Laura Gallego is a respected writer of adult fantasy fiction and children's literature. She has written more than 15 novels in addition to works for younger readers. Her works have obtained a multitude of prizes and have been translated into numerous languages.
With Mago por casualidad (Wizard By Chance), the author enters the world of humor without abandoning the fantasy genre. This is a book for children, with language directed at children and a story concocted for children. Yet there are two ways of reading the book: as a child, enjoying the story and the characters' jokes, or in a more discerning manner, appreciating the allusions related to various topoi of the fantasy epic, in the most comic way possible.
The framework of the story is provided by Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The novel relates a journey undertaken by Ratón, a boy who works at an inn (read Frodo), and Calderaus, a wizard (read Gandalf). Everything begins when Ratón becomes involved in Calderaus' search for power through a magic amulet, the "Maldito Pedrusco" or "Damned Rock" (read Sauron's Ring), but the spell goes awry and Ratón gains the power of the wizard, while the wizard is turned into a crow. At this point the quest to reverse the spell begins, and the travelers are joined in turn by Lila, a young thief, a competing wizard, Maldeokus (read Saruman), a beautiful princess, a famous knight, a dwarf, and an elf (read The Fellowship of the Ring). Together and sometimes separately, in various manifestations, and when not fighting among themselves, they encounter other foes like trolls and dragons (one dragon is named Smaug, a direct reference to the dragon in The Hobbit), and will pass through places, worlds, seas, and situations, each with its own comic touch and its own turn of the screw on a habitual and familiar topos. So here we laugh at the innate coquetry of the fairies (in this case making themselves up in curlers), at the problem of using magic without really knowing how, at what happens during dead time in knightly tales (whether to play cards or I Spy), at the terrible fear of horrible dragons (in this case they turn out to be paper dragons).
Since the book is directed at children, the narrative moves at breakneck speed and there is an absence of description in general, and practically no psychological description of the characters, although we do get their physical description (buttressed by the illustrations). In turn, we have page upon page of dynamic dialogue, sometimes implausible, but meant to be so, thereby adding to the humor. Young readers might have trouble following the archaic utterances of the knight.
Special mention should be made of the vivid and colorful illustrations by Jose Luis Navarro. His images match the content of the book to a tee, helping us imagine the characters perfectly, and thus provide an entertaining, visual spectacle for younger readers. The whole edition is a work of art, and great care has be taken on the cover art, illustrations, text, layout, and design.
In short, Mago por casualidad is the perfect book for the inexperienced reader, helping him or her to approach the fantasy genre in an easy way and to discover a multitude of supernatural beings and topics frequently used in fantasy, all with continuous touches of humor. On the other hand, thanks to more experience, adult readers will enjoy it in another manner, appreciating and laughing at the winks, allusions, and references the author continually inserts into the story.