The Knight (The Wizard Knight #1) by Gene Wolfe
Publisher/Year: Tor, 2004
A young man in his teens is transported from our world to a magical realm that contains seven levels of reality. Very quickly transformed by magic into a grown man of heroic proportions, he takes the name Able and sets out on a quest to find the sword that has been promised to him, a sword he will get from a dragon, the one very special blade that will help him fulfill his life ambition to become a knight and a true hero.
Inside, however, Able remains a boy, and he must grow in every sense to survive the dangers and delights that lie ahead in encounters with giants, elves, wizards, and dragons. His adventure will conclude next year in the second volume of the The Wizard Knight, The Wizard.
Gene Wolfe is one of the most widely praised masters of SF and fantasy. He is the winner of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the Nebula Award (twice), the World Fantasy Award (twice), the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the British Fantasy Award, and France’s Prix Apollo. His popular successes include the four-volume classic The Book of the New Sun.
What I thought
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that was so controversial, as in readers either love this book or they hate it. I, myself, really enjoyed this read, although I will admit it was rather strange at times and I’m not convinced that I fully understood it.
Before I go off on too much of a tangent, let me just say that I really enjoy epic fantasy. I have to be in the right mindset for it, though, and thankfully, this time of year lends itself to the genre. With this book especially, I felt like I was just along for the ride, and I had a very good time. Where it got strange was the unreliable narrator, Able. Don’t get me wrong, I loved his character. I thought he was great. His youthful persona trapped in a fully grown man’s body was at times comical and at others endearing. Where this gets tricky is in his telling of events or in his explanation of the world he finds himself in. Much like when a child tells a story, the story isn’t always linear and there are usually gaps, which might be filled in after the fact, if you’re lucky. I can see how this could be off-putting to readers, but I kinda liked it. It was certainly different.
Mostly, I enjoyed this book because it was a good, old romping adventure, with an entire cast of characters I grew to love. I was able to look past some of the odd aspects of the narration and simply enjoy a good story. Like I mentioned before, I’m sure a lot of the “deep” stuff here went over my head, but that just warrants a future re-read, which I don’t mind. I’m always up for a great epic fantasy.