From Publishers Weekly
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 cliches 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.
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That national treasure, Gene Wolfe, returns with the first of two novels about a teenage boy who wanders into what may be called Faerie. Remaining a teenager in mind, he finds himself in the mightily thewed body of the classic hero, from Roland to Conan to the protagonists of current quest fantasy. The tension between his consciousness and his new body may be satirically intended, and it certainly leads to satirical effects, but it also achieves much else as the boy-knight wanders about, encountering spells, monsters, evil races, heroic comrades, and lovable (also lovely) shape changers. During his wanderings, readers may occasionally wonder what is happening and, even more, where the story is going. But they will forgive Wolfe, for his wit, erudition, narrative technique, and consummate mastery of the language sweep all before them. Furthermore, serious medievalists will admire Wolfe's skill at scooping tropes out of medieval literature by the double handful and imaginatively blending them in this extraordinary book. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved