Review: Drosselmeyer: The Watcher's Realm by Paul Thompson
Drosselmeyer: The Watcher’s Realm is a phenomenal wizard adventure fantasy novel, featuring our beloved Drosselmeyer before the story of the Nutcracker, new monsters, and driving action. This sequel to Curse of the Rat King takes the story in a new, more mature direction, while maintaining the elements that made the first book so much fun.
Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed Drosselmeyer: The Watcher’s Realm. I encourage you to check it out!
This review contains minor spoilers.
Drosselmeyer: The Watcher's Realm Publisher Description:
For the last five years, Fritz has lived a reclusive, solitary life trying to rescue his imprisoned friends from the Celestine. But, during his absence, Ivanov’s Home for Orphaned Boys re-opened under new, mysterious owners, children all over the world began to disappear, and a diabolical power is driving the Czar and the Five Kingdoms into a suicidal conflict over gold.
With his brother enlisted for war and the remaining Wizards of The Order bent on revenge, Fritz must foil the Czar’s insidious plot to steal gold, forge new alliances, and defeat an enemy unaffected by his magic before everyone he loves is gone forever.
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As Thompson told us in our interview with him at the time of the book’s pre-order release, Fritz is now an adult, but the story doesn’t leave school behind completely. It is an important setting, and his teachers have a surprising role to play.
Some of the magic school tropes are also still present: elements of consistent exploration and mystery-solving being the most characteristic.
But there is a marked difference between this story and the typical events and tone of the magic school genre. It moves it firmly into something else, although it is not unrelated.
The primary difference is, of course, that Fritz is no longer a child in school. Five years have passed since the dramatic end of the first book, making him a young adult, who must learn to balance his responsibilities and his passions—as good and heroic as those may be.
He begins the story struggling with grief and failure, trapped in his own world (like his friends are) and cannot move forward. He is stuck. His voracious curiosity is replaced by obsession, spurring frustration, stress, and destructive behaviors.
These are all tolerable here because the reader is already sympathetic towards Fritz, having gone with him through the events the lead to this mental state. We connect with him and look for how he will overcome without denying the difficulty and loss.
This more serious tone sets the story apart from its predecessor, but the adventure continues! Fritz is roused from his spiraling to find the world is similarly reeling as an authoritarian regime pushes neighbors, and the Five Kingdoms, into conflict. The structures of magic which enable Fritz’s routine crumble as the situation worsens, until he cannot use magic at all without alerting the enemy to his location.
The first book established a fascinating magic system and provided insight into how the wizards lived within the larger world. Here, that is all striped away. What happens when you treat the magical world with an over-confidence born of assumed familiarity?
This introduction of additional limitations on using magic as a solution fills the story with greater challenges and intrigue.
Libertarianism and Responsibility
One of the interesting themes in this book is the challenge made to a common Libertarian position. Fritz just wants to be left alone. He has not interfered in the Duke’s affairs for the last five years and expects the same from him.
The problem is that this position on individual liberty has allowed injustice to persist and grow, intruding on the lives of less powerful citizens than Fritz. This is his fault in part because he neglected his responsibilities as a member of the Order and an advisor to the Duke, but there is a larger application to the people who kept their heads down while the government abused their neighbors.
This theme should certainly be connected with that of Curse of the Rat King. Through his narrative, Thompson argued that not only is protecting and providing for the weak our responsibility as individuals (as opposed to some government program) even if we ourselves are weak, but that it is a consistent responsibility fulfilled in the mundane, not merely in glorious, gory battle.
Fritz and the other citizens did not maintain their responsibilities, and this results in leaving the community open to predation by power-hungry government.
Curse of the Rat King also left no question as to the necessity of violent retribution towards the perpetrators of evil, including those who turn a blind eye and enable evil to flourish. In The Watcher’s Realm, we see the beginnings of a new variable introduced: repentance.
Fritz, who bears responsibility for neglecting his duties, and even Toby, who reluctantly participates, are not condemned completely. They are able to recognize their wrong and change their behavior.
Where the first book established that evil exists and has damning consequences, this book brings the guilt closer to home and introduces the possibility and need for repentance. This a hopeful trajectory!
Check Out Drosselmeyer: The Watcher’s Realm!
Drosselmeyer: The Watcher’s Realm is a fantastic sequel that continues to deliver fast-paced action and pressing themes as it develops the backstory of a now beloved character. I am so excited for the final installment of the Nutcracker Trilogy!
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