✎Title: The Wizard’s Promise (The Hanna Duology #1)
✎Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
✎Publisher: Strange Chemistry
✎Publication date: 1st May 2014
The Hanna Duology, by Cassandra Rose Clarke, a new fantasy adventure set sometime after the rise and life of eventual pirate queen Ananna, heroine of the Assassin’s Curse Duology, details the adventures of Hanna, named for the pirate queen herself (if only her name could be pronounced by those on her outside-the-Empire, definitely-not-the-south island) as she finds her own way in the very same world the assassin Naji and Ananna saved from the Mists. Only Hanna can’t possibly imagine when she sets out on a routine fishing trip with her fisherman master that her life is going to change forever.
Hanna is a witch—or at least she wants to be a witch. But instead, her mother has marked her a fisherman’s apprentice and although she commands the wind with ease and joy, she must put her responsibilities on board the Penelope first. Kolur, her master, isn’t even a very good fisherman, but he is also as dull a master as they come and not especially harsh, so she could do a lot worse. Still, she dreams of the Undim Citadel and learning magic for real.
Yet that doesn’t seem likely, especially since she scarcely gets the time to practise what she does know—unless she’s commanding the wind aboard the Penelope and helping keep the fish fresh with the protection charms that almost everyone knows. The world is filled with magic and to be extraordinary, one must be schooled officially. Maybe when she comes back from the suddenly announced three-day trip out to catch skrei she can talk to her mother about it. She’s chafing to be in control of her own life.
But Hanna’s wish might come sooner than she thinks. When Kolur throws the bones at sea during a storm and she sees their portents, she knows Kolur is hiding something. This becomes all the more evident when he becomes evasive about how long they’ll be gone and what the bones’ prediction meant—before she saw him hastily throw them again to cover their original message. Before she knows it, Kolur is keeping secrets and hinting at stronger magic than he should be able—than he’s ever shown he’s able—to cast. Suddenly her master is a stranger to her. Growing increasingly frustrated by his blatant evasion, Hanna soon realises that she must think about fending for herself.
And when a powerful witch is picked up on an island they shouldn’t have been able to reach so quickly and moreover, Kolur seems to know her, Hanna isn’t sure what she should think. And what of the strange and inhuman boy she sees swimming calmly in the freezing waters beside the boat? His ethereal beauty draws her in and although she can see he’s not from the Mists, what else could he be? Her questions aren’t likely to be answered any time soon. With this boy desperate to avoid the witch Frida, and his irritating spells cast on Kolur and the witch both, that prevent Hanna from openly talking about him or his increasingly cryptic warnings about the Mists and a threat she suspects Kolur isn’t sharing with her, Hanna finds herself confused, frustrated and adrift in more ways than one.
But when she finds herself suddenly forced to trust those she mistrusts, or else fend for herself—Hanna chooses the latter. She begins to eke out what living she can, whilst avoiding Kolur and even the mysterious boy. As for Frida… can she really be as fearsome as the boy claims?
A tangled web of lies and magic soon holds Hanna in place, far from home, and all she can focus on is the idea of getting back to Kjora. But what if home might be even further away with each turn of the wind? And what of the presence tied to the north wind that speaks to her, helps her, when Hanna’s affinity is with the south wind? Too many things soon become intertwined with two questions: who is Kolur really—and who is Lord Foxfollow?
If Hanna is to survive on her own, she must keep her wits and her magic close about her and be wary of the tainting magic of the Mists as well as the dangerous creatures it can spawn. All she cares about is getting home… or at least, that’s what she thinks. Soon Hanna will be drawn deeper into something far, far greater than herself and like her namesake, she will be invited to rise to the challenge. But what’s in a name—because that’s all Hanna has, isn’t it? The coincidence of having the same name as Ananna the pirate queen. And happening to be there.
Can coincidence alone ever be enough?
The Wizard’s Promise is a steady three-and-a-half stars: it’s nothing especially special, but it’s above average, if only for the notion that Hanna isn’t necessarily pre-destined to be something great. Much like her namesake, her eventual “greatness” might well be more a matter of time and place, happenstance, instead of destiny. This is an enjoyable enough concept. The book was slow to get moving and for its short length it seems to spend a lot of time dawdling—maybe it would have been better suited being one longer-length book, instead of being split into two? But I suppose I’ll only be able to say one way or the other once I’ve read the finished duology. The Assassin’s Curse definitely and comfortably stretched out to fill two books.
I enjoyed Hanna as a protagonist, but found that she was a little too accepting to be kept in the dark. Perhaps Kolur wouldn’t have told her the truth any sooner, but she should have raged against him—especially given the drastic turn of events. It felt forced that Hanna was so dutiful in her silence. Furthermore, I didn’t readily buy Kolur’s behaviour towards Hanna towards the end of the book: friends with her mother and as her master, he should have given more of a damn about how things had turned out, or, if his more selfish side was to be explored, his character should have hardened somehow. Essentially there should have been some larger change in his demeanour, strong enough to match the turn of the plot. This felt stilted and a little convenient, just so Hanna could go off and do what she does.
All in all this is a solid enough novel and I enjoyed the prose well enough, but nothing stood out to really praise and write home about. It’s not a ‘meh’ book, but it didn’t fall all that far short of warm indifference. By virtue of being a quick enough read—and therefore not taking up too much reading real estate—The Wizard’s Promise is a fun book that is better suited as a fast, fun read than anything taken too much to heart. Hardly revolutionary and certainly far from being a page-turner, but more than good enough to bother recommending. Read it because it is fun and you want something quick and a little quirky, but don’t expect too much.