Books with bumbling wizards?
September 18, 2007 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for books with bumbling wizards?

I'm looking for light, entertaining reads in the fantasy vein. Think Douglas Adams with magic. Bumbling wizards are a must--extra points for talking dragons and unicorns.

I enjoyed Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and most of Terry Brooks' Kingdom for Sale series.

Most recent books read were Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and Martin Amis' Money.
posted by killjoy to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The Xanth books from Piers Anthony were favorites of mine, around the time I was reading Douglas Adams. Perhaps a bit in the teen genre, but if you liked Harry Potter, that may be ok with you.
posted by nkknkk at 3:41 PM on September 18, 2007

Robert Aspirin has a series along these lines, I think.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:50 PM on September 18, 2007

The MYTH series; I haven't read them but they always seem to get mentioned alongside Xanth. Both are the kind of thing where each book is fun, short, full of painful puns, and basically the same plot. (YMMV)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:52 PM on September 18, 2007

Robert Asprin's MythAdventures series.
Terry Brooks's Landover novels.
Craig Shaw Gardner's Ebenezum, Wuntvor and Ali Baba trilogies.

And by all means, read some Xanth, but stop after the first handful. Later on they just get creepy, and not in a good way.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:53 PM on September 18, 2007

Faint of Butt, you're absolutely right. I should have mentioned that. Off the top of my head, I recommend "A Spell for Chameleon," "Night Mare," and "Ogre Ogre."

... I can't remember what day it is, but I can remember the plots of these three books I haven't read since I was twelve. Go figure!
posted by nkknkk at 3:54 PM on September 18, 2007

Diana Wynn Jones is good, though her wizards aren't as bumble-y as Terry Pratchett's. Howl's Moving Castle or The Lives of Christopher Chant are favorites of mine.
posted by emyd at 3:54 PM on September 18, 2007

How about The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs?
posted by Jess the Mess at 4:08 PM on September 18, 2007

Faint: I don't think Piers ever wrote anything not creepy, although "Pornucopia" in its relative honesty probably comes closest. Read his books past the age of 14 at your own peril.

For recommendations, although also v. much in the "typically read by 14 year olds" vein, you could look at any of the kender-centric Dragonlance books. You're looking for Fizban (or maybe Zifnab? It's been a while,) the bumbling-wizard incarnation of the setting's Zeus. Apologies, that's not a very good recommendation, but it's all I can come up with.
posted by kavasa at 4:10 PM on September 18, 2007

It has been a long time since I read this but I believe The Compleat Enchanter stuff by L. Sprage de Camp fits the bumbling wizard description.
posted by bove at 4:20 PM on September 18, 2007

Apologies, it should be L. Sprague de Camp, and the original stories were coauthored by Fletcher Pratt. I haven't read any of the stuff written in the 90s (some of which is by other authors).
posted by bove at 4:28 PM on September 18, 2007

The Last Unicorn fits your description. I'll add that it is aimed towards younger people. Disclaimer: I've only seen the movie (with The Dude singing!) (because my girlfriend made me, honest!).
posted by Jorus at 4:31 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Perhaps not quite a bumbling wizard, but if you're up to bumbling Chinese Elders, Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds has a similar feel to the Pratchett books.
posted by that girl at 4:32 PM on September 18, 2007

The Merlin portrayed in T.H. White's Sword in the Stone is pretty bumbling, as I recall.
posted by yarrow at 4:49 PM on September 18, 2007

Highly recommend The Once & Future King, TH White. Sword in the Stone is based on it, probably Camelot, as well. Very well written, I loved it in my teens and still loved it on later re-readings.
posted by theora55 at 4:53 PM on September 18, 2007

Jinx, yarrow.
posted by theora55 at 4:53 PM on September 18, 2007

I just read Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher. It's a magic + crime solving. It's light and a slight variation on the above requirements.
posted by ejaned8 at 4:56 PM on September 18, 2007

Bridge of Birds is a delightful masterpiece. I haven't re-read it in years, and I still remember it with a huge grin on my face. The first draft is online, linked in this metafilter post.

I also recently read Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest series (kind of refound through ask mefi) - it's written for kids, but I enjoyed it as much at age 27 as I did at age 8.

Actually, it's worth working your way through the wealth of children's fantasy novels - there are real gems there, ignored just because they are shelved in the "wrong" section of the library/bookstore. I read Howl's Moving Castle (mentioned above) for the first time as an adult, and loved it. Some will be serious, but much will be of a lighter fare, and I often find them a little more original than what is written for adults in the lighter side of the genre. I even prefer Pratchett's children's novels to his adult novels - he jokes about how he can tell the difference, as his children's novels win awards, but don't make as much money.

