Sir Apropos

Tong Lashing, by Peter David

tonglashingComforting to know that, no matter how far I go in my life, I always seem to wind up exactly in the same place as before.  Why is that, Mordant?  Why do people take an instant dislike to me?
It saves time.
-Apropos and Mordant the drabit

Well, Peter David’s Apropos has been in the traditional fantasy adventure, and in a barbarian horde kind of adventure.  Now, Apropos goes into the cheesy Asian fantasy adventure (you may have seen some movies that qualify) in Tong Lashing.  At this point, if you are still reading this, you’ve most likely read the previous two books and decided already if you like the general tone of this series of books (and if not-stop reading this!!  Read the first two books, or at least the above reviews-then come back).  All warnings that applied to the last two books still apply to this one.  With that out of the way….

After the conclusion of his last adventure, Apropos wants nothing more than to get out of the area of Wuin without somebody recognizing him and introducing him to the pointy end of the sword.  He’s accompanied (temporarily) by the weaver Sharee and a creature named Mordant.  However, the two of them want nothing more than to go on a quest of noble note-and Apropos, being somewhat more interested in staying in one piece, doesn’t.  So he parts ways with them and travels away from Wuin by boat.  Given his luck, it should come as no surprise that Apropos ends up in a shipwreck, and eventually comes to rest in a land known as Chinpan.

It is here where he begins to find himself at peace with himself, living as a farmer in the village where he washed ashore.  He even meets a master of the ancient arts of Zennihilation whom he hopes will teach him how to live with himself, because he can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that something bad is about to happen.  Which goes to show that Apropos has a great future in store for him as a fortune teller.

And then, things get interesting.

Once again, David puts together a book that looks at the other side of heroic adventures-specifically, the side that doesn’t want to be involved with them and gets sucked into them anyway.  Apropos goes up and down society’s ladder in this book once again; although not quite as lofty in status as a Peacelord, and certainly not nearly as secure.  We get a load of puns in this book as well, from the names that Apropos bestows upon the villagers (Kit Chin, Double Chin), to the Anaiïs Ninjas (and once you meet them, you’ll get the joke) to the leader of the Forked Tong (a pun in itself), which really isn’t something I plan to reveal on a kind-of-all-ages web page.  But as often the case with David’s books, the humor is laced in with a deadly seriousness that gives the reader insight on Apropos’s mental state-in spite of the ridiculousness, he himself is not a funny person, and is getting very tired of the way his life is turning out.

Now, what about the story itself?  Well, it flows pretty nicely.  There’s a few subplots of interest, such as how Apropos got shipwrecked to begin with (and longtime fantasy readers will easily spot which fantasy characters are getting skewered on board), the building of the Imperior’s house at the outer provinces (and how it turns out), the true secrets behind Zennihilation, and most terrifyingly of all-meeting Apropos’s true love…and as many know, the course of true love never did run smooth.  Apropos shows a surprising sense of purpose throughout much of this book; one could even say he’s driven by a sense of-dare I say it?-conscience.

The grand finale of the book is everything you’d expect from Apropos, given how the last two books ended up; and while it may seem as if this is the end of the Apropos series, there’s plenty of room for at least another book here.  Tong Lashing doesn’t have anything unexpectedly new, but neither does it feel stale.  In spite of what the character himself may think at times, there’s still plenty of life in Apropos.

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The Woad to Wuin, by Peter David

woadNo, I’m not so ambitious as to endeavor to take on the entirety of the Steppes in one grand orgy of violence.  Rather, I was thinking of attacking a dozen at a time and achieving my goal that way.
So you would embark on a twelve Steppe program, then.  A canny choice…
-Peacelord Apropos and Suliman the Magnificent (of Steppe Thirty-Nine)

Sometimes, you can’t even get away from it all in peace.  Sometimes, you just get to set out on The Woad to Wuin.  Wait, that’s not quite right, is it…?

Apropos has gone into hiding with the spell weaver Sharee after the events in Sir Apropos of Nothing; however, due to events only somewhat beyond his control (and a part of the most twisted parody of Lord of the Rings that it’s been my pleasure to read), he parts company with her and sets up shop in a tavern.  Strangely enough, he seems to enjoy it (well, as much as Apropos enjoys anything; readers of the last book will remember that his attitude towards life can’t be considered “sunny”).  Things start going south on him, though, when a Visionary stops by at his tavern.  This Visionary is one of a unique bunch of people; one of the fellows who writes those powerful prophecies that always seem to come true, even though they’re horribly obscure.  This fellow, though, is unusual because he’s a bit more literal.  Against his better judgment, and perhaps not completely seriously, Apropos gets a reading.

That’s when things start happening with appalling swiftness.  Before he knows it, he’s fleeing for his life, reunited with Sharee, and pursued by Lord Beliquose-a man who speaks in only one volume, LOUD-and his…well, something called Bicce.  Near dying, he falls unconscious in a wasteland…and wakes up to what must be a dream.  A dream in which he is a warlord (well, Peacelord; there’s a good reason for that title).  A dream in which he is grinding the land of Wuin under his heel.  But it’s apparent quickly that it is real, and he has no idea how that happened, or what to do about it.  Well, not right away, anyway.

