The Wizard Knight

I don’t want to be overly harsh here. But ultimately, I didn’t like The Knight and The Wizard, the two volume tale The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe. However, your tastes may vary, so if you see it in the book store, flip through the first few pages and see for yourself.

Now, why didn’t I like them?

The story was pretty good: a boy crosses into another world, one of giants and ogres and more, and becomes a man and a knight. Fairly typical, but with some interesting twists, like this world isn’t just one world, it’s seven worlds that layer over one another and the normal world, as far as normal goes in a fantasy setting, is smack in the middle, with three worlds above and three worlds below. Plenty of the characters were likable, and overall I enjoyed meeting them throughout the tale.

The one drawback, and to me it was huge but may not affect other readers as much, was that the entire story, across both books, was told as if the main character was writing down what happened in an enormous letter to his brother, back in our world (you know, the one we live in, without magic and dragons). As such, almost the entirety of the two books feels like someone is telling you a story, so as much as I wanted to get immersed in this world I was constantly kept at arms length by the writing style. It bugged me.

Along with this was also the author’s choice of weird formal language. The following is NOT an excerpt from either book, but is just an example of how many conversations go within the story:

“I have something that I must tell you, and I need you not to ask me questions while I do.”
“That is fine, but before you start I must know how you got here?”
“I came in a strange manner which will be clear when I tell you what I must tell you.”
“Then I will hinder you no longer. Tell me your story.”
“The story I am about to tell is strange and you may not believe me, but I ask you to trust that I am telling the truth of it.”
“I will take you at your word as I have no reason to doubt you.”
“I knew that you would as you are a trusting man. Here is my tale…”

About a third of every conversation between characters was verbal foreplay, telling each other that they want to tell each other things, interrupting each other to say things that didn’t need to be said at all. Now, this actually happens in real life. You are sitting with your friends at the local pub and you say, “Hey, I’ve got to tell you this story about work.” And they say, “Its not about the copy machine again is it?” And you say, “No, it isn’t, and if you let me tell the story you’d know that.” However, in real life this doesn’t happen all the time. In the book it happens all the time. It got to the point where I would literally see it coming and then skip two or three paragraphs to get to the point where the foreplay is done and the real conversation would begin.

Despite the style of the writing though, I did enjoy the world Gene crafted in his two volume tale. So, as I said before, if you see the book in the store, read a few pages, maybe a chapter or two, and if the writing style doesn’t bother you, pick up the books, it’ll be worth it. If the style bothers you, pick these up only if you are into world crafting and don’t mind it not being a smooth easy read.

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