Art Tirrell's Reviews > Warlock

Warlock by Wilbur Smith
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Recommended for: readers who love adventure and romance


I've read Wilbur Smith's novels, "River God" and "The Seventh Scroll", and although I thought both went on too long and tried to do too much, I loved them for their originality and the excellent drawing of the principal character and narrator, the eunuch Taita.

In Warlock, as in the two "Taita" novels mentioned above, Smith again tries to bite off a smidge too much scope but where the earlier stories were so strong I found myself able to overlook this flaw, now the novelty of the setting has worn off and this time the plot is less satisfying - much like Hollywood sequels that fail to measure up to the original films because they slavishly try to mimic the elements that made the original a success.

Additionally (regrettably), Warlock grants POV's (points of view) to a veritable slew of characters, and the resulting stew ends up as a jumble of mid-paragraph POV swaps, pat dialogue, and thin characters. There's Taita, of course, but I much preferred him as the egotistical, lustful-but-incapable, boasting genius of River God and Seventh Scroll. There, his flaws glared but you'd roll your eyes and keep on loving him. Here, he is boringly perfect no matter who or what the opposition.

Of the others, Young pharaoh Nefer is perhaps the most rounded. He experiences setbacks and tries harder the next time. Although we never really know him well enough to make the transfer into his skin, his character arc rings true as he grows toward manhood. Less convincing are the shallowly drawn love interests and the two bad guys. Between the antagonists they don't do a single redeeming thing in the entire story. Sorry, but I've come to like characters with a little depth, and here there isn't much to enjoy.

To his credit, what Smith does give is a strongly imagined story painted in broad, colorful strokes. Smith is expert at setting the scene and Warlock holds the reader while trying hard to exploit the presumed familiarity of the reader with Taita. Sorry, it just doesn't convince. The plot is convoluted enough, but each "homestretch" is easily predictable, and I guess the broad strokes are to be expected when the writer is cranking out 650 page novels on a pace of one per year.

In my experience with his works, Wilbur Smith is best when he uses his rich imagination to tackle an entirely new theme with fresh characters and an exciting original hook. The Courtney's come to mind. The initial novel was by far the best of the lot. Of course, as an author myself, I know starting fresh is also the most difficult way to write, and not the kind of thing that lends itself to the one-a-year pace this author has been keeping of late.

In the end, I'm still a fan. I'll be reading the next one, and the one after that.

If Wilbur Smith lived on the great lakes, he'd have written "The Secret Ever Keeps". He lives in Africa, so I had to do it for him. If you like Wilbur Smith, you'll love "The Secret Ever Keeps". Here's the Amazon page.
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Ruth I totally agree. I think Taita's character lost something in this book. He did not seem the same in anyway to me. I also believe that the book is misnamed because it was much more the story of Nefer, and not of Taita.

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