The character of Apropos hasn’t changed too much; he’s not fond of the concept of Destiny, and is caught up in events that he really doesn’t have a stake in…unless, of course, you count getting killed.  The opening of the book is somewhat bent, but I’ve been known to have a twisted sense of humor too, and the Lord of the Rings riff qualified perfectly.  I was waiting for something really painful to happen to Apropos at the end of that sequence (I am NOT going into detail here; use your imagination, but remember that my warnings concerning Sir Apropos of Nothing hold true here, if not moreso).

The parts of this book that really stand out for me is after Apropos awakens to what appears to be a very different reality.  The character undergoes a startling transformation in personality from Apropos, the loser, to Apropos, the Peacelord of Wuin-to something else, due to discoveries made in the process.  I found it entirely believable given what we already knew of Apropos, and (perhaps) it wouldn’t be hard to believe that the same transformation could occur to anybody.

We also get to meet a couple of characters from the last book as well.  While Entipy doesn’t make a personal appearance, we do get to see a kind-of avatar of her (I’m being kind).  Sharee, of course, is back, and pops in and out of the general plot, and generally trying to make Apropos think about things he’d rather not.  And a certain wandering king pops up, who represents the big red flag to our protagonist.

The finale comes with a number of unexpected twists (well, some of them; I only could guess at one of them), and hints at more “adventures” to follow-much to the dismay, undoubtedly, of Apropos. The Woad to Wuin was a fun read, and I think I enjoyed it a bit more than the last book-probably because it didn’t have to cover all the same ground on who Apropos is.  This one took us into the plot pretty quickly; and when you add David’s skill at mixing humor and seriousness into a story, you come up with a pretty good book.  If you like Sir Apropos of Nothing-or even felt kind of neutral for it-you may want to give Apropos a second chance.  If for no other reason than to watch the character squirm at finding himself a conqueror.  It’s good fun.

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Sir Apropos of Nothing, by Peter David

aproposGood night.  Thank you for not burning the pub down.
-Apropos to Entipy

A word of warning:  this is not a book for younger readers.  I’m serious.  There’s enough questionable subject matter here to compel me to remark on this.  I was seriously considering starting a rating system for my reviews after reading this.  For the time being, though, I’m going to stick with simple advisories like this one.

Okay.  To the review:  Sir Apropos of Nothing is not a story about a knight, although our protagonist is named Apropos, and he is a squire to a knight.  But roughly half the story is his pre-squire days, and the other half…well, let’s just say it takes place free of any knights.  Apropos is a son of a tavern wench, and is told constantly as he’s growing up that he has a Destiny.  Not that his mother really has any grasp on what that might be; it’s just a strong belief, even though her son is half-lame and a decided scoundrel.

In the fullness of time (another way of saying I don’t want to spoil chunks of the book), Apropos goes to the court of the King Runcible, in the hopes of finding his father (not in a good way), getting “justice” for his mother, and get a lot of money in the meantime.  Instead, he gets put under the tutelage of a senile knight, and sent out to escort the Princess Entipy from a convent back to her parents.  In the process, unsurprisingly, things don’t go quite as expected.

I am careful not to refer to Apropos as the hero of this book; in fact, in spite of what some folks have said in reviews elsewhere on the net, I really don’t find him that likable a character.  He’s only slightly better than some of the other folks in this book.  Knights, and chivalry in general, really get dragged through the mud here; to be sure, that’s probably more historically accurate, but you’d think there’d be a few characters with redeemable qualities.  (Actually, there is one character, but I’ll keep that to myself).  Apropos himself is a liar, cheat, and selfish to the extreme.  Peter David does a decent job in making the reader understand why he is the way he is, though; with enough backstory, it makes Apropos’s actions understandable, if not always admirable.

There’s other interesting characters in here as well.  Besides some stereotypes, such as various tavern wenches and squires who only pretend to the honor that knights espouse, we have a king (not Runcible) whose kingdom exists wherever he travels; a warlord who’s over-the-top bad that you can almost hear a little voice screaming “Eeeeeeevviiiiiiill”.  And Entipy is a twist on the stereotypical princess in a direction I haven’t seen before; I’m almost certain no other book has had a royal princess who may be a psychotic arsonist.  Finally, there’s Tacit One-Eye, who certainly seems at the beginning to be that typical Hero of Destiny, who unfortunately gets sidetracked by encounters with Apropos.

While there’s a great deal of serious subject matter here, Peter David also laces the entire book with the humor that is so often displayed in his other works.  If you hate puns, you’ll really groan at some of the ones that pop up in this book.  There were several points where I could see the puns coming a mile away.  People who have read other books by this author will undoubtedly feel right at home with this book.  Sir Apropos of Nothing is a decent enough book, although a little darker than my usual fare.  All the same, if you’re looking for a fantasy novel with a slightly darker edge, this one’s for you.

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