Stateless Magic

In the anarchic country of James Enge’s fantasy novel A Guile of Dragons (Pyr), all services, even defense, are provided through voluntary arrangements. When the wizard Merlin Ambrosius aspires to rule, he is exiled to the distant Wardlands and forced to leave his infant son Morlock to be raised by a dwarf.

Morlock tries to wipe clean his father’s heinous sin of statism by joining the same Graith of Guardians that punished his father. But individual ambitions and suspicions hamstring the Graith’s fight against an invading guile of dragons. Morlock realizes that his dragon enemies “settled for division, but each one dreamed of unity,” a lesson that might be applied to humans as well. 

Dwarven steel flies and dragons die in Enge’s fast-paced sword-and-sorcery novel, but the fire and venom burn upon a unique landscape. In contrast with the usual fantasy boilerplate of divine right and invisible serfs, the world of the book is modeled on Althing-era Iceland, which lacked central state authority as we understand it.

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