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An Unexpected Apprentice    by Jody Lynn Nye order for
Unexpected Apprentice
by Jody Lynn Nye
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Take Tildi Summerbee, a young female hobbit (called smallfolk here but much the same, though they lack toes instead of having hobbits' hairy feet) rebelling against a patriarchal society, that plans to force her into an unwanted marriage after the rest of her family are killed by monstrous flying thraik. Give her a magical talent aroused by propinquity to pages copied from an all powerful tome, the Great Book, a very dangerous focus that can be used to modify anything in nature. Send her to a wizard for apprenticeship, then on a dangerous quest. Toss in assorted other characters, including humans, elves, werewolves, and centaurs. In a nutshell, you have An Unexpected Apprentice.

Tildi starts out bashful and unsure of herself, but grows in confidence through her adventures, as she finds that her skills and talents are of value. After the wizard Olen warns that the Great Book is on the move, Tildi volunteers to take her partial true copy - which has an affinity for the original and which only she can handle - along on the expedition that seeks to recover the book. But there are others searching for it too - the Scholardom wish to use it to correct all 'aberrations of nature' (it seems that the varied races in this fantasy world are the results of experimentation by long-gone Shining Ones). Wizard Edynn leads the seven questors, who include her daughter Serafina, a peddler named Lakanta who is something more, a female centaur named Rin, Tildi, and two guards. A side plot involves a prince, a younger son undervalued by his father, who roams and runs errands for Olen, as Magpie, a minstrel.

Though An Unexpected Apprentice is a fairly standard quest fantasy and the villain's motives are a little weak, it does have some nice original elements, starting with its smallfolk heroine and continuing to concepts like the Madcloud and the manipulation of runes to change reality. And its ending leaves lots of room for at least one sequel.

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