“Young Ivor dreams of being a swordsman like his nine older brothers, but until he can grow a beard he’s limited to being a runner, carrying messages for their lord, Thane Carrak. That’s usually boring, but this time Carrak has sent him on a long journey to summon the mysterious Rorie of Ytter. Rorie is reputed to be a wizard—or an outlaw, or maybe a saint—but the truth is far stranger, and Ivor suddenly finds himself caught up in a twisted magical intrigue that threatens Thane Carrak and could leave Ivor himself very dead.”
Given the length of this YA fantasy novella, author Dave Duncan does an amazing job of evoking both characterization and place. He has created a huge world with loads of fully drawn and memorable characters whom we, the reader, can easily learn to care about. There is plenty of adventure to keep the reader’s attention and there is always a hint of danger throughout. Yet, since this is a novella aimed at a young audience, there is no real violence nor foul language although, happily, Duncan never ‘talks down’ to his young audience either.
In many ways, The Runner and the Wizard reminded me of an earlier time in fantasy with its young hero, lack of violence, and pastoral setting. Yet, the story doesn’t seem old. It’s a fun fast read with plenty of action and even a touch of humour and I enjoyed it quite a lot. ( )