Pel Brown of Earth has inherited magical control of a
fantasy world in a parallel universe. He doesn't really want it
except that he might be able to bring his murdered wife and daughter
back to life, if he can learn to use the magic. Their bodies,
however, are in a third parallel universe, one dominated by a space
opera Galactic Empire. And the Galactic Empire is not very interested
in negotiating with Pel, because the previous ruler of Faerie had
tried to invade the Empire.
The Reign of the Brown Magician is the final volume of
Lawrence Watt-Evans' "Three Worlds Trilogy." In the context of the
series, Brown Magician really just ties up loose ends. The
series-driving threat -- Shadow of Faerie -- has already been
defeated in volume two.
The book does make a peculiar sense as a stand-alone, but probably
not as the novel Watt-Evans intended. By itself, The Reign of the
Brown Magician is the story of Pel's madness and obsession with
resurrecting his wife and daughter. Pel initially makes a
half-hearted effort to be a better ruler of Faerie than Shadow, but
soon neglects everything. He becomes increasingly ugly when the
Empire delays in giving him the bodies; and he is not that
sympathetic a character to begin with.
The Empire's part in this is a (grim) comedy of miscommunication
and petty, bureaucratic ambitions. Earth itself is superfluous, and
the Empire's brief, aborted plans to invade have all the relevance of
an abandoned plot line.
One annoying distraction of the trilogy is the "reality checking"
the characters do. Watt-Evans has them constantly comparing events
and environment to Earth fiction: "Star Wars," "Star Trek," Tolkien,
Horatio Hornblower, The Wizard of Oz, Stephen King..."He felt
as if he'd fallen into a story, months ago, and been unable to climb
back out. Sometimes it was science fiction, as in the Galactic
Empire, with their spaceships and blasters; sometimes it was an epic
fantasy, as when Shadow turned him into a wizard...Why shouldn't it
be a horror story now?" The "he wasn't dreaming -- it was real"
routine becomes very tiresome very quickly.
Watt-Evans is capable of quite fine fantasy, as evidenced by his
Ethshar series, and won a Hugo Award for his science fiction short
story, "Why I Left Harry's All Night Hamburgers." The "Three Worlds
Trilogy," however, is an unhappy mix of the two, a failed attempt to
mock the various conventions of the two genres, and does not show
Watt-Evans' talent to its best.
sample chapter from The Reign of the Brown
Magician at the Del Rey Internet site
The Three Worlds Trilogy:
Out of This World. Del Rey, 1994
In The Empire of Shadow. Del Rey, 1995
The Reign of the Brown Magician. Del Rey, 1996
(sample chapters available at the Del Rey Internet site)
Lawrence Watt-Evans' web site
This review copyright 1996 by Wendy Morris
Information last updated March 22, 1998