The World of Yurt

 

The world of Yurt is a rather skewed version of Europe's Middle Ages. There are six novels in the series, plus three novellas.. All are told by Daimbert, the Royal Wizard of the tiny kingdom of Yurt. He got his first job there after barely managing to graduate from wizards' school, especially after all that embarrassment with the frogs.... For years I had probably read more mystery than fantasy, and hence there's a mystery of some type at the core of all the plots; the original Yurt is in many ways an English country house murder mystery. I've written the series so that each book is a complete story in itself, and they can thus be enjoyed in any order. But there is an overall story-line to the series, which is resolved in Yurt-6, and since people are born, grow up, marry, and die in the course of the series, it probably makes the most sense to read them chronologically, in the order given below.

Because the world of Yurt is based more or less on the European Middle Ages, there's a functioning Christian church. Personally, I'm always bothered by fantasy stories in which there's no organized religion at all (or ones in which the religion is just the creation of hypocritical and scheming priests), because as near as we can tell, going back to the cave, every human society has always had some version of religion. Of course, in this universe the wizards are rather proud of staying well away from religious issues. One of the main strands throughout the series is the tension created by the friendship between the wizard Daimbert and the priest Joachim. They don't agree with each other or even always understand each other, but they're friends anyway.

However, the Yurt series is not, strictly speaking, set in the Middle Ages--not even an alternate Middle Ages with functioning magic. My idea is that this is what the nineteenth century might have been like if there had been no New World for Columbus to discover, no Protestant Reformation, no French Revolution, and no industrialization. Modern school magic has however created a lot of the trappings of civilization, including telephones and mass-produced newspapers. The organized Church in this world is also not quite the medieval church, although it may remind one of it. For one thing, there is no pope, and the alert reader may notice that there are also no monasteries (for men, although there are nunneries) and no archbishops. There were also no Crusades, because in this world the Jews always kept the Holy Land, rather than being driven out by the Romans, and although there is an equivalent of Islam in the East, the Muslims never drove either Christians or Jews from their holy sites. On the other hand, there are plenty of parallels to medieval Christianity. The behavior of the Cranky Saint is straight out of medieval "Saints' Lives," and the description of the Holy City in Mage Quest is borrowed from a twelfth-century pilgrim's description of Jerusalem. The scenes of Hell in Is This Apocalypse Necessary? are taken from medieval vision-literature. (And all this time you didn't even realize there was medieval vision literature.)

The stories in the series are very funny, because Daimbert is always seeing the absurd side of life. On the other hand, I resist being labeled a writer of "humorous fantasy," so far without major success. This is because I've never really enjoyed the kind of humorous fantasy that makes fun of the genre, where the joke is more important than the story or the characters. The Yurt series has plenty of excitement and deeper themes (and even raw terror) to go along with the humor--after all, all the stories end up being about mortality, sacrifice, and redemption, and other knee-slapping themes like that. I still keep hoping that someone will describe these stories as "searing" or "gripping," whereas the best I can generally manage is comments along the lines of "charming light fantasy," or "gave me a few chuckles." Daimbert points out that this is what I should have expected, in a series that starts with a book whose title is a pun.

 

The Individual Books

 

A Bad Spell in Yurt (1991)

The tiny kingdom of Yurt is the perfect place, or so it seems, for a young wizard who barely made it out of wizards' school. But soon Daimbert senses dark forces at work around him. Who can be responsible? The lovely young queen? The intensely serious chaplain? The old retired wizard? Or a dark secret from out of the kingdom's past? Soon Daimbert realizes that finding out may require all the magic he never quite learned properly in the first place, with his life the price of failure. Good thing he knows how to improvise!

The Wood Nymph and the Cranky Saint (1993)

Wizards should be careful what they wish for--sometimes wishes come true. Daimbert wishes Yurt could give him more excitement and responsibility, and before he knows it he is left in charge of the kingdom and has to deal with an active and irritable saint, a wood nymph with a marked interest in wizards, a mysterious and gigantic hunter, the royal prince's mid-life crisis, and a monster made with spells they never taught at the wizards' school.

The Lost Girls and the Kobold (2013)

It should be a simple assignment--a girl has gone missing up in the mountains, and Daimbert is called on to find her. But there are no mountains in Yurt, are there? Is Daimbert the only one who can see them, and why do old legends seem to be coming to life? And then there's the kobold...

Mage Quest (1993)

Daimbert is on the road to adventure with five guys from Yurt. It's supposed to be a quest for a lost lord and a trip to the Holy Land, and the king is eager to see the fabled blue roses of the East. But the adventurers are soon threatened by treachery, exotic eastern magery, and a big green djinn, as the line grows thin between a fatal curse and finding one's heart's desire.

Below the Wizards' Tower (2014)

Back from the East, Daimbert is summoned to the wizards' school in the City to give an account of his adventures. All seems well, until it appears that he has a doppelgänger--either that, or he's losing his mind. And when he's kidnapped, which person did the kidnappers want, him or his double? And behind it all he senses lurking a threat to all of institutionalized wizardry.

The Witch and the Cathedral (1995)

Love and magic don't mix, and neither do magic and the church. Daimbert, his heart broken by his queen, flees Yurt for the neighboring cathedral city. Nobody wants him there, not the cathedral priests, not the city council, not even the masters of the wizards' school. But he fears dark forces are only waiting for his departure to attack, and besides, he's just met a very intriguing witch....

Daughter of Magic (1996)

Daimbert's daughter is a chip off the old block--if he's not careful she'll turn him into a frog. As well as trying to nurture her abilities, Daimbert finds himself having to play Dad to much of the younger generation of Yurt, including twin strong-willed women, who decide to follow the exclusively male roles of knight and of priest. Meanwhile the kingdom is threatened by armies of undead warriors, an enormous fenris wolf, and a bogus miracle-worker who has a strange power over children....

A Long Way 'Til November (2015)

A wizard, a witch, and a bishop in disguise, all off on a road trip in a gypsy caravan. What could possibly go wrong?

But a pleasant autumn excursion for Daimbert quickly turns dark when accusations of ritual murder begin to fly and a schoolgirl turns up missing....

Is This Apocalypse Necessary? (2000) (now available!)

Way back when they were in wizards' school together, Elerius was the best student the teachers had ever seen, but Daimbert barely managed to get out with a diploma. Now, years later, Elerius is Royal Wizard of the West's most powerful kingdom, Daimbert is still at his first post in the tiny kingdom of Yurt, and the old Master of the wizards' school is dying. Elerius, of course, intends to succeed him. If his plans work out, he'll not just be in control of institutionalized wizardry, but also of all western kingdoms, cities, farms, even the church. Once messy individual initiative is eliminated, everything will work perfectly. Daimbert may be the only person who can make the world safe for mediocrity. To find a way to challenge the best wizard of his--or any--generation, he will have to journey to the exotic East, to the Land of Dragons, and even through Hell...

Having trouble locating Yurt books? The whole series is availale (autographed!) from the Wooster Book Company. Call them toll-free, 1-800-WUBOOK-1, from anywhere in North America. (For best service, call between 9:30 and 6:00 Mon.-Sat., EST, until 9:00 Thurs.-Fri.) Or email them at mail@woosterbook.com.

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