by Merlin and Dugald Steer
Back in 2003, Dragonology hit bookstore shelves, launching the “Ologies” series. I remember thinking at the time that it was the perfect Christmas present for a kid. Every year, a new book would come out, and the quality of each volume was such that in spite of the fact that I was well outside the intended audience age range, I had to check them out. This year, I thought it would be fun to look back and review some of my favorite volumes from the series.
A facsimile of an Elizabethan guide to magic, Wizardology claims to have been penned by the great Merlin himself. As followers of Arthurian legend know, Merlin was trapped by Nimue in an endless sleep, but he had just enough magic to create a book from the oak tree to which he is bound. The book lays out the basics of magic, wizard history and the path to becoming a wizard as powerful as Merlin himself.
I really had fun browsing the pages of Wizardology. It introduces a more “classic” version of the wizarding world to generations that are now growing up with the Harry Potter movies and books. To Merlin, a wizard is far more than mere magic-worker, but a bridge between the natural world, faerie realm and human civilization. Above all, he is a learned individual; Merlin emphasizes again and again that a wizard must study, often forsaking all else in a hermetic quest for knowledge. He recommends that if the reader cannot see him/herself living in such a way that it would be best for the book to find a new owner.
But despite Merlin's constant warnings, there's a lot of fun to be had. Symbols hidden throughout the book reveal secret messages to readers patient enough to track them down. Tales of wizardry from around the world are scattered throughout, as are spells and magical artifacts like a phoenix feather and a fragment of a fairy flag. One of my favorite page spreads has a drawing of Merlin's study, with interactive pop-ups and foldouts. There's even a small reference to the two previous books in the Ologies series. (Which raises the question of how a 16th century book written by Merlin contains the personal journal of a 20th century archeologist? Magic must be the answer for everything.)
The illustrations within the book are marvelous. Many of the images mimic the appearance of medieval woodcuts or the prints of Albrecht Durer , matching the book's claims to date back several centuries. Other sketches more resemble the classic fairy art of the Victorians, created with a dreamy innocence. There are some pages that resemble field journals of archeologists while others call to mind children's textbooks.
I read this book through two or three times while I was writing this review, and each time I found something new, a small detail or short story that I'd missed. Books like this, that are so rich with detail and obviously put together with great care, make me wish that I had children to share them with.
Warning: There are, as the title and topic would suggest, many small spells and suggested incantations scattered throughout the book. I know that some of my more religiously conservative friends would not want their kids reading this; if arcane/occult themes are something you don't want in your library, this is probably going to be a title you should skip.
5 out of 5 stars
To read more about Wizardology, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2011: Rambling about audiobooks
2010: News: When Technology Brings Too Much Information to the Masses
2009: Going on hiatus...
2008: Contest: Patrick Rothfuss and Heifer International