The Wizard (Wizard Knight) Hardcover – 16 Nov 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
That said there are (as always in a Gene Wolfe book), excellent writing, some interesting ideas and reworking of myth. I will certainly want to read the Wizard Knight.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
OK, 4 stars aren't really fair, that is 4 stars relative to Wolfe's level, 5 stars for mere mortal writers.
This book, even with it's 7 levels of reality is still has far fewer levels than in other of Wolfe's works. The Long Sun, New Sun series are better. Here, the narrator is simpler, less nuanced. In the Long Sun, later facts would often change the whole meaning of earlier scenes. That happens a little such as who the Knight who turned to smoke was in an early scene in the first book -- I like that turn of meaning with new information in Wolfe's works, I like the narrators who are sort of lying or covering their behinds to you and there's less of that in this work.
Huff. Still, this is more than worth your while. It's a fun yarn, an adventure with lots of turns in it and an increasingly gripping page turner.
I'm reading the book to my young daughter -- yes, I edit the sex scenes (let's just say she thinks Gene writes in lots of hugs and "sleep overs" ) and damp down some of the violence. She really got attached to Able in the first book becoming another of Able's odd assortment of followers -- but cried foul when Able stepped out of the picture at the start of book 2 and the pace bogged down in the long cold slog to Utgard and thereafter. But, after about 100 pages, things start to pick right up again and it's worth going along. It is typical of Wolfe's genius to have the Giants call the huge men "Mice" rather than the small humans. That is typical of human nature -- we belittle our closest competitors, not the ones who aren't contenders with us.
As a morality tale, suitably edited, this book have a powerful effect for good on a kid. My daughter is somewhat shy and when she had to give a talk in front of some people, all I had to say is "Knights don't count their foes and speakers don't count their audience" and she was OK. Same for hiding something from her little sister: "a knight tells the truth" and the hidden item appeared. Even for myself, when your down and the code has too many bugs, I sometimes unsheathe my keyboard, cry "IPO, IPO!" and charge. I seriously doubt you'd get that from a Harry Potter book and Wolfe is a much writer (even though I'm a fan of both). Keep writing Sir Wolfe, honor demands it.
To those who find the books flawed... I can only say that perhaps you expect him to be doing something with the books other than what he intended to do. The profoundly dreamlike quality of the plot and narrative, the way things move forward, the way the POV bounces from Able to others and back again, the way in which events are magical but at the same time deeply mundane, and overall the way in which Able exemplifies certain qualities (honor, duty, loyalty) set these books apart in my mind as something beyond the vast sea of fantasy fiction.
These books capture some quality of "the otherworld" in a way that I've never encountered before, deftly and with beauty. Wolfe also writes limited first person viewpoint more perfectly than anyone else I've read; the way in which we get Able's view, and also just what Able choses to write to his brother - is just masterful. Sometimes events are confusing because Able writes briefly or sketchily about certain events, or skips over battles and then refers back (or forward) to events that he doesn't actually describe... All I can say is "WOW". Good job, Gene.
Gone, in my estimation, are the intricacies of The Knight-- the striving to attain (or have accepted) Able's Knighthood; the heart-wrenching moments associated with the absence of Disiri; the subtle nuisances flowing through the text as a result of the protagonist's youth (but not Able's).
In its stead, are near-standard fantasy fair battles: Jotunland, RedHall, the Five Fates (description only) and the concluding sequence. And of them all, only the concluding, final chapter of the book (comprising, of course, the final battle) is exemplary. And, as with many Wolfe novels, the end rushes in: a swift wind undeterred by a readers desire for a less abrupt cessation. Additionally, the swift rise and sudden disappearance of Toug (and his centric views) and Mani (gotta love that Cat) were both hearteningly fresh and sorely noticed.
Nonetheless, this book is better than all but the finest of fantasy (or other fictional) work. Its highpoints are very good: the ruinous portrayal of Morcaine; the torn relationship between Idnn and Svonn; the tattered mind of Etela's mother; Baki and Uri.
I can only hope that Wolfe returns to this universe. It's worthy of more of his time just as The Wizard was worthy of mine.
I am thoroughly and completely enchanted by Wolfe's version of Faerie and Arthurian/Norse legend. Wolfe pays homage to a wide range of classical influences, including Edmund Spenser, Lord Dunsany, and T.S. Eliot. Because Able is such an unreliable narrator, and (as he insists) just a boy in a man's body, it's easy to miss how deeply his worlds turns in on themselves, and the significance of several events is not at first apparent. That makes this a demanding work, because few things are as they seem on the surface. While not as obscure as *Castleview*, this is a deep novel, best read in a reflective mood and not as a page-turner. Like many of Wolfe's books, the journey seems to be the real point, not the destination that ultimately appears on the last page.
Superficially, these two books resemble sword'n'sorcery or hack'n'slash that you might find from lesser writers; but the deceptive, dream-like flow of Wolfe's elegant prose and his refusal to put characters into simple boxes of good and evil separate Wolfe from the pack.
If you are new to Wolfe, I would first recommend the "Book of the New Sun" series or *A Devil in the Forest*. Once you are familiar with Wolfe, my bet is that you'll appreciate this book on many levels.
This series has earned the many glowing reviews from other accomplished fantasy authors. I believe it is a true masterpiece from a genuine master.