Back on the adult side - Tanya Huff has a light fantasy series about a slightly bumbling magic user, not a wizard but a "keeper", which begins with Summon the Keeper. It's a far cry from her vampire series, which is also good, but decidedly NOT light.
posted by jb at 5:25 PM on September 18, 2007

I've also always been a fan of the Diane Duane Wizards series (which a lot of the media seem utterly ignorant about when they talk about Harry Potter), and this site has some reviews of the more recent ones. Actually, it has reviews of many, many SF & F books. I think I'm going to have to go spend some good time there.
posted by jb at 5:39 PM on September 18, 2007

Sorry - here is the link for the Diane Duane reviews. There are actually 4 previous novels she doesn't review - they are listed at the top of the same page. (I've only read the first three).
posted by jb at 5:41 PM on September 18, 2007

For the swashbuckling fantasy, Jennifer Roberson particularly Tiger and Del were great. While it's not so much magicians, it definitely has that fun fantasy style.
posted by ejaned8 at 5:50 PM on September 18, 2007

Here's two audio short stories that contain a sort of bumbling wizard. It's for the kids and pretty dang adorable but don't let that stop you.
posted by chairface at 5:52 PM on September 18, 2007

Dragonlance has a bumbling wizard or two. The Drizzt Do'Urden series also features an entire family of bumbling wizards at some point, but I'm not sure which books they were in. The Harpel family shows up throughout different Forgotten Realms books.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:09 PM on September 18, 2007

LibraryThing may be helpful here.
posted by mediareport at 6:19 PM on September 18, 2007

The book you are looking for is definitely The Last Unicorn.

The book isn't aimed at younger people, though, even though the film is.
posted by Windigo at 6:21 PM on September 18, 2007

Lawrence Watt-Evans' Ethsahr series is filled with various bumbling wizards.
posted by jefftang at 6:23 PM on September 18, 2007

nthing the robert aspirin "myth" series. granted, i read them a million years ago, but i remember they were hysterical.

my sister keeps pestering me to read connie will's "to say nothing of the dog." my sister is hilarious, so i am sure it is terribly funny.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:03 PM on September 18, 2007

If youre starting with Jim Butchers Dresden Files, you might want to start with the first book, Storm Front
posted by Jacen at 7:21 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest: talking dragons, capable witches, liberated princesses, and a magician who's not so much bumbling as nerdy.
posted by moonlet at 7:50 PM on September 18, 2007

Seconding White's The Once and Future King and Beagle's The Last Unicorn.
posted by gwyn at 8:09 PM on September 18, 2007

Nthing the recommendation for Beagle's The Last Unicorn (though I'd strenuously disagree that the animated movie was aimed at kids - I think TLU one does an amazing job of providing some moments of "woah factor" for adults, too, far more successfully than most animated "family films" ... but that's a discussion for another time and another thread) - nevertheless, Schmendrick the wizard is such a delightful character, you've just gotta love the guy. I'd love to see him and Rincewind get together for a chit-chat sometime.

Anyway, as I recall Simon Green's Blue Moon Rising fits the bill as a light fantasy novel with humorous overtones; I know it DEFINITELY had a talking unicorn that featured prominently and I'm 98% certain there was a bumbling wizard in there, too, though it's been a few years now and I can't say for certain - it might be worth checking out nevertheless. And while this is a lengthier and somewhat darker series I'd nevertheless add Weis and Hickman (of Dragonlance fame)'s Death Gate Cycle to the mix, too - Alfred the Sartan, one of the main characters, is a gangly, sensitive wizard-type with an unfortunate habit of fainting when things get stressful ... despite this, as the books go on it's very clear he's not there for comic relief, but even then if it makes you happy there's another goofy old wizard who shows up from time to time who is more of the 'comic relief type' (not to mention, he's also more or less a cameo figure from the Dragonlance novels which is rather neat if you've read those) ...
posted by zeph at 9:02 PM on September 18, 2007

My favorite "bumbling magician" series is Master of the Five Magics and its sequels. Very fun, very readable. Not as lighthearted as the Xanth books but a very logical system of magic, which I found appealing. Good luck finding these - they're out of print.
posted by zanni at 9:21 PM on September 18, 2007

Terry Goodkind's series The Sword Of Truth Novels are about a War Wizard, who has no idea he is one, and actually ends up being the Seeker, a special type who is meant to bring about great change in the world. Long series but well written. He discovers new powers and often solves complex problems quite by accident.
posted by PetiePal at 1:53 PM on September 19, 2007

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