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The Compleat Enchanter

(The Incompleat Enchanter #1-3)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,444 ratings  ·  44 reviews
The Mathematics of Magic was probably the greatest discovery of the ages - at least Professor Harold Shea thought so. With the proper equations, he could instantly transport himself back in time to all the wondrous lands of ancient legend. But slips in time were a hazard, and Shea's magic did not always work - at least, not quite as he expected...

This omnibus volume conta
Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 12th 1984 by Del Rey (first published January 1st 1940)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  2,444 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Remember that Sprague and Pratt wrote this before LORD OF THE RINGS and only a few years after the hobbit. There weren't as many fantasy books to draw upon either.

Great system they set up for how magic works through mathematical formulas. Not too confusing either for people like me who don't care for math either.

The book is divided into three books that cover different mythologies: the first being Norse where Harold Shea, our hero, gets to meet some of the Norse Gods as they travel in to giant t
Printable Tire
The first story, "The Roaring Trumpet," ends rather abruptly, with everyman hero Shea essentially being ejected from the Norse Saga like a flushed turd.

Both character and concept get a makeover in "The Mathematics of Magic;" whereas Shea was initially the source of hapless comic relief, here a "bumbling old man scientist" sidekick type in the form of Doc Chalmers fills in that role, leaving Shea to become a more respectable wisecracking hero. The story itself makes Elizabethan poetry seem downr
Michael O'Donnell
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Compleat Enchanter collects five novellas following the magical misadventures of psychologist Harold Shea, who discovers that by a combination of thinking in terms of symbolic logic, chanting poetic spells and performing magical hand movements, he can physically transport himself into the worlds of myth and legend, where magic is a reality. Unfortunately, Harold has not quite mastered his new-found magical powers and trouble ensues.

The five novellas, ‘The Roaring Trumpet’, The Mathematics of
Jul 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, 2014-rev

3 stars

Bored psychologist Harold Shea draws on his mentor's work to transfer bodily to the world of Norse mythology, and later to other lands, posing most often as a sorceror, with exciting consequences.

Collecting a series of stories mostly written for magazines in the 1940s, I liked this book better the first time I read it. The first story is best, and the second is good, though the authors ran out of either time or energy and finished in a rush. The last story in the
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is the book that put L. Sprague de Camp so high on my list of favorite authors. I found the three novellas in The Compleat Enchanter: The Magical Misadventures of Harold Shea so utterly fun and charming that as soon as I finished the book, I was overcome by a great sadness resulting from knowing that I would never again get that magical experience of reading it for the first time. However, I soon realized that the novellas in this book are so wonderful that they will be just as good upon a ...more
Shari Scott
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud while reading a book, yet I found myself doing so several times while reading this collection. 3 books regarding the trials and errors of one Harold Shea, psychologist. He travels through various worlds of myth and legend, meets strange and wonderous people and creatures, and meets the "dream-girl" he had been waiting for. Let's say Xanth meets MiddleEarth, before either had been imagined.

Have fun!
Keith Davis
Nov 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An adventurous young man and an old professor discover a way to transport themselves into alternate realities by fiddling with the rules of logic in their "syllogismobile". Pratt was mostly know for his detailed fictional worlds and De Camp was known for humorous adventure fantasy, and the combination makes for excellent reading. ...more
John E
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delightful collection of three long stories of mythic time travel with a single main character. Published first in fantasy pulp magazines in the early 1940, they show much wit and thoughtfulness. The last story was a bit thin. One of the great forefathers of Tolkien's works. ...more
What I learned from this book? Yngvi is a louse!

Was looking for this in my brain--couldn't remember title!

Thanks again, Dan.

Linda Robinson
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I donated my books in 2004, this is one I kept. Enchanting. Compleatly.
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was the first fantasy book I read that I fell in love with. It is different and an easy read. Will forever have a special place for me.
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An old and beloved favorite
William Ritch
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I first read the adventures of Harold Shae back in the 1970s. They hold up a really good fantasy adventure series where the fantasy is a solid as hard science fiction.
Brian Greiner
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a fun read, overall, but not without its flaws.
As other reviewers have noted, the premise of dealing with magic is very well thought out. The various magical realms are based on legends, and are the authors have an extensive knowledge of them. That knowledge, and their considerable writing skills, allows the authors to craft an enjoyable adventure yarn within a richly-written realm.
The characters, though, tend to be unsympathetic and rather shallow. Such things were common enough when th
I picked this book up on the recommendation of Lester del Rey in his The World of Science Fiction, 1926 - 1976: The History of a Subculture (reviewed here), and having greatly enjoyed de Camp's short story "A Gun For Dinosaur" (as performed on the X Minus One radio show in the late 1950s). Unfortunately, in marked contrast with that story, I don't think The Compleat Enchanter holds up that well in 2016.

