The Wizard

July 20th, 2005
This entry is part of 2 in the series The Wizard Knight

I’ve been sitting on this review for way too long, and it’s hard to say exactly why. Like the first half of this duology, The Wizard is densely populated with events of significance and masterful prose. Also like its first half, it can be confusing in its succinct, matter-of-fact tone and many-layered contexts and settings, which are even more off-putting if it’s been some time since you read the first book. (A brief aside on the title. I understand that The Wizard Knight is the real name of this mammoth book, seperated for publishing reasons and not story ones, but even that is not that great a name for this book. Very little of what would “conventionally” be called wizardry goes on here, although there’s gobs of magic and certainly plenty of Keniggitting. Were I to name the two parts of this unfortunately divided work, I’d probably go for “The Sorceror Knight” for the first, and “The God Knight” for the second. Much more apropos.) This book, unsurprisingly, starts up right where the first one ends, although not from Sir Able’s perspective. This is justified in the epistolary device which frames the narrative, but still adds somewhat to the confusion for a reader who hasn’t been “in” this world for some time. Complaints about authors who recap too much are legion in the genre, but Wolfe makes very little effort in that direction here. The secondary characters are involved in a bad situation culminating in a mysterious assassination. This whodunnit floats in the background of the story, long after it’s significance is actually relevant to the main thread…so long that right at this moment, I can’t recall the solution. With Able’s return, both more powerful in his abilities and more limited in his free rein to use them than when he left, the immediate dilemmas faced by his friends and allies are resolved…at least well enough to retreat in order. Able, now master of a small estate and a knight of some reputation, has acquired a new set of goals and some new understanding of himself and his strange situation in this world. He is there to deliver a message to the King, a message which is hidden in his mind even from himself, and so he travels to the capital city and engages in political maneuverings and chivalric challenges until he finally gains a private audience with him. The message is not appreciated. Able is imprisoned for a long time, and when he is eventually freed he finds that the kingdom has been overrun by a terrible enemy, and he must choose at the end whether he should reclaim a chance at divinity, or claim his humanity and save the realm he has fought for. Usually I’ll let a book settle in my mind before I write a review of it, which I find refines my perceptions of its themes and major elements. I enjoyed reading this book a great deal, but letting it settle was, I think, a mistake. There’s just too much going on in these books, on too many levels, for it all to settle out in my head into nice neat piles. I’d still recommend it for those looking for a challenging book with a deceptively simple narrator, but I can’t recommend it without having both books on hand to be read back-to-back, and I probably likewise wouldn’t recommend it for those of you who never re-read. I can tell I only scratched the surface of these books, and expect a very productive re-read will follow in time.

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