A few months back a friend tipped me off on a book title that she found entirely hilarious, called Woad to Wuin. I also got a pretty good chuckle out of it, and figured that with a title that entertaining, I should probably think about picking it up. I came across it by chance a couple of weeks ago, and discovered that Woad to Wuin was actually a sequel to a book called Sir Apropos of Nothing. Feeling obliged based entirely upon the clever titles, I decided to pick the first book up.
A quote on the front of Sir Apropos of Nothing calls is “excellent fantasy satire.” But I’m not entirely sure that’s what it is. It’s certainly fantasy (sword fights, fantastic creatures, damsels in distress, magic, phoenixes, the works!) and it has some satirical qualities, I suppose (the main character hijacking his best friends’ destiny, knowingly and reflectively). Still, calling it satire makes it feel more clinical than I think it deserves. Maybe I’m just over thinking things, though.
Anyway, Apropos is born the son of a whore, but his mother is just sure he has a great destiny, since she swears up and down she saw a phoenix being reborn just before Apropos was brought into the world. He grows up largely being jaded and put upon, though he’s mentored by an orphan he meets in the woods. Eventually the plot contrives to have Apropos end up at the palace, where he accidentally gets to become a squire, and he sets out to retrieve the king and queen’s daughter from a life of seclusion.
If the plot sounded hackneyed, I assure you that it’s knowingly so, and does its best to laugh at itself as frequently as possible. It also makes ample use of opportunities to make horrible, horrible puns, which is always entertaining.
However, the most entertaining thing about the book, but what a Grade A ass Apropos is. Seriously – it’s pretty rare to get a bad person as the main character of a book, and it’s even harder to really do it well (*cough*ThomasCovenant*cough* …sorry, uncalled for, but I couldn’t help it). Sure, some of George R. R. Martin’s main characters are pretty nasty, but he’s got good ones to offset. Outside of him, I have a hard time coming up with anyone – even Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards aren’t bad bad – they’ve got loyalty and honor to each other and the cause and all that.
But no – Apropos really is as much of a self-serving jerk as you can get… and it makes for an incredibly entertaining read. I won’t get into potential for salvation and all that, since I could go on (even) longer and would risk spoilers, so let’s just leave it at this: I really appreciate how well Peter David wrote (and stuck with) Apropos’ flawed personality.
I’m rambling; I better get to a bottom line here. Sir Apropos of Nothing is definitely worth reading, especially if you’re starting to feel some drudgery in the fantasy genre. It’s got great characters and fantastic wit – and it will certainly read quickly, in spite of being 600-odd pages long.