The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The short stories contained in Lord Darcy (collected first in Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates) were published, many in Analog, over a period of almost twenty years. The novel Too Many Magicians appeared in print shortly after the earliest stories. Many of the stories refer to events that occur in other works in the series, and many characters reappear as well, including Dr. Pateley, a physician (but not a Healer); Father Patrique, a renowned “Sensitive”; and Sir Thomas Leseaux, the theoretical thaumaturgist and brilliant theoretical mathematician who lacks the Talent to test his own theories but who nevertheless enjoys discussing his work with those who can.

The stories all take place in an alternate history in which the laws of magic have been determined. The brilliant and influential St. Hilary of Walsingham outlined the mathematics of magic in the thirteenth century. Although the laws are theoretically understandable by anyone who can follow the mathematics, they may be put into practice only by those who have the Talent, and that Talent must be trained. A guild of masters, journeymen, and apprentices has been formed to provide guidance, because although white magic has the full sanction of the church and most priests have some Talent, black magic is strictly forbidden and its use is severely punished.

The fact that magic has the place held by science in the world of the reader is not the only major difference between Lord Darcy’s world and the real world. The other major difference is that Richard I, called the Lion-Hearted, did not die from a stray arrow during a battle in the late twelfth century. Instead, he survived and made his way back to England, where he served long and well as king. His brother John was exiled, and his nephew Arthur, son of Richard and John’s brother Geoffrey, became king as Richard’s...

(The entire section is 780 words.)