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Heart's Magic

Magician's Lover by Flora Speer
(LoveSpell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52263-2
Magician's Lover suffers from what I refer to as "spinoff syndrome." Spinoff syndrome manifests itself when an author assumes readers have already read his or her previously published books and know all there is to know about the characters and events in those stories. This malady is common to the romance genre and is a potential source of frustration for first-time readers.

Since Warrick turned thirteen, he has wandered the world with his teacher, the great magician, Hau Te. Warrick is now twenty-nine years old, the year is 1138, and he and Hau Te are currently living in Baghdad. Warrick has always understood that he was different from other men. He believes he will never have a wife or a family, that his life is learning spells and creating magic.

But Warrick's life changes abruptly when a spell causes Hau Te to disappear. Vowing to find his mentor and friend, Warrick seeks the help of John of Cornwall, an astronomer and man of wisdom, who lives in Baghdad with his daughter, Sophia. John of Cornwall tells Warrick he will help him find Hau Te, if Warrick will do him a favor.

John knows that he is dying and he wants Warrick to escort Sophy to her mother's family in Byzantium. John has never cared for his daughter; she is little more than an irritation to him. He did, however, love his wife, Sophy's mother, and he promised her that he would someday return their daughter to her family.

For Warrick, this request is easier said then done. Although attracted to each other, Warrick and Sophy do not get along. Sophy is an angry woman; she has spent her entire life trying to win her father's love only to be rejected at every turn. Sophy doesn't want to leave the only home she has ever known.

After her father dies, Sophy turns all her anger, frustration and pain toward Warrick. Sophy shoots nasty verbal darts at Warrick, constantly berating him for his lack of talent as a magician. It is only when she realizes that Warrick pities her for her situation that she stops fighting, for the moment, and decides to allow him to escort her to Byzantium.

Ms. Speer does a fine job of creating and developing the character of the heroine in this story. At first, Sophy is an angry, bitter woman. But as she and Warrick travel to Byzantium, Sophy gradually sheds her angry shell and becomes a woman who is able to like and respect herself. Throughout this tale, the author allows you to see who Sophy is and why she acts the way she does.

Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said for Warrick's character. Although I got a sense of his character, enough to give me a general idea of what kind of man he is, I did not get the full picture because his background is so sketchy. There are a few vague, cryptic passages about Warrick's past, including something bad or sad about his relationship with his mother.

If I had read Ms. Speer's previous books, I like to think that I'd know all about Warrick's past. Hopefully, these questions were answered: Why he took off with Hau Te at the age of thirteen? Why he doesn't think he can have a family? Why he has devoted his life to learning magic when he doesn't seem to enjoy it?

By the end of this story, I was feeling very frustrated by the lack of information concerning Warrick's past. Ms. Speer is a fine writer and while it would not be a hardship to read her previous books, I'm a bit peeved that, in order to truly understand the hero in Magician's Lover, it seems I have to.

--Judith Flavell

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