The premise is amusing enough: a research psychiatrist (because it's the 1950s, and psychiatry
Aug 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a very difficult book for me to review; I chose to read it because the authors appear on Gary Gygax's revered "Appendix N" (list of authors and stories that were seminal to his thinking in creating the original Dungeons & Dragons. It features what is, by now, a familiar theme of the swords-and-sorcery adventures of Appendix N - ordinary people from our world (specifically, from the time of the writing, 1940s USA) being transported to fantasy worlds and having to survive there. I did find ...more
Douglas Milewski
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Compleat Enchanter (1975) by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt is a collection of the first three Harold Shea books from the 1940s. The book is most notable for its inclusion in Appendix N of the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide as an inspiration to that game.

The stories center around Harold Shea, a modern man and psychologist who travels to different literary adventure universes. "The Roaring Trumpet" is Norse myth, "The Mathematics of Magic" is The Faerie Queen, and "The Castle of
Jun 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 20th-century, sff, 1940s
I would have five-starred the first novella in this volume, The Roaring Trumpet: perfectly light fantasy, original premise with enough of the familiar, lots of fun. The second, The Mathematics of Magic was not perfect but I enjoyed it as much for continuing with the character that had won me over in the first and elaborating on the faux-technical aspects of interdimensional travel (my favorite part of any fantasy book). However, the third, The Castle of Iron was a bit stale. I think the reason T ...more
Morgan Dhu
Jun 28, 2016 rated it liked it
L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt collaborated on a series of comic fantasy adventures featuring Harold Shea, psychologist and occasional enchanter. In our universe, Shea works in a psychology institute attached to a hospital, and along with a few of his his colleagues, has developed an interest in what they call paraphysics - the theory that all the worlds of the imagination exist, and the key to moving between them is the ability to shift one's sensory awareness from one universe to anothe ...more
Mar 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, high-fantasy
Fun to read one of the foundational books of fantasy literature, which spawned a whole series of imitators and served as a starting point for a wide number of books. Some of it reflects a 1940's mentality, but it really was a leap forward for the genre with heroes that would think their way through problems much of the time over simply bludgeoning their out of trouble. The conceptual ideas are a lot of fun and the worlds are deeply entertaining for anyone familiar with mythological literature an ...more
Michael Hall
Mar 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Three entertaining novellas in one... for the most part. These do contain a young adult naivete that exemplifies classic sword and sorcery fantasy of the pulpy cheesy kind, so they are certainly not epic or full of deep meaning. Things start out a bit awkwardly yet with a touch of whimsy that brings out a certain 1940's mindset, but unfortunately each story got progressively worse in style, content, and interest -- in that order. Not sure if I would be interested in pursuing any other tales in t ...more
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Groundbreaking for it's time, I can easily see how it influenced Dungeons and Dragons magic system, but it does not hold up well. there is very little world building which is what we expect from modern speculative fiction. Instead it relies on the world's built by others, which is a fun feat for those familiar with the literary works explored. ...more
John Ohno
Jul 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Solid, compelling, and entertaining. With the exception of the orientalist aspects of the last novella (presumably imported from the original work) and the subtle misogyny of the protagonist (perhaps intended as a character flaw), these stories have aged pretty well.
Eric Orchard
Aug 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, appendix-n
I have to admit I didn't finish this one compleatly..... Something about the tone or style I just don't enjoy. ...more
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Warning for being dated (some racism, some sexism), but pretty enjoyable otherwise.
Alan James
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
old book, but great story based on "Orlando Furioso". I first read it in about 1964 and then again in 2012, just as good the second time around. ...more
Richard Anderson
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A bit too whimsical for me.
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Funny and clever in spots, with mathemagic and various sideways magical worlds. The sexism and racism (unconscious, I'm sure) of its time tends to shine through, though, and I rolled my eyes a lot. ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
It's the source of some of the rules of magic in Dungeons & Dragons, but otherwise this is a fairly unremarkable book. ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Due to a combination of life (better known as job) and how reading the third novella in this book went, the last third of the book probably took me 3 weeks to read. Heck, at one point I was so frustrated I included it in my stack of books I sold back to Half Price Books. Only for them to say, we can't give you anything for this particular title. So I took it back and finished it.

The basic gist of this series (this is the first three adventures of Harold Shea) is that we have a mathematician who
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Lyon Sprague de Camp, (Pseudonym: Lyman R. Lyon) was an American science fiction and fantasy author and biographer. In a writing career spanning fifty years he wrote over one hundred books, including novels and notable works of nonfiction, such as biographies of other important fantasy authors. He was widely regarded as an imaginative and innovative writer and was an important figure in the heyday ...more

Other books in the series

The Incompleat Enchanter (5 books)
  • The Incompleat Enchanter
  • The Castle of Iron
  • The Enchanter Compleated
  • The Enchanter Reborn
  • The Exotic Enchanter

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