THE WIZARD KNIGHT COMPANION
by Michael Andre-Driussi
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
From 1980 through 1982, Gene Wolfe published the four volumes that made up The Book of the New Sun, adding a fifth book in 1987. Wolfe's prodigious vocabulary and knowledge of history and mythology perplexed many who read and enjoyed the work and in 1994, Michael Andre-Driussi published Lexicon Urthus: A Dictionary for the Urth Cycle* to explain many of the obscure references Wolfe included. In 2004, Wolfe published the two-volume The Wizard Knight, relating the story of Sir Able of the High Heart. A mere five years later, Andre-Driussi has again stepped into the breach to provide the reader with The Wizard Knight Companion: A Lexicon for Gene Wolfe's The Knight and The Wizard.
Andre-Driussi follows the same format as his earlier work, providing the majority of the volume as a with the format of an encyclopedia which looks at the characters and places Wolfe includes. However, while Andre-Driussi provides a synopsis of each entry's role in Wolfe's epic, he also discusses the link the entry has to the fiction, mythology, and history of our own world. For instance, in his description of Wolfe's protagonist, Andre-Driussi notes the similarity between his name, Able, and the name of Adam's second son, Abel, in Biblical lore. In addition, where appropriate, entries include a section labeled "onomastics," which is the study of proper names. These additions make Andre-Driussi's book one which can be read and enjoyed separately from the source material which gave rise to The Wizard Knight Companion.
The definitions of places and people are clearly written and succinct, providing the reader with the information necessary. Andre-Driussi includes information to find the appropriate passages of Wolfe's work with each entry. At times, this sort of reminder is almost necessary as Andre-Driussi's descriptions frequently stand on their own and are of interest in and of themselves. Taken with Lexicon Urthus, Andre-Driussi would be a good candidate to put together a general reference work similar to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, a work which is an dictionary of references with origins which are not always understood by those who use the phrases.
In addition to the encyclopedic entries, Andre-Driussi includes brief maps of the realms in which Able finds himself, although the detailed map and the general map of Celidon do not quite match up (Forcetti is depicted as south of Redhall in one map and north in the other), although this is of relatively minor concern. The encyclopedia is followed by a reasonably lengthy synopsis of the story Wolfe spent two volumes telling. Andre-Driussi's synopsis is not, nor is it meant to be, a substitute for Wolfe's story, which makes full use of Wolfe's skills as a storyteller, but the synopsis does allow a quick refresher if it needed.
Although, as noted by the title, meant as a companion to Wolfe's The Knight and The Wizard, Andre-Driussi's works stands fully on its own, providing interesting looks at various legends, etymologies, and lore as filtered through Wolfe's writing. Essential to those fans of Wolfe's novels who wish to understand every reference he has incorporated, The Wizard Knight Companion also would be appreciated by a secondary audience who might never find the book because it is tied to a specific work of fiction.
*Andre-Driussi released an updated edition of Lexicon Urthus in 2008.
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