Today’s review is a book about a boy who goes away to a school to learn to be a wizard. At the school, he makes a few close friends, including a freckled, red-headed boy. The school is run by a kind older wizard. The conflict of the story arises with an evil wizard who was a co-founder of the school who was cast out for being, well, evil. The hero turns out to be the fullfilment of a prophecy to fight the evil wizard.
And if at this point you think I’m talking about Harry Potter…I’m not! I’m actually talking about Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen. I’ve no idea whether J. K. Rowling has ever read it, and would not dream of commenting…except to note that Wizard’s Hall came first.
Wizard’s Hall is about Henry (yeah, the name’s interesting too) who casually mentions to his mother one day that perhaps he’ll be a wizard. Next thing he knows, his mother has wiped the smudges off his nose, told him that the most important thing is to try, and sent him out the door to walk to Wizard’s Hall. After that, it’s the story of Henry trying to figure out whether he really belongs at Wizard’s Hall–and, of course, how to fight the evil wizard too.
Henry is pretty swiftly renamed–everyone at Wizard’s Hall has a special name, and they’re all plants, like Hickory and Gorse and Willoweed. Henry becomes Thornmallow, “prickly on the outside and squishy on the inside.” I think he’s a bit more squishy than prickly, in an earnest, well-meaning sort of way. I’ve actually been known to define characters in other books like this–I have a soft spot for tough characters with good hearts, who can sometimes be described as prickly on the outside and squishy on the inside.
Wizard’s Hall is a lot shorter than Harry Potter–133 pages, instead of, I don’t know, 4,000? It doesn’t have the same elaborate world or the multi-book epicness. But it is a very good book about a wizarding school, and about trying to find your place.
Author’s Site: http://janeyolen.com/
One thought on “Learning to Be a Wizard”
Interesting pre-cursor to the Harry Potter series. I guess it’s true that there are really no new stories, just new ways to tell them.