Book Review: A Home for Wizards
Despite being a sequel, the book isn’t inaccessible to new readers (though familiarity with his prior work, A Love Story for Witches, will help immensely). After a cold open which flashes forward to a wedding later in the story, Headley introduces us to Sparow Watkins, a young adult shaman who moves out of his rural home to make a life for himself in New York City. With no money, no job, and no sense of how to use his wizarding powers, he rents a room in a home with several other wizards and witches in the hopes of establishing himself. Perhaps as a metaphor for most disaffected youth these days, Sparow struggles with various familiar questions–his job, his sexual identity, his romantic interests–as well as unconventional ones, such as his identity as a wizard (which most of his peers have figured out by now).
The parallel (and really, dominant) story concerns regular human Adam Smith and his fiancee, Eva Grey, a witch. The protagonists from Headley’s prior novel, the two are planning a rare mixed mortal-sorcerer wedding with competing struggles of making a lives for themselves and fending off increasing demonic activity. It seems that Eva’s father, the evil wizard Matias, has returned and is planning world domination. Eva and her team of witches are struggling to fend off this plot; Adam just wants to live as a normal couple planning a normal wedding. In other words, despite the mystical elements, there’s a metaphor here for the work/life balance that all couples go through, and indeed, couples’ relationships are a recurring theme for most of the supporting characters in the story.
Headley writes a competent story here, as he’s got the basics down on how to structure a plot and how to write dialogue. His writing style does suffer from some difficulties and could stand to be refined and polished in future works. For one, he tends to be unnecessarily expository at the wrong times, such as an early action sequence which interrupts its flow with a description of what a character is wearing. A later section describes how Adam’s parents met, which while well-written, contributes nothing to the story since they’re relatively minor characters.
In exchange for the unneccessary descriptions, Headley could stand to do a little more world-building. This story lacks much of the sense of what makes his characters’ wizarding world unique from the human world. The Harry Potter universe, in contrast, gave a rich sense of its culture with wizarding activities that ran parallel to those of the muggles in the form of sports and newspapers and businesses. A Home for Wizards only infrequently presents these (the most prominent being a dating service for sorcerers run by Adam), but otherwise just showing the characters doing stuff without expounding on what makes their world unique.
Another flaw is that the dialogue feels a bit off and forced at time. Granted, characters in novels often speak without the “um”s and awkward pauses that people use in real life. However, Headley’s characters often speak a little too exaggeratedly at times. Adam and Eva’s interactions are often either excessively angry or just a little too saccharine. The main villain, Mattais, is also so drippingly evil that he comes off as a bad Voldemort parody at times. The dialogue needs to be both tightened up and toned down to be a little more believable. (It doesn’t help that there’s a few unnecessary grammatical errors in here either–the editor confused “your” and “you’re” too many times.)
Headley’s A Home for Wizards is a novel that shows a lot of his potential as an author, but also shows that he still needs some refinement to take it to the next level. Fans of sword-and-sorcery books may want to give it a try if they’re looking to sample an indie author, but be cautioned that it still has a ways to go before perfection.
Rating: Three wands out of five.