The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman is a middle grade novel. When twelve-year-old Nick runs away from his uncle’s in the middle of a blizzard, he stumbles onto a very opinionated bookstore. He also meets its guardian, the self-proclaimed Evil Wizard Smallbone, who calls Nick his apprentice and won’t let him leave, but won’t teach him magic, either. It’s a good thing the bookstore takes Nick’s magical education in hand, because Smallbone’s nemesis—the Evil Wizard Fidelou—and his pack of shape-shifting bikers are howling at the borders. Smallbone might call himself evil, but compared to Fidelou, he’s practically a puppy. And he can’t handle Fidelou alone.
The Evil Wizard Smallbone has complex characters and situations that kept me guessing for a bit, even with the amount of science fiction, fantasy, and mythology i have read. Nick has finally escaped a abusive house only to stumble into the care of the evil wizard Smallbone. He is made an apprentice and put to work doing all the menial tasks you might expect. However, there is much more the the wizard he works for than any might expect. the small town he lords over, and all its inhabitants are in his debt- but no one remembers why. Secrets and magic at at the heart of it all- including the wolves, coyotes, and bikers that want to destroy it all. Nick is not a simple boy, nor is Smallbones a simple wizard. They are much more than the stereotypical figures one might expect after the classic set up, and the other characters that play large roles in the excitement are all multidimensional as well. This includes the villagers, the bad guys, and even the pets and farm animals kept by Smallbones. I enjoyed the use of several creatures and ideas from mythology and fairy tales were used with different twists than normally seen. I also liked that I was genuinely surprised at a twist or two, but even when I expected an outcome it was done in a way that was completely enjoyable and worth the read.
The Evil Wizard Smallbone was so much more than I expected. The time between requesting a book from Netgalley and me reading it is sometimes long enough that I remember nothing of the initial blurb when I start to read, and this was the case here. I was very happy to discover a middle grade novel with complex characters, plot twists, and adventure. I can think of many readers, including reluctant readers that I will gladly recommend it too. I was so impressed with the character and world building that I am not ready to let go of this story at all. I am inspired to go back and read the previous books by the author.