The Way Knight by Alexander Wallis is an intriguing novel, the prose and description are masterful. Many of the characters are well fleshed out, a lot of the character building is done through dialogue and actions, rather than info dumps.
Daimonia, the main character, is a confusing individual to begin with. Her mix of near doting love on her brother, mood swings against her grandfather and her deity like worship of her estranged mother presents a whole palette of feelings about this character. In my own opinion, don’t hate me for this, Dai is more like a case study for a psychology class than a fictional character. Having spoken with Wallis, and read his short piece on himself at the end of the novel, I know that he worked in the youth and community sector. I feel that Dai was lifted straight from a case he may have worked on and was transplanted into his fictional world. Whilst this may sound like me writing negatively about Dai, I feel that this enhances the character. Giving her a fleshed out and well researched feeling.
The obvious underlining tone throughout the novel is of the personal struggles and afflictions suffered by the