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The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman {Just Hatched}

Just Hatched Book Feature

Just Hatched is a feature where I share my first impressions of a book after the first chapter. Check out the announcement post for more information.

Note: I received an advanced copy of THE EVIL WIZARD SMALLBONE from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman {Just Hatched}

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman
Published by Candlewick Press on September 13, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 416 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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When twelve-year-old Nick runs away from his uncle’s in the middle of a blizzard, he stumbles onto a very opinionated bookstore. He also meets its guardian, the self-proclaimed Evil Wizard Smallbone, who calls Nick his apprentice and won’t let him leave, but won’t teach him magic, either. It’s a good thing the bookstore takes Nick’s magical education in hand, because Smallbone’s nemesis—the Evil Wizard Fidelou—and his pack of shape-shifting bikers are howling at the borders. Smallbone might call himself evil, but compared to Fidelou, he’s practically a puppy. And he can’t handle Fidelou alone. Wildly funny and cozily heartfelt, Delia Sherman’s latest is an eccentric fantasy adventure featuring dueling wizards, enchanted animals, and one stray boy with a surprising knack for magic.

3 Stars

How is the writing style?

The cover blurb describes it as “wildly funny” – but I would describe the tone of the book as more quirky and droll, bordering occasionally on the snarky.  The vocabulary will have even well-educated adult readers reaching for the dictionary, and so I am having trouble deciding if it is aimed at teens or even adults, despite the age of the protagonist (12), and the classic middle-grade fantasy adventure story arc involving a mistreated orphan who has unknown potential.

General tone of the beginning

This tale has the feel of a fairy-tale, but not the Mother Goose/Disney retelling of the old stories.  It’s definitely darker, filled with a grumpy wizard who lives in a big house in the middle of the woods.  He’s more like the old fairies who have ways of twisting words and agreements to suit themselves and who make prisoners of unsuspecting travelers like our hero, Nick.  There are also skin walkers (nastier versions of wer-wolves and wer-coyotes), hints that some of the wizard’s pets are also enchanted prisoners, and a town that is so perfect that it must hide some major dark secrets.

Setting, genre, etc?

This is an interesting fantasy adventure that feels a lot like an old-style fairy tale.  While the plot line is mostly straight out of the middle-grade play book, the writing style argues more for older readers – at least teens, although I think adults would enjoy the droll humor and the sense that we have read bits of this before …. somewhere.


  1. My current read, leave me alone! (~5 stars)
  2. Reading in the near future *hides from TBR pile glare* (~4 stars)
  3. Hoping to get back to eventually (~3 stars)
  4. Probably not getting back to but someone else will like it (~2 stars)
  5. Don’t really want to push this copy on anyone else (~1 star)

I’m giving this one three stars.  I find myself turning pages just to see if my guesses about the plot developments are correct.  It is such a mash up of the Grimm fairy-tales, TV’s Once Upon a Time, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (with a little bit of Native American skin walker mythology thrown in for good measure) that I keep wanting to find out where the book goes next.

Have you read this one yet? Are you inclined to check it out?


The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

© 2017, Barbara. All rights reserved.


  1. Thanks for the review Barbara. I actually like it when I read books that make me reach the dictionary. Easy books are nice to read, but if I want to extend my vocabulary, I tend to turn to more those that use more complicated words. So that’s actually a plus. Will check it out :)
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