The Wizard's Promise

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Cover of The Wizard's Promise

Author: Cliff McNish

Series: Doomspell

Publisher: Orion

Published in: 2002

Age Range: Pre Teens+

Period: Contemporary

Setting: Earth / Witch Planet of Ool

Genres:  FantasyMagic


  • Rachel is the 12-year-old first to discover her magical abilities and who feels the greatest responsibility for the safety of the Earth.
  • Eric is Rachel's younger brother with his own unique powers. He and Rachel are tremendously close, and he shares this affection with the Prapsies, bird like creatures he brought back from Ithrea.
  • Yemi is a two-year-old African boy of astonishing magical power who singlehandedly repelled a previous invasion of Witches. He loves and is loved by all creatures, sees everything as a game and is close only to his sister Fola.
  • Larpskendya is the greatest of the Wizards who have been fighting the Witches for millennia. He is very close to Rachel and Eric.
  • Gultrathaca is the evil and ugly leader of the Griddas, fighter witches.


The Griddas, fighter witches released by the High Witches to fight the Wizards, have turned and destroyed the High Witches themselves; and now they are turning their attention to Earth, and in particular to the child Yemi, and Rachel and Eric have to muster the newly-awakened magic of the children of Earth to defend the planet.

The children of Earth have had their latent magical powers released. This has had far-reaching effects: no-one goes to school; in some places, child-thieves and child-gangs are effectively unstoppable, except by other children; parents are jealous of their children's powers, since magic is lost at adolescence. Classes of magic-users have been identified: the thrill-seekers who push their new abilities to the limit, the deepers who have particular control over deep-water spells, the Spectrum who are adapted to listening and who form an advance-warning network; and the Feebles, who are those children without any magic.

Among all this, Rachel stands out as the first to have her magic released and in many ways still the most powerful. Her brother Eric has the unique talent of undoing magic, destroying a spell for ever. They liaise with Larpskendya, chief of the Wizards, who is watching for signs that the Witches are ready to attack the Earth. When the attack comes they are hard put to it to defend themselves, and Rachel and Eric must travel to the Witches' own planet where they form alliances and attempt to put an end to the Witches.


Literary Quality: All the books in this series show tremendous imaginative qualities: the ugliness of the witches, the notion of the spells as semi-sentient, the effect on the children of having their magic released stand out among other aspects.

There is a slight mixture of styles. By having the point-of-view character shift from chapter to chapter, the author is making it easy for a younger audience to discover what's going in, giving them in effect the God's Eye view. However, some of the subtlety needed to unravel the strands of the plot might be beyond such readers.

Family Situation: In one respect, this book stands out from others with gifted children who are out to save the world. In general, such a setup results in the adults being at best sidelined, and at worst despised. Here, though, although that situation is hinted at in others, Rachel and Eric's own parents, perfectly normal people, are still very close to their children and indeed continue to treat them as children, despite their special powers.

The Griddas recognise but dismiss family relationships, being interested only in effectiveness in battle.

Magic: Clearly, the use of magic is at the heart of this story and of the others in the series. The spells commanded by the users of magic are presented as almost sentient, guiding the user and jostling for position. The magic in question is a representation of preternatural power within the people themselves, rather than drawing on some external source.

Friendship & Loyalty: Aside from Rachel & Eric's own love for each other, driven obviously by their being brother and sister, and the loyalty of Eric and the Prapsies, we see many examples of simple friendship, from the perseverance of Heiki, once Rachel's enemy, and of Albertus, chief among the Spectrum, to the trust of little Yemi and ultimately the goodness of the Witches and Wizards when everything is revealed. A special case is the unstinting generosity of the children who attend each Spectrum, feeding and supporting him or her to allow the greatest chance to listen and watch and plan.

Life & Death: At one point, Eric contemplates genocide, considering it as an act of self-defence, an act within a war which they have little chance of winning. As he starts to enact this plan, several people try to stop him, but it is the love of the Prapsies which finally holds him back.

General: The use of such tremendous power in the hands of, possibly unscrupulous, children. While Eric & Rachel and, indeed, most of the children we witness are using their power for good, or at least for a simple enjoyment, there are those who are abusing that power to rob or to engage in gang wars. All power corrupts?

“Here are the major reasons,” Albertus said. “If you, Rachel, are killed, that loss would be terrible, But the loss of Yemi would be catastrophic for the world, especially if the Griddas find a way to use him against us. Thus, if there is a small chance you can prevent that, the risk to your life is worthwhile. It is difficult for me to say this, because I am your spectrum and you are precious to me. So long as I live and so long as you live I am devoted to your welfare, but my first priority must be the welfare of all children. By going to Ool, Rachel, you may avoid the war. The spectrums' view is that children could not win a war against the Griddas. You may, after all, discover that Gultrathaca is telling the truth. Even if she lied, and your visit only delays war, it will have served a purpose. It may give us adequate time to prepare for an invaion, should it come

Monday 4th August 2003