Katie's Reviews > The Wizard

The Wizard by Gene Wolfe
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May 02, 10

bookshelves: epic, fantasy, rereadable
Read in April, 2010

** spoiler alert ** The conclusion of the tale, where our hero has grown into his role as a respected ur-knight, mentor to many, in an epic effort to do what's right and return to his lover.

This and its predecessor form a deeply layered story, with pervasive awareness of the boy's beginnings, and the format of the story as a letter home to a brother who seems increasingly not to exist. A prominent theme is the unknown: stretches of lost time, forgotten time, and sworn-secret time whose shapes are revealed to the hero and the reader -- sometimes together, sometimes separately -- in various degrees of detail. A second theme is the conflated identities of the heros' relatives; his brother Ben vs. his possibly-brother Berthold; his mother vs. Berthold's mother vs. the woman trapped on the Isle of Glas vs. Lady Lynnet. In creating a set of worlds where time is fluid, magic is unpredictable, memory can be clouded, and the paths between worshipped and worshipper sometimes reverse themselves, Wolfe has created an environment where uncertainty in the identities of the characters is not only believable, but manages to hang successfully in the background without obstructing the story.

It suffers a little from being sown with too many characters and too few indications of who must be remembered for later, but this is partially ameliorated by (1) making it clear that the author of the letter is aware of the problem and doing his best, and (2) including (however ham-handed) a cast guide as part of the letter opener of both books.

There were a few name mix-ups in the edition I read, which were either accidents (bad editor; no cookie) or on purpose (bad author; didn't add to the story). I lean towards the former, since there were also some typographical anomalies, italics running on, etc... but with Wolfe you never know, which I find frustrating.

The Wizard has a better sense of character and where the story is going than The Knight, but the Knight is tighter and doesn't drone so much. The two together probably rate 5 stars.
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