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Trying to identify a fantasy novel for a friend. Not sure of publication date, but she picked it up at a library sale in the mid-90s.

The protagonist is the Prince of an island nation, and there's a coup spurred by an evil sorceress with mind control and illusion powers. They are saved in part by the discovery that a kind of berry that they thought was poisonous was, in fact, only poisonous when not diluted, and in fact gives resistance to the sorceress' powers.

At one point in the story, a wizard is forced to swallow one of the berries, and it supercharges his magic, and as he walks through snow, his footprints become snowballs because he has so little control of the situation.

It was written in English, about novel length. It may have been the first in a series, at the very least it ended with a possibility of a sequel.

Any help in pinning it down would be appreciated.

  • Hi, welcome to SFF.SE! Do you have any more details about this novel (what language was it written in, how long was it, was it part of a series)? Any little detail can help. – Rand al'Thor Feb 4 '16 at 12:28
  • English, novel length, maybe the first in a series, at the very least it ended with a possibility of a sequel. At one point in the story, a wizard is forced to swallow one of the berries, and it supercharges his magic, and as he walks through snow, his footprints become snowballs because he has so little control of the situation. – Guy F-W Feb 4 '16 at 15:53
  • My first thought when it comes to "poisonous berries that aren't actually poisonous" is Dragon's Gold by Piers Anthony, but there, the berries are only not poisonous to round-ears such as Kelvin, and I think the berries had an effect where he dreamed of the future. – FuzzyBoots Feb 4 '16 at 16:39
  • And my first thought about not-really-poisonous berries was Stephen Donaldson's The Wounded Land. – Daphne B Feb 4 '16 at 19:13
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This is almost certainly Jonthan Wylie's "The First Named", book 1 of the Servants of Ark trilogy, published 1987 in the UK.

The first book starts with three brothers, princes of the island kingdom of Ark, who are deposed by an usurper using mind-control magic. The three flee to a southern fishing village with the court wizard, Pragamo (my transliterations might be wrong - I read it only in Hebrew). While planning their counterattack, they run across a prophecy, and also a recipe for cake using moon berries, a magical and dangerous fruit, grown ceremoniously on each island. The cake turns out to make one immune to the mind control magic.

Later, Pragamo is captured by brainwashed soldiers, and in a last-ditch attempt to escape, he swallows a whole moon-berry, causing his hair to turn wait, wild magic to surround him (including the dancing, singing snowballs you mention), and he falls into a magically-induced mania and, later, coma.

At the end, of course, the prince regains the throne and the evil sorceress is defeated, but her dark magic, thought long-lost, leads into the following two novels into the trilogy.

  • This is the one, thank you! – Guy F-W Feb 5 '16 at 13:19
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Perhaps the Ladies of Mandrigyn from 1984 by Barbara Hambly? It is the first in the series Sun Wolf & Starhawk.

In it, the protagonist is tricked into helping the women in Mandrigyn fight against the evil wizard king (not a sorceress) when the give him Anzid, a deadly berry based poison that had no known antidote and causes a person to die in agony. But, death can be deferred indefinitely using certain spells.

Towards the end of the book when he is unable to receive the antidote

we find that Anzid only kills those who do not have the potential to become sorcerers/sorceresses. Instead it channels and focuses their magical powers.

I don't remember the footprints section offhand but is has been many years since I last read it.

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