April 13, 2005

The Knight

The Knight
Gene Wolfe


(April 13, 2005)

A much-heralded and intriguing reconstruction of Arthurian romantic fantasy, The Knight is a resetting of heroic knightly adventure in the episodic vein of Mallory's earlier chapters, Percival, say, or Balan.

I didn't like The Knight all that much, but I must be mistaken. In February 2004, the New York Review of Science Fiction ran three pieces on this book. Neil Gaiman loved it. Lawrence Person adores it ("the sheer depth of his cleverness and hus absolutely masterful grasp of writing technique"). Dan'l Danehy-Oakes is "completely besotted" with The Knight, which he has already reread several times.

With the greatest sympathy, I can't see it. Wolfe's hero, Able of the High Heart, is a likable guy, a boy from the suburbs who cut down the wrong tree and winds up in faerie. And The Knight is a likable book. The style is clean but not showy. The talking animals are nicely drawn, the supporting characters are sometimes good (Idnn, a baron's daughter who would much rather be a milkmaid, for very good reason) but often not. Wolfe does some interesting play with letting the action fall between chapters, with lacunae and timeshifts, but none of it seems especially effective or drastically new.

In short, it's a pleasant book. It's not intended to be a page-turner, but it speeds along. I don't understand the fuss.