NESFA Members' Reviews

The Wizard

by Gene Wolfe

Tor, 2004, ISBN 0-765-31201-8

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

This is the second volume of Wolfe's The Wizard Knight. Able, having mastered the arts of knighthood, finds himself drawn ever more into the magical side of life in the strange new world he's landed in, as he tries to sort through all his problems and obligations and earn the love of the Aelf queen, Disiri. It's all well and good to say that he fights with and against Aelf, ogres, dragons, giants, and human knights both loyal and treacherous, or that he spends time in Valhalla (Skai) and meets an archangel, but this is Gene Wolfe, and it's much richer and more complex than any description of its elements would suggest. What one might identify as the main line of the story, in this case, concerns Able's efforts to help the peace mission that King Arnthor has sent to the frost giants of Jotunland. Since humans cannot effectively fight the frost giants, and keep losing people and territory to them, they're strongly motivated to achieve some kind of peace treaty. Finding a motivation for the frost giants to do so takes a good deal more inventiveness. Also determination, and inability to recognize when you've been beaten comes in handy, too—and not just for Able. While Able still remembers, and occasionally still tries to tell people, that he's really just a sixteen-year-old boy, by this time he has a record of knightly achievement and air of power that has other young men trying to imitate him as he was inspired to imitate Sir Ravd, back when he first arrived in Mythgarthr. It's a responsibility he doesn't want but can't avoid, and is of course too upright and knightly to duck. And along the way, of course, he finds that everyone he has touched during his time in Mythgarthr and the worlds above and below it affects this struggle too.

I haven't done justice to it, but this is another wonderful book by Gene Wolfe. The only cautionary note necessary here is that The Wizard Knight is one novel in two volumes, and you really do want to read the first half, The Knight, first.


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