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REVIEW: Dynamicist – Lee Hunt

Dynamicist - Lee Hunt

Genre: Fantasy

Reviewer: Scott

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About The Book

Would it kill you to create something genuinely new? In Robert’s world, it used to. Supernatural vengeance for invention is now a thing of the past.

Young, optimistic, quick of mind and quick to act, Robert thinks being invited to the New School is an invitation to change the world. But change is difficult when there is no history of innovation.

He is initially successful in his studies, but nothing is as simple as he naively imagines. His classmates confuse and frustrate him. One is a drunk, while another two constantly stalk him. Is it for love or something more sinister?

Robert’s optimism is further tested by protestors who circle the campus, decrying the newly invented breed of grain. They claim it is poison and that the New School should be punished by Nimrheal, the god who formerly murdered inventors. Robert suspects foreign business influences are behind the protests, but he quickly finds that investigating their cause is dangerous.

Robert’s most difficult challenges are his unresolved childhood issues. His mother died while he was a child. Robert’s formative helplessness and inability to remember her face projects into a powerful and blinding protectiveness towards all women. When a campus assault pushes Robert over the edge, his hopes of even staying at the New School are jeopardized. He cannot aspire to change the world if he does not even know himself.

At the same time as Robert struggles on campus, a powerful, ruthless and emotionally closed man known only as the Lonely Wizard journeys across an empty wilderness to return home. As Robert and the Lonely Wizard move closer together, Robert finds that instead of entering a golden era of invention, he may instead be on the brink of a cold war and an endless, unchanging dark age.

The Review

I just finished the first fantasy book I have read in some time – Dynamicist, by Lee Hunt. It’s book one in a trilogy (conveniently called The Dynamicist Trilogy), and I am going to bestow one of the highest compliments I can on this book. It’s different (in a good way).

The story starts off a bit slowly – not a knock, because mmany of mine are the same). Hunt introduces the protagonist (referred to variously by his first and last names throughout the story) – Robert Endicott. Endicott is a thoughtful soul who’s filled with the impetuousness of youth, who is constantly being urged by his elders to slow down and consider all angles of a problem before charging in like a bull in a china shop.

The Dynamicist is set against a mostly agrarian society, but it uses one of my favorite tropes in spec fic – the up-and-coming society, during a renaissance period after a long dark ages, as new discoveries and inventions start to change life in Robert’s world. I loved things like the new grain elevator that Robert helped to design and build with his grandfather, the sense of discovery in the air, and the use of both magic and machinery in the tale.

Kirkus called Dynamicist “A philosophically minded series opener that deftly merges science, fantasy, and college life.” I’d call it an thinking man’s Harry Potter, if Harry were older, more thoughtful, and the author didn’t carry all the baggage of the creator of Hogwarts. Dynamicist is an intellectual tale, which is one of the things that sets it apart from other more “low-road” series.

And Hunt’s magical system is fascinating. The world is scarred from a previous war that unleased terrible chaos and instilled a centuries-long fear of change. As change once again comes to the forefront, some worry that the powers that almost destroyed everything before will be unleashed again.

So instead of training wizards, who generally go about using their powers willy-nilly by instinct, consequences be damned, the New School is teaching its students mathematics and discipline. When magic must be used, it must be used precisely and with forethought for the costs and consequences. They aren’t training wizards – they’re training “dynamicists.”

Every good fantasy keeps its secrets, and there are a few here that are revealed in the last few chapters. I won’t spoil them for you, other than to say at least one truly caught me off guard. I love when that happens.

As the book progresses, Robert and his friends in class bond, band together, and start to peel back the layers of the past to expose what’s really going on. One thing that’s not solved in book one – what’s behind the legend of the mysterious Lonely Wizard. The wizard’s story parallels Roberts’, and we sense that at some point they will intersect.

The story ends in a satisfying place, but with a few revelations that will keep you reading into book two, Herald. That’s my next stop – I’ll report back from the other side.

I highly recommend Dynamicist – it’s a well-thought-out, high minded fantasy with a very satisfying set of twists and turns that’s not quite like anything else I have read in high fantasy. And to me, that’s a great accomplishment indeed.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.  

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