Christopher's Reviews > The Knight

The Knight by Gene Wolfe
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May 20, 10

Read in February, 2004

Gene Wolfe's THE KNIGHT is the first half of a fantasy diptych called "The Wizard Knight". Abel, an American boy in his early teens, finds himself transported to another world with similarities to Norse mythology, divided into seven tiers of reality. Abel lands in Mythgarthr, a plane similar to medieval Earth, and dreams of becoming a knight. He has intriguing interactions with the Aelf, a race of elemental spirits and tricksters, and the dragons who inhabit the worlds below, and he has his sights set on the flying castle of the Valfather in the world of Skai above.

Over the three decades prior to THE KNIGHT, Wolfe had developed a distinctive method of storytelling where narrators are unreliable and some important plot events are not described directly, but left to be subtly revealed though other events. Certainly this helped make early Wolfe efforts like THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS or "The Book of the New Sun" so great, though these works also had a number of other fine points such as excellent prose and clearly developed settings. Unfortunately, with THE KNIGHT it seems that all that is left to Wolfe's style is this principle of unreliability and enigma. Abel gratuitously leaves so many things undescribed for no reason other than Wolfe being stuck in a rut of book as enigma. Half of the action is passed over only so that Abel can fill it in later, the human characters are wooden and even the amusing animals seem like throwbacks to earlier Wolfe novels. Wolfe's use of Abel as narrator, writing a long letter to his brother Ben back in America, is also inconsistently applied. For the most part, Able writes like a 13 year-old kid, but at times he launches into highfaulting explanations or ethereal descriptions of the plot where it's clear that Wolfe has taken over as he would in third-person storytelling. And Abel's boyhood reluctance to write about sex and violence becomes most apparent only after he has become a man and has already been through fierce battles and gotten lucky with a fairy queen.

I read THE KNIGHT as soon as it was first published in 2004, as Wolfe had been favourite writer for many years. My disappointment with the book was so crushing that I stopped following what Wolfe has written since. Sure, if you're looking for a riproaring fantasy novel, then THE KNIGHT may entertain you, though you might not find all of it to your taste. But when Wolfe had written some major masterpieces, a novel that can only be satisfyingly read as light entertainment seems like a failure.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Caglar (new) - added it

Caglar very good review...


message 2: by Rob (new) - rated it 2 stars

Rob Yeah, I was done with Wolfe after the Knight. He's essentially writing the same story over and over at this point. Stranger in a strange land, entrapped by virgin-harlot, etc. etc.

It's worth going back to Devil in a Forest to see Wolfe pull off this sort of thing in a more coherent fashion.


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