety with the 2006 release of The Wandmaker’s Guidebook, an interactive book and wand-assembly kit. Wandmaker seems to present as an inventive effort to back the existing guidebook with lore.
Another plus to this story was the growth of the brother/sister relationship. The progress that Henry and his younger sister make, in both a familial and complementary sense, is significant and well developed. (Which is quite the relief, as readers may spend the first third of this book wanting to throw Brianna out a window.)
What Didn’t Work For Me:
As one might guess by the cover, it’s difficult not to compare this book to Harry Potter. Although, the feel of it is closer to Fablehaven meets the American version of Harry Potter--minus the wizarding school and a large majority of the world-within-a-world. (An extra-special boy with no idea of his chosen-one status, annoying younger sister sidekick, evil magical overlord with a heinous plan, spells that go terribly wrong out of user-ignorance, etc.) Instead you get a crotchety old man in a castle, who loosely heads up a group that adamantly refers to themselves as “Wandbearers” rather than wizards.
Harry Potter IS mentioned by name and its author alluded to by the characters within this book, but primarily with the intent of emphasizing all that existing pop-culture got “wrong” about magic.
Henry Leach isn’t an orphan, though for the vast majority of this book his parents are basically a non-factor. Despite the fact that they both have been involved in the magical side of their reality, they’ve more or less left Henry to figure some distressingly dangerous things out all on his own. Initially I thought there must be a reason for this trial-by-fire parenting style, but near the end when some attempt was made by Henry’s mother to assure him she’d done the best she could, I couldn’t find the explanations for familial non-disclosure at all satisfying.
Side Note: Unfortunately, it truly chaffed at me to see yet another example of albinism being used as the prominent trait of a one-dimensional villain. The albino mutation is portrayed negatively enough in literature and pop-culture (in this reader’s opinion).
On the whole, a serviceable option for those insatiable light fantasy fans.