Scent of Magic

Scent of Magic
Andre Norton, 1998

Willadene has a talent for scent, and finally manages to leave her life as a kitchen drudge for her distant cousin to become an apprentice herbalist.  She has to master the skill quickly if she wants to help her mistress protect the Duke's daughter from the evil forces gathering in the land.

This is a decent character-centered adventure fantasy.  There's nothing groundbreaking, but nothing boring either. The characters are well articulated and interesting: Willadene, timid but insightful, Halwice the Herbmistress is kind and secretive, the Duke who is uncomfortable with ruling, his daughter, dealing with suddenly being called upon to be a public figure, the Chancellor, loyal even against the Duke's outward wishes, and others.

I like the idea of scent-based magic.  Something as simple as switching the sense the narration focuses on alters the feel of the story strongly.

It doesn't come together by the end as much as I might have hoped.  While the ending is fine, it relies a bit too heavily on a few cliches and one of Norton's favorite crutches: unexplained mysticism.  This makes it all feel rather mythic, but that doesn't mesh well with the very down-to-earth beginnings of the story.  Also the resolution of one major character is poorly explained.

The beginning and middle is stronger than the end, but not enough for me to really recommend this, except as filler.

2 Stars – An Okay Book

On the other hand, I bought this used for a dollar.  Not a bad read for a dollar.


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