The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Novarian series is made up of a trilogy, The Reluctant King, comprising The Goblin Tower, The Clocks of Iraz, and The Unbeheaded King, and two other novels, The Fallible Fiend and The Honorable Barbarian, which share a common background with the trilogy but otherwise are independent of it and of each other. All five books are set in and around a confederation of city-states known as Novaria, on the Prime Plane, one of several parallel worlds (of which Earth is considered an unpleasant, mechanized afterworld). On the Prime Plane, sorcerers can work uncertain magic by casting spells and calling on demons from one of the other parallel worlds. Technology is progressing, however, and its effectiveness at least rivals that of the magicians.

At the beginning of The Goblin Tower, Jorian is the unfortunate King of Xylar, which chooses a new king every five years by publicly beheading the incumbent, tossing the head to the crowd, and crowning whoever is unlucky enough to catch it. Jorian escapes with the aid of a sorcerer, Dr. Karadur, and in exchange agrees to help obtain the Kist of Avlen, a chest of sorcerous manuscripts guarded by a serpent-woman, and bring the Kist to a convention of magicians in the Goblin Tower. Although Jorian was not born to such work—all he ever wanted was to be a respectable craftsman and family man—he is successful. During the years he planned his escape from Xylar, he trained himself for the life of a wandering adventurer, knowing that the Xylarians would try relentlessly to recapture him to complete their ceremony.

In The Clocks of Iraz, Jorian has determined to return to Xylar to free his wife, Estrildis, the one member of his harem he chose for himself. Dr. Karadur agrees to help if Jorian will come to Karadur’s research institute in Iraz to fix the king’s large, elaborate mechanical clocks, which were designed and installed by Jorian’s father. After Jorian’s arrival, Iraz comes under siege. Jorian manages to prevent the enemy forces from mounting a coordinated attack by arranging the four faces of the clock tower to display different times. The divided enemy is overcome, and the grateful king chooses Jorian as his successor. Jorian leaves Iraz with Karadur, however, using the vehicle they have created to free...

(The entire section is 957 words.)