CYBILS FINALIST: The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman


In a hilarious tale reminiscent of T. H. White, a lost boy finds himself an unlikely apprentice to the very old, vaguely evil, mostly just grumpy Wizard Smallbone.

When twelve-year-old Nick runs away from his uncle’s in the middle of a blizzard, he stumbles onto a very opinionated bookstore. He also meets its guardian, the self-proclaimed Evil Wizard Smallbone, who calls Nick his apprentice and won’t let him leave, but won’t teach him magic, either. It’s a good thing the bookstore takes Nick’s magical education in hand, because Smallbone’s nemesis—the Evil Wizard Fidelou—and his pack of shape-shifting bikers are howling at the borders. Smallbone might call himself evil, but compared to Fidelou, he’s practically a puppy. And he can’t handle Fidelou alone. Wildly funny and cozily heartfelt, Delia Sherman’s latest is an eccentric fantasy adventure featuring dueling wizards, enchanted animals, and one stray boy with a surprising knack for magic.


After running away for the third time, Nick stumbles onto the dwelling of the Evil Wizard Smallbone who forces him to become his apprentice.  But he doesn't teach Nick any magic.  But Nick, being a rather resourceful kid, discovers that the bookstore that Smallbone supposedly runs will help him learn magic, but only if he cooperates.  Meanwhile, the Evil Wizard Fidelou is working on bringing down the magical Sentries (spells) that are keeping Smallbone Cove protected, and Nick's cousin and uncle are helping him.  After some rather interesting twists and turns, Nick and Smallbone must face off with Fidelou because not only their own lives, but the lives of everyone in the Cove depend on it.

I can't say that I found this particularly funny.  And I didn't find the characters particularly appealing.  But the plot did hold my attention with it's interesting twists and turns.  I loved the idea of the bookstore being a living entity and the books that talked to Nick.  And the plotline involving the animals was definitely a nice touch.  While this was definitely not my favorite among the seven Cybils finalists that I read, I did enjoy it and could see why it ended up on the list.  I can safely say that I've never read another fantasy quite like it.


  1. Talking books?!? That's so cool! I've never heard of that before in fantasy. ^_^


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