THE KNIGHT: Book One of the Wizard Knight

Gene Wolfe, Author . Tor $25.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-7653-0989-1

Nebula and World Fantasy awards–winner Wolfe's new novel—the first half of a massive epic—is a reminder that no one gets called a great writer without being first of all a great storyteller. This wonderful story is narrated by a teenage boy who wanders into a universe of interlocking magical realms. Transformed into a powerful man by an elf queen, he first calls himself a knight, Sir Able of the High Heart, then begins growing into that role. Wolfe doesn't just rearrange the clichés of sword and sorcery fiction; he recreates the genre. Sorcerous knowledge is important to Sir Able's survival, but muscle and steel count for a lot too, while sympathetic curiosity and self-awareness may be even more crucial. Though beautifully told, the novel is not exactly Wolfe Lite; much of the plot underlying the action remains obscure. Able realizes that there's a lot he doesn't comprehend, some of it because knowledge was stolen from him. He must gain (or regain) understanding of the worlds around him and of himself. In this respect, Wolfe's tale somewhat resembles the quest in David Lindsay's visionary masterpiece, A Voyage to Arcturus . Whatever its literary antecedents or its ultimate destination, however, this is a compelling, breathtaking achievement. (Jan. 6)

Forecast: Wolfe is known as a literary and arcane writer, but with a 50,000 first printing, Tor is making a serious effort to relaunch him as a popular author. Blurbs from a raft of big names—Brian Herbert, Tad Williams, Peter Straub and Robin Hobb, among them—dri ll home the point that this novel is one for both elitists and the masses.

Reviewed on: 12/01/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
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