A WIZARD OF DREAMS (MYRDDIN’S HEIR, BOOK 1) refuses to bow to many tropes of fantasy or YA fiction, and for that I applaud author Robin Chambers. Youngsters will relish the adventures of supernaturally gifted child savant Gordon and his imaginary (or perhaps spectral?) friend Zack as they navigate the pitfalls of growing up in modern day suburbia. But adults may be equally intrigued by what Chambers is up to with this illuminating entry in a genre usually rife with cliché.
At first, I found myself slightly jarred by the seeming lack of immediate McGuffin or central conflict. Which is not to say the story drags (it moves at a clip), only that biased portions of my mind were asking: “OK, fantasy novel, where’s your magic jewelry to be found? Your beasts to be slayed? Your menacing villains to be ousted?” (Given the book’s central themes, this may very well be by design.)
But A WIZARD OF DREAMS is not boilerplate fantasy. It’s not simple to categorize—a magical tale deeply concerned with real-world wisdom; a coming-of-age story that delves headlong into antiquity and mythology; a vibrant adventure not afraid to touch the roots of misery. At its heart is an appeal for imagination, wonder, and common human decency in our modern world. The true “foes” of the piece, then, are Apathy and Ignorance rearing their heads in many guises: wanton bullying, half-baked parenting, scarred childhoods, apathetic adolescence, regressive adulthoods, jaded worldviews and lukewarm concern for the state of our planet. Our hero Gordon doesn’t face villains so much as damaged individuals. And that realization raises the stakes both for him and the reader.
If this sounds too brainy, it’s only because I’ve been peeking under the hood. It’s a wonderful, easily digestible tale written with heart and wit, full of sweeping ideas, big surprises (that I’ve resisted spoiling), and poignant ideas about the human need for greater intellect, empathy and (yes) dreams. Here’s a unique voice in fantasy fiction.