Seer: A Wizard’s Journal by Jef Murray. Book review

seerSEER: A WIZARD’S JOURNAL by Jef Murray, Oloris Publishing, p/b, £14.95, www.olorispublishing.com

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

Part one of The Hobbit movie has been released, and this novel contains snippets of a wizard’s life comprised of tales, poems, essays and artwork that takes us through the journey. It was published in partnership with Grail Quest Books, and for the cover artwork, the Tolkien feel is pretty obvious. A tall wizard stares into an uncertain distance holding his staff, looking at the ray of hope for the future. What is very interesting is that Jef used a photograph of himself as inspiration for the cover.

The author acts as an all-rounder who writes, and illustrates this novel with a few paintings, and black and white sketches. It is good to see that he has not tried to copy the style of the original Tolkien artist, John Howe. Instead he has used his own style when drawing on these themes.

The introduction piques the interest straight away and starts with a short story of Linya, one of the sacred elven rings and its effect on every one of its bearers. Jef uses this much shorter story to act as an example of the many stories in this volume and their diverse themes. Readers are supposed to get something out of reading the stories, and it is easy to see why as they draw on different themes and emotions that all connect to fantasy or Tolkien or Arthurian.

Seer: A Wizard’s Journal contains a series of short stories that pay homage to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and go further to mention other creatures and characters in that mythos that did not feature much in the novels, such as vampires. The preface goes a long way to describing what the book is about, and its point as a work of literature. Readers should view it as though it has been written by a seer, a wizard who has travelled the ancient world and seen a great deal over time. On his travels he has come into contact with trolls, vampires, artists, ring wraiths, elves, and dwarves.

Jef by profession was originally an artist, so it is interesting to see he has taken the leap to being a published writer. He has also managed to share with us his small portfolio of artwork. From the art, it is obvious that he is an accomplished artist and one who has learned a lot from working on fantasy art. His works resemble the old woodcut style you would expect from older book illustrations, and it fits with the stories. He had produced the sketches purely for the stories, and some contain more than one piece. Each of the stories can be read as a standalone, but there is a theme linking them all if the reader cares to delve deep enough, though there are characters who appear in other stories, so there is a continuance there too. This is what is so mystifying about this novel, and one which warms the reader to it. The stories are about anything from romance, love, war, wizards of course, and the concept of there being a real and definite evil lurking in society.