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The Late Great Wizard
by Sara Hanover
DAW Books; $16; 328pp
Published: September 2018

I really enjoyed this.

College student Tessa Andrews fills in for the regular driver in her Richmond, Virginia neighborhood doing their version of Meals on Wheels. One of her more interesting clients is Professor Brandard who lives in an old house full of books and fascinating, pithy conversation.

One night she gets a frantic call on her cell phone for help. A word is gasped out: “Fire!” She recognizes Professor Brandard’s voice and rushes over to his house which she discovers is completely engulfed in flames. Before she can rush inside, she hears a rustling in the bushes and finds a buff, gorgeous, stark-naked but confused young man. Startled, to say the least, she’s about to grab him when she hears some angry voices arguing and talking about “beheading him”. She and the young man hide in the bushes.  Luckily the angry ones don’t find her and she rushes off to get some clothes. When she brings him back to her home, she simply tells her mother he’s Professor Brandard’s nephew, everything he owns was burned in the fire---and his parents are doing research in the Andes for medicinal herbs and are out of touch.

Actually, the young man, they name Brian is really Professor Brandard---a phoenix wizard. Granted self-immolation is a bit extreme, but it saved him from being captured by a demon named Simon Steptoe and his minions. So both the newly forming thoughts of the young Brian live side by side with the old professor’s knowledge.

Oh, Tessa’s life is the never the same.

And what a journey we’re pulled along on. In the midst of dealing with regular college classes and an upcoming charity auction at a very fancy country club, Tessa meets the magical denizens of the world. There’s the gorgeous Remy who was once Brandard’s lover, there’s Steptoe Mortimer, an Iron Dwarf and Brandard’s best friend.  All of course, have their own agendas.

There’s an organization called The Society, some kind of magical union….and it turns out the very hunky new police detective in Richmond, Carter Phillips, is also a member of The Society.

All this action, well, a lot of it is centered around the evil Malendar, some kind of magical being who wants to control all the magic, in a dark and evil way. And it really wants to stop Professor Brandard.  There is also the Hashimotos, father and daughter (the daughter a kitsune) who want to pair up with Malendar—in hopes of finally taking him out.

Overall is a quest to find Brandard’s magical relics which are hidden in Washington, D.C. and New York City because there’s a driving need to have Brian complete the phoenix ritual started in the flames of his house.

The characters are terrific…even the mom, who’s the vaguest one of all has some tragedy in her life (husband disappears).  Tessa is intelligent and rolls with all the strangeness that crosses her way, while still trying to help with the charity auction (which has a nasty undercurrent to it) and maintain her grade average. The magic is interesting with a different flavor than most, at least to my mind.

Really, this was great read. ~~ Sue Martin

For other titles by Sara Hanover click here

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