Book Reviews,  Fantasy,  Magical Realm

Book Review: The Wizard’s Butler


The Wizard’s Butler
by Nathan Lowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“He thinks he’s a wizard,” they said.

For five grand a month and a million dollar chaser, Roger Mulligan didn’t care how crazy the old geezer was. All he had to do was keep Joseph Perry Shackleford alive and keep him from squandering the estate for a year.

They didn’t tell him about the pixies.

(Publisher’s book teaser)

Joseph Perry Shackleford lives in Shackleford House, a sprawling, ancient mansion in the midst of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Both the man and his home are aging relics of a bygone time, and forgotten by all but his closest friends. Mr. Shackleford is a recluse who spends nearly all of his waking hours in his library, reading only one book out of his vast collection. After the death of his butler, Perkins, he finds himself alone.

His niece has taken it upon herself to hire a new butler to tend to the old man’s needs. Roger Mulligan seems at first glance to be the least likely candidate for the job, given his action-packed history as a soldier and an EMT, but there’s something about the place, and the old man, that draws him in. The exorbitant salary and the promise of a seven-figure bonus if he lasts a full year sure doesn’t hurt, either.

There’s the basic premise. But what can’t be easily captured in a synopsis is the way this story will gently get under your skin. It will chip away at character stereotypes, and possibly even redefine your notions of family, devotion, love, legacy, and magic.

Author Nathan Lowell has the ability to write stories almost devoid of exciting ‘big action’. The Wizard’s Butler is told from the viewpoint of Mulligan, the new butler. It’s a deceptively simple premise, which is actually a complex, far-reaching story that is subtly revealed through the routine tasks and interactions of daily life.

It’s enjoyable to watch Mulligan’s transformation into his new role as a butler. Rather than being a hindrance, his time in the military instilled in him an appreciation of order and tidiness, as well as the ability to respect and defer to his new employer’s wishes. One rather amusing chapter deals with Mulligan being fitted for his new uniform by a rather quirky tailor. This experience gives him his first clue that his life is taking a turn towards the extraordinary.

What I found to be wonderfully clever about the story is that one never knows where the twists will come from. The story is told gently and precisely. It’s not a rollercoaster action story, where one can see the top of each peak in the distance. I found each revelation to be very believable, and satisfying.

As the small actions and revelations start to stack up, I began to experience a sense of urgency—a need to know how seemingly impossible situations would resolve. But I didn’t want the pace to change. Had the author raced towards a resolution by throwing the characters into overblown situations, I would have felt cheated.

Brew yourself a cup of tea, find the coziest seat in the house, and settle in for a story that is satisfying and uplifting. Meanwhile, I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel, The Wizard’s Cat, which is in the works right now.
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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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