The Reign of the Brown Magician

Lawrence Watt-Evans

Del Rey. $5.99

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.


Read a 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

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