The Mancer Series (Books 1-6): Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Ace PYRMNCR1992Pyromancer, by Don Callander. Map by the author.
NYC, Ace Books, May 1992, paperback $4.50 ([v +] 292 pages)

Aquamancer, by Don Callander. Map by the author.
NYC, Ace Books, January 1993, paperback $4.99 ([v +] 289 pages)

Geomancer, by Don Callander. Map by the author.
NYC, Ace Books, January 1994, paperback $4.99 (v +] 257 pages)

Aeromancer, by Don Callander.
NYC, Ace Books, September 1997, paperback $5.99 ([iii +] 289 pages)

Marbleheart, by Don Callander.
NYC, Ace Books, July 1998, paperback $5.99 (278 pages).

The Reluctant Knight, by Don Callander.
Cincinnati, OH, Mundania Press, June 2014, paperback $12.95 (204 pages)

pyro newCurious … The first five of these were published without a series title, between 1992 and 1998. They were reprinted by Mundania Press in 2013 as the Mancer Series, with a sixth in 2014. By Don Callander, but ISFDB says that he died before that. Donald Bruce Callander, March 23, 1930 – July 26, 2008.

What’s more, the copyright dates of the first three 2013 reprints agree with the Ace editions, 1992, 1993, and 1994. But for the last two they are 1995 and 1996, not 1997 and 1998 when the Ace editions were published, and with The Reluctant Knight © 1995 (and Marbleheart © 1996) even though it wasn’t published until 2014.

Ace Books published a lot of whimsical light fantasies in the 1990s, by authors such as Piers Anthony, John DeChancie, Esther Friesner, and Craig Shaw Gardner. Most of them have talking animals in supporting or minor roles, such as Gardner’s 1990 Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies, but none are really memorable. (Maybe Scandal, the wisecracking kitten, who is a major character in Friesner’s Majyk trilogy.) But Callander’s Marbleheart Sea Otter, a furry sidekick in the original series, was popular enough to win his own starring sequel in 1998.

0441028160.01.LZZZZZZZI won’t say that Callander’s fantasies are bad — they aren’t, really, for those who like light fantasies. But they are very – I’m not sure whether “cute” or “twee” fits them better. They are the type of fantasies that other fantasy writers make fun of; full of singing and dancing pixies and elves and fairies and friendly animals. And furniture & utensils. Here is dinnertime at Wizard’s High, a wizard’s cottage:

“Shortly they sat down to a feast and were regaled by the antics of the salt and pepper shakers and the serious, droll sayings of the Gravy Boat, who also chanted Sea songs and seamen’s ditties for them.

A pair of fire tongs did a clattery clog dance on the hearth, and Blue Teakettle herself acted as ringmistress over it all and kept the good food hot and savory, coming at just the right pace and intervals. Toward the end the entire chorus of pots and pans sang old favorites with the crocks and cutting board humming along in perfect harmony. And never once did Douglas consider how odd this little household was.” (Pyromancer, p. 10)

Douglas Brightglade, a lively and cheery lad, answers a wizard’s advertisement:


To learn the MYSTERIES and SECRETS of

WIZARDRY in the Discipline of FIRE




And learn Douglas does, from the wizard Flarman Flowerstalk over four novels and five years. He meets all sorts of talking animals and objects, from Flarman’s busybody, clattery Bronze Owl doorknocker, to the seagulls Cerfew, Tratto, and Trotta (she’s a girl; a Gullfriend), to the porpoises Skimmer, Leaper, and Spinner, to Oval, the Giant Sea Tortoise, to the evil Ice King’s spies:

“‘It is best we become more circumspect in our comings and goings from now. I’ve seen some suspicious crows hanging around the top of the High lately.’

‘Yes, I noticed them and told Bronze Owl about them. He said he didn’t like the cut of their pinions.’” (Pyromancer, p. 81)

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