Book Review: Spell or High Water (2014)
As the second installment of Scott Meyer’s Magic 2.0 series, Spell or High Water follows Martin Banks on another adventure in the comedic sci-fi/fantasy novel. In the first novel, Off To Be A Wizard, Martin traveled back in time* and begins his training to be a wizard. This training consists of both developing computer programs called Macros, multi-part systems of programing, and developing his charismatic alter ego “Martin the Magnificent”. In Spell or High Water, Martin and Phillip are invited to a summit in Atlantis to discuss ways to manage the growing wizard community; a collection of computer programmers who are located in different parts of the world and different instances of time.
Spell or High Water is the second installment of Magic 2.0
Upon arriving at Atlantis, Martin and Phillip are caught up in a plot to kill one of the ruling members of the city, Brit the Younger. One aspect of Spell or High Water that differs from the first novel is in the construction of the plot. Both novels deliver similar wit from Martin and company, but this novel develops more like a detective story with more twists and turns than the previous novel delivered. I would rate Spell or High Water a Ok, Decent Effort. Even though the shift in structure offers a different approach to delivering the characters to the reader, the overall style remains the same. Meyer told where he could show and the language remained limited in the dynamism possible. With an introduction of a new character, Roy, the contrast between the two, Martin and Roy, provided no clear insight into either of the characters. The relationship felt forced because soon after Martin started training Roy, to be a wizard, Roy was given a new mentor.
There was also an interesting side story at play in this novel. Jimmy, previously banished, with his access to the file cut off, for his crimes in Medieval England, appeared as he journeys to regain his power. The character of Jimmy began as a charming antagonist and later developed into an engaging anti-hero.
The variety of attacking spells, spawned by the number of wizards presents, breaths life in the traditional story arch
Although Meyer is pulling from various genres and archetypes, he still is able to paint an interesting picture in the reader’s imagination. Near the end of the book, where Martin figures out who is trying to kill Brit the Younger, he confronts the antagonist. [Spoilers?] My favorite imagination of this novel comes when Martin emerges from the other side of the “pursued by the dragon, the conquistador, a three-headed wolf, a stone golem, and a small pack of vicious Chihuahuas” (373). The variety of attacking spells, spawned by the number of wizards presents, breaths life in the traditional story arch. The contrast here is in the uniqueness of Meyer’s approach to the subject.
In all, the series has captivated my attention. These novels (the two reviewed thus far) have an interesting plot and characters. At times the story remains unsophisticated because Meyer tells the audience what happened, rather than showing the reader. If you read the first, continue the journey with Martin to Atlantis in Spell or High Water.
*Time is a relative concept in the series. Because the wizards directly influence Medieval England in the first novel, two schools of thought developed about how time works in the computer program. Phillip thinks that after the wizards travelled to the past, the computer program created a new, alternative timeline that would all the wizards to interact with the present moment. Others believe that at some point in the future, there will be an event that rights the historical context. See also Brit the Younger and Brit the Elder.