The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice by Tom Holt – Book Review

The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice
Written by: Tom Holt
Published by: Orbit
ISBN: 978-0316368797


The Outsorcerer's Apprentice, Tom Holt, The Outsorcerer's Apprentice Book Review

The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice

The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice, the latest release from Humorous Fantasy Author, Tom Holt.


Normality, like beauty, is said to lie in the eye of the beholder, so for those people who call far-away magical lands home, barely a day passes without a dragon needing to be heroically slain, or wolves impersonating grandmothers and having little girls snatched from their jaws by passing woodcutters. Society is what it is. But in one of those many wolf-infested, temporarily dragon-free, Gosh, thanks, here’s my daughter and half of my kingdoms, it occurs to one particularly bright-hooded girl that the underlying rationale just doesn’t add up. Which is when all the trouble starts; or rather, when people (and goblins, for that matter; even lawyers) start to question the perfectly functional workings of a socio-economic system that, come to think of it, does seem rather built upon air more than sound governance. Which is another way of saying trouble, at least for exhibitionist emperors and the room’s resident elephant, who’s about to have four kinds of faecal matter beaten out of it and flung towards the nearest fan. But there again, normality doesn’t lie only in the greedy eye of the beholder; there’s also the eye of the quantum physics-charged doughnut being shrewdly stared through, so that’s alright then. Business as usual.

The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice, Tom Holt’s latest novel, takes the manifest disbelief that’s being suspended when we traverse the narrative of fairy tales, and exposes it, not merely on its own terms (which would be enough for most writers) but as an offshoot of the grander, chandelier-grade disbelief we suspend while living outside of fiction. All those things that don’t make sense in our lives; all the little absurdities that only we seem to see (because, if everybody saw them, surely someone would take action?); all the life tropes and smiley-faced meme-work with which we’ve lumbered ourselves and which must, to alien children, make Planet Earth seem ever so far, far away: Tom Holt doesn’t just notice these; he holds them to be fundamentally true (indeed, bloody obvious), and so incorporates them into the weave of everything he writes. The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice, like so many of Tom Holt’s previous books, brings to its readers a validatory thrill such as one might receive from knocking twice, very precisely, on Pandora’s Box and hearing, “Who’s there?” in reply. It’s as if a memo came through, unquestioned, to gather up the world’s top humourists and detonate the comedic equivalent of the atom bomb.

Powered by inventiveness and erudition in the sort of proportions that tend to have Health and Safety slapping breach notices all about the place, The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice both brightens the publishing landscape and affirms life’s inherent satire. One feels at times that Tom Holt must be writing to cheer himself up (he does live in England), and that scheming, exploitative forces of cosmic irony thus have visited upon him a Cassandra-esque suffering (ergo, appreciation) of everything darkly funny, all the better to fill his books with and make life more tolerable for us. In which case, the very least we can do in return is to not, on this occasion, disregard the publisher’s sustained typographical gaffe vis-à-vis backward-facing speech marks (proofreading was outsourced, no doubt, to a mirror-obsessed evil queen). We must find the strength not to buy into Tom Holt’s continued thraldom; for, when our resolve caves and unconscionably we purchase The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice and recommend it to friends and family and proselytise its virtues in over-wordy reviews, so too must we be endorsing those forces that reign (and rain) malignant over Mr. Holt’s corner of the happily ever after.

Reviewed by Jacob Edwards

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Tom Holt
Science Fiction & Fantasy Humor

A happy workforce, it is said, is a productive workforce.

Mmmm. Try telling that to an army of belligerent goblins. Or the Big Bad Wolf. Or a professional dragons slayer. Who is looking after their well-being? Who gives a damn about their intolerable working conditions, lack of adequate health insurance, and terrible coffee in the canteen?

Thankfully, with access to an astonishingly diverse workforce and limitless natural resources, maximizing revenue and improving operating profit has never really been an issue for the one they call "the Wizard." Until now.

Because now a perfectly good business model -- based on sound fiscal planning, entrepreneurial flair, and only one or two of the infinite parallel worlds that make up our universe -- is about to be disrupted by a young man not entirely aware of what's going on.

There's also a slight risk that the fabric of reality will be torn to shreds. You really do have to be awfully careful with these things.

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Jacob Edwards
Jacob Edwards writes creative and academic non-fiction, short stories, reviews and poetry, and has appeared in journals, magazines and anthologies in Australia, New Zealand, England, Canada and the US. He may be found online at, salvaging 42 word reviews at Derelict Space Sheep, posting poems of the everyday at and (to his eternal shame) now tweeting @ToastyVogon.
Jacob Edwards
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