On the grand spectrum of emotional resonance, fantasy stories often seem rather limited in scope. There’s the Old Fairy Tale—that gruesome cautionary fable. And there’s the Modern Fairy Tale—that cutesy romp through wonderland.
Fantasy can be high or low, light or dark, urban or rural.
But in a genre of comedic glades and nihilistic wastes, it’s rare to find a tale that spans the gamut as convincingly as The Sorcerer’s Bane. With this first installment in her Seven Words series, C. S. Wachter flings thematic windows open to sunlight and storms.
Seven words for seven worlds. It’s been a thousand years since deliverance from evil was prophesied to the portal-linked planets of Ochen, and now the time of the Light Bringer draws nigh.
But dark forces conspire in secret.
C. S. Wachter self-published The Sorcerer’s Bane in 2018. She lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and has enjoyed Christian fantasy all her life.
On the evening of his sixth birthday, Rayne, crown prince of Ochen and sole scion of the blessed line, is kidnapped by Sigmund, a dispossessed sorcerer obsessed with vengeance. For ten long years the prince is enslaved and brainwashed in preparation for Sigmund’s coup de grâce: the day Rayne is assigned to assassinate his own parents and end the blessed line forever.
Ten years. Easy to write; not easy to live. And the reader is made to live it. With scant respite, the living nightmare of Rayne’s young life unfolds in anguished detail. The subjugation, manipulation, brutality, and vampiric abuse is unrelenting. Despair circles like a vulture. And yet as the darkness grows, pinpricks of light shine all the brighter. This isn’t a cynical narrative.
How can The Sorcerer’s Bane feel so dark and yet remain so bright? The secret’s in the scale. Those petty cruelties that daily crush Rayne’s spirit are matched in specificity by small kindnesses unlooked-for. Readers behold brief visions of beauty in everyday life, and simple joys like morning light, fresh snowfall, or honey on toast.
When someone is subjected to pitiless degradation, it’s so much easier to appreciate the little blessings we otherwise take for granted.
Yes, this is a tale of endurance, but also a parable of compassion. For the friends who sustain Rayne don’t know of his true nature. They cannot guess how their faithfulness in the little things—like feeding a dirty slave boy, or leading him in prayer—will shake the councils of the great and turn the knife-balanced fate of Ochen. And is it ever any different in our world?
However, at times The Sorcerer’s Bane is numbingly repetitious. Its characters pensively speak in an oddly modern way. Its spiritual world has mixed elements: both mystical platitudes and Christianity-in-all-but-name.
Yet despite all this, the story avoids a sense of preachiness, even during actual sermons. That’s because every drop of insight dispensed by wise old men or wise old scrolls is a ladle of water in a desert of pain. It can’t be sentimentality when it’s earned with blood and tears. And in the worlds of Ochen, the bringer of light must first pass through the darkness.
Best for: Adults seeking astonishment by all of life’s horror and splendor.
Discern: Pervasive sadism, emotional and physical abuse, gruesome violence and torment, brief mild language, and some suggestive humor.