Within the next half-hour, Warren Oldham thought, he would either be successful or dismembered.
Harry Potter if it was told from the professors’ point of view. That’s how author Patricia S. Bowne’s Advice From Pigeons has been described by some. That gets you into the ballpark, but ultimately it’s not quite that simple.
Hiram Rho, who has the ability to understand animals, has just joined the faculty at the Royal Academy at Osyth and is having considerable doubts whether he is up for the job…or if he even wants to be, if he’s perfectly honest with himself.
As a member of the Demonology Department, Rho takes part in rituals wherein the department’s faculty summons and controls demons so they can learn from them. The process is quite dangerous, and when it goes wrong it does so spectacularly, as Rho learns firsthand when he participates in a summoning circle while at an academic conference that goes seriously sideways.
Now Rho has his own personal demon, one set on taking over the Demonology Department even if he has to go through Rho’s fellow demonologists one by one in order to do so.
While the story is obviously set in a world where magic is commonplace, surprisingly that’s not what really drives Advice From Pigeons. No, it’s the incredible detail that Bowne has put into developing the Royal Academy at Osyth and its machinations that is the real hook. The players are professors – academic nerds – caught up in the same trials and tribulations you find at any college or university: struggling to obtain tenure, dealing with jealous colleagues, trying to make heads or tails of the health insurance plan; it’s all there. They just also happen to cast spells and summon demons along the way.
So, is it a book about magicians who are professors, or about professors who just happen to be magicians? Guess that will depend on your point of view. I have to admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this one, and was a tad leery truth be told, but somehow in the end it all just works… like magic.