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    Review of A WIZARD IN BEDLAM by Christopher Stasheff


    TOR Fantasy, 1980

    For hundreds of years, the churls have been oppressed, raped, murdered, and exploited by the lords who brought them to their planet. Once, a rebel leader rose from among them--DeCade. And legend of DeCade's return still fills the churls with hope. But, for runaway Churl Dirk, DeCade's legend is a problem too. An organization of runaway churls founded by DeCade's partner, the wizard, controlls the trading fleet that supplies the planet where the churls are held captive. But they cannot move until the people are ready, and the people are waiting for the return of DeCade. There have been plenty of rumors of DeCade's return over the generations, but how can a dead man return--and there is no doubt that DeCade is dead, killed by the nobility in the great rebellion.

    Dirk is sent to investigate the latest rumor of DeCade's return and finds instead an extraplanetary nobleman, Gar. Gar is a do-gooder, wandering around the galaxy in his own spaceship, but Dirk knows that Gar is trouble--and trouble is something the nobles are quick to crack down on. A noble raiding party follows up almost as soon as Dirk and Gar meet, and Gar manages to rescue Dirk but is himself captured. Dirk is faced with the decision of trying to rescue Gar, or continuing with his mission--the mission that has been central to the lives of his consortium since DeCade's death in the first revolution.

    Author Christopher Stasheff (see more reviews of novels by Stasheff) writes convincingly of a future world where fantasy can come true--for the few who are willing to exploit the many. Dirk and Gar make a good team with Dirk being cast in the role of Dr. Watson to Gar's Sherlock Holmes. As the protagonist, Dirk is sympathetic, caught between multiple admirable goals, taunted by the beauty just beyond his reach, and torn between the love of the land of his birth and the reality that even the churls see him as an outsider--not really one of them.

    In his Rogue Wizard series, Stasheff presents a number of different societies in need of overthrow and revolution--with Gar the Tom Paine of his day. Although some of the books are better than others, all are entertaining. A WIZARD IN BEDLAM is the second book in the series and one of the best. I also found the martial arts details to be well researched and integrated--something that's very welcome in the fantasy world.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 4/13/04

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