Meynard, Yves. The Book of Knights. New York: Tor, 1/98. 222pp.
This is the kind of book where, if I didn't know the guy who wrote it, I would never give a thought to picking it up. Sure it's garnered rave reviews in Quill & Quire, The Globe and Mail and Locus, to name but a few. But, this kind of fantasy has just never appealed to me. You know, young orphan boy grows up always feeling somewhat different than those around him, runs away from home because he knows he's better than the life he's stuck with, finds a wise but crusty mentor, strikes out on a quest, has some rollicking adventures, falls in love and comes of age. The final act involves him returning to his childhood home, showing up all the old crowd, discovering who his true father is and, just for fun, confronting the forces of evil, usually his father. And through this confrontation, he discovers he's endowed with great gifts and an important role in the unfolding of the universe. It's been done. Well, Yves is a nice guy and I've loved some of the SF short stories he's recently published in English. I figured I'd give the book a try. If I don't like it, the topic need never come up. Well, I need never have worried. The Book of Knights is the story of Adelrune, a young boy who desperately wants to become a knight. The course of his quest follows the script pretty closely (with some significant deviations) but Yves's gorgeous prose and intense imagination bring an awful lot more to Adelrune's tale than just cliches. It is like a good jazz riff, using the basic melody as a basis to improvise an infinitely more complex - and more beautiful - variation. The Book of Knights is a story filled with compassion and understanding, containing many insights into the human heart, giving a view of both the darkest corners and lightest vistas.