“Wizard’s Apprentice” — Delia Sherman

Delia Sherman is the author of the novels Through a Brazen Mirror, The Porcelain Dove, and The Fall of the Kings (with Ellen Kushner). She has also written two novels for young adults: Changeling and The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. The Freedom Maze, a middle-grade historical novel about time travel and slavery, is coming out from Big Mouth Press in 2011. Her short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and in numerous anthologies, and she has new stories forthcoming in the teen vampire anthology Teeth and Ellen Datlow’s urban fantasy anthology Naked City.

Sherman has only written one other story about a wizard—the Duke of Malvoeux in The Porcelain Dove, who was truly pure, mad evil, and preyed on small children. This story, too, is about an evil wizard, or it is according to the eponymous wizard, anyway.

“No matter what I try to write about,” Sherman says, “somehow it always, on some level or other, boils down to finding and making family outside of the ties of blood.” 

And this story is no exception. In it, Nick Chanticleer finds himself in need of a safe haven and finds it in an unlikely place when he becomes the accidental apprentice to a self-proclaimed evil wizard who runs a bookshop called Evil Wizard Books.

For some people there is no place more magical than a bookstore. A bookstore is bigger on the inside than the outside, because it contains entire populations and worlds that exist only between the pages of the books within.

In bookstores, we are reminded not to judge a book by its cover—advice that applies as well to the volumes on the shelves as to the people who man the stacks.