Book Reviews 2006 (17)

And my seventeenth book of the year is the first half of Gene Wolfe’s Wizard Knight duology, The Knight.


The Knight (The Wizard Knight, Book 1)
The only real fault with the book is that it ends with the story unfinished. That seems to be awfully common these days, with books being split for marketing reasons (cf. Hammered/Scardown/Worldwired, the Clan Corporate novels, etc). Still, Wolfe manages to tell a relatively complete story arc in this first book, even if the looking backwards narration makes it clear that there is much more past this one.
And I will be looking to read that, too.
Able is a young teenaged boy from our own world who is transported by agency and device unknown, into a seven-tiered realm that has strong resonances with Norse mythology. The world he spends the most time on is the Midgard of this realm, the realm of humans, Mythgarthyr. Quickly transformed by an Aelf into a full grown man, The Knight details Able’s quest to become a true knight, and find a sword that will make him worthy of the AElf Queen he loves.
So, on one level, its the hero’s quest all over again, the typical fantasy travel through the world and adventure. Wolfe, of course, is cannier than that. Able is not the most reliable of narrators, he eschews some obvious things that a hero in most fantasy novels would do, and the text feels more mythic and rich than a simple paint-by-the-numbers hero quest.
I know I missed a lot of those resonances and references, but that’s par for the course for a Wolfe novel. I hope there is a concordance of these two novels, someday.
I look forward to picking up The Wizard at some point. Fans of Gene Wolfe shouldn’t miss this novel, and those who are looking for more than a plain fantasy quest novel will find this somewhat less obscure and difficult to understand than, say, the Urth books.
Next up (currently reading): Zulu Heart, by Steven Barnes