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The Silent Tower & The Silicon Mage
By Barbara Hambly

Well, as some of you may remember, a couple of months ago I was getting really nervous and worried when I ordered the third book in this trilogy “Dog Wizard” and it hadn’t arrived. Good news though, it did, like three weeks after the estimated time… but that is another story. I have since, begun to read the series myself, my boyfriend lent me the first two books and when the third finally arrived he told me to keep it and read it myself before handing it over to him. (Isn’t he great!)

So, i’ve finished the first two books in about a month and have just started the third a few nights ago. I have never read Barbara Hambly before, so this is a new author for me, but I was not disappointed. As with many other older books that i’ve missed growing up, I wished I would have read this sooner. Especially during my fantasy phase in high school, but alas, if I could have read all the books I wished I did back then, I wouldn’t have time for school, or anything else for that matter.

So back to the books. The two books are actually really good to review together as the first actually leaves you off on a small cliffhanger so it was easy for me to set it aside and grab the second one and continue on without missing a beat… and given that i’ve just finished reading them I should be good at remembering the highlights and details of them ;p

The Silent Tower starts off in your typical fantasy world, with wizards and that medieval setting that we’re so used to for such a story. We are introduced to one of our main characters ‘Caris’, a sasenna, or really the bodyguards of the Wizards, trained to do the wizards command, kill, fight for them, basically do anything they say without thinking for themselves. It’s a rather interesting job description and Hambly goes on in both her books with Caris’s struggle to remain true to his vows and lifestyle he has chosen. Caris himself is a rather interesting character, though I will admit that I disliked him for most of the two books, it wasn’t until the second that you start to feel more sorry for him and see him develop a mind for himself that his true character comes out.

Anyways, we come across Caris in his mind going over several odd happenings as of late, one is the belief that he is loosing what little magic he has. Not enough to become a wizard, but still something to help him achieve his job as a sasenna. The book takes a rather quick turn in the fact that one of the Wizards, or Mages is killed, and with a gun, and disappears into a black void. All this prompts the ‘Archmage’ as well as Caris’s grandfather to visit another mage, Antryg Windross, who is imprisoned for crimes against the vows of Wizards.

Now, Antryg is fun. As it is brought up once in the book itself, he does remind me of a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ style of character. Eccentric, mad, and a genius, all rolled up into one. They rule out his madness for being imprisoned for the past eight years, cut off from the magic which is like a life force to all wizards. He has a charm, and good observation and deductive skills to at first make us all think he is the bad guy, that he is using the ‘Void’ to escape his imprisonment as well as unleashing abominations among the people.

Now… this in itself can make a good fantasy novel as is, but Barabra Hambly gives us a twist I did not expect. Just about every other chapter we switch viewpoints to that of Joanna, a program analyst in a world very similar to ours. Yup, we’ve got a computer tech in a fantasy story… all complete with 80’s computer reference terms. FANTASTIC! I really did crack myself up reading about the hard drives, and floppy disks and such… oh the memories.

Joanna’s role in this at first seems like a mistake, she is kidnapped from her world and taken to that of the fantasy world we were first introduced with. She wakes up in a room with Antryg and Caris, Caris trying to capture Antryg, while Antryg is trying to protect Joanna and Caris. It’s actually a confusing relationship the three have, with Joanna stuck in the middle not sure who to believe is right. Was Antrgy the one to kidnap her, or was he really trying to save both their worlds as he says?

In either case, despite at times Joanna feeling like the helpless damsel in many scenes she does stand her ground and helps the guys out in several situations making her not your typical female trope in other fantasy series. Most of the story in both books are written by her point of view, which makes sense as she is taken out of her element and shown a new world, like us the reader. She has several good scenes with her comparing the lifestyle in the fantasy world to romance novels and other geek culture of the time, all of which saying to herself ‘they don’t tell you “this” in the books’. Which makes for some comedy for the reader.

So the story goes on, with Joanna helping Antryg with finding out who is opening the void, who kidnapped her and why everyone is feeling this ‘depressing drain’ upon their lives. It isn’t until near the end that the reason is revealed and that the Dark Mage himself, who everyone thought was dead… is behind the whole affair and … (Spoilers)… has the ability to transfer his essence into another human being, basically absorbing what was once them and incorporating himself into their body with their memories and everything. It is he who is opening the void and wanting to create a computer to house his ‘soul’ in to become the most powerful wizard and suck the life energy out of both worlds. Joanna suddenly thinks that Antryg (the dark mage’s previous student) is the dark mage, and betrays him in the end… only to be proven wrong by the last couple of paragraphs in the first book. They capture Antryg in her own world, and take him away to be executed, and after they leave Joanna comes fact to face with her boyfriend, who is now not her boyfriend but the Dark Mage in a new shell.

*insert Dun Dun DUNNNN* for that is how the first books ends.

The second book The Silicon Mage picks up roughly three weeks after the first book ends. Joanna is trying to keep her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend/Darkmage at bay while downloading and figuring out the program system that he had made to house his mind into, so that she could prove to the Wizards Council that Angtryg is innocent and that they need to stop the real danger.

Over the course of the first book you do see a romantic growth between Joanna and Antrgy, one that I really like as it is always pushed away for both characters. Neither wants to admit their feelings for the other, for their own reasons but despite that, the two connect on a multiple of levels, mostly intellect which I admire the most. So not only does Joanna want to right the wrong of betraying Antryg, but she has strong feelings for him and doesn’t want him to die.

Being a woman who is prepared, Joanna packs herself a bag fit for just about everything she may need for when she returns to the fantasy world/realm… including a medieval dress and bolt cutters along with a worm virus to try and install if they can find the machine in time. She finally follows her boyfriend through the Void and makes her own way back to the massive city where she hoped to find supporters to her cause.

It’s great to see Joanna take such a proactive step in the second book. Like I said in the first, she seems to be a third wheel to the plot until her purpose becomes relevant. This time she is an active participant, with goals and a list of procedures to accomplish. There is a second female character introduced into this book (not that the first one didn’t have any), Pella, the Regents new wife joins Joanna and Caris as they try to break out Antryg from prison…. of course Antryg being Antryg… he escapes on his own and is reunited with Joanna and the rest of the group.

For the remainder of the third book it is about the three of them mostly (Caris, Joanna and Antryg) who go out to find the computer and deal with the darkmage.

I think i’ll end my review here… there are some major scenes at the end of the second book that I don’t really want to give away. There is a final battle between the Darkmage and everyone else, they do find the computer and deal with it in the only option they had. As with many fantasies the heroes save the day, however there is consequences for their actions. Antryg and Joanna are imprisoned, and Caris, now unable to fulfill his duties as a sasenna is free to live the life he wishes. Joanna does get to go back to her world, as part of the deal Antryg makes with the Council of Wizards.

But… there is a happy ending, and one that I sort of saw coming but it was still a surprise so I’m going to not say anything and tell you instead to go read the books. lol

Both books are great fun, and I love the fact that they have got me back into the habit of reading regularly again. I’m excited to open the book and to find out what’s going to happen next, something that not all books seem to get across.

I will say this before I end this post. Like I said i’ve started the third book Dog Wizard and the major change i’ve noticed is that we finally get to read from Antryg’s perspective. All through the first two books it’s either Caris or Joanna that we’re reading through, it’s still third person, but we never get to see what’s going on in Antryg’s head. Now we do and i’m really enjoying that fresh bit of change.

(So there Antryg, does not die at the end of the second book… i gave that away.)

All in all, these books are great if you’re into a fantasy series with a bit of a modern, well 80’s modern theme tied into it. I do recommend them and hope you enjoy them as much as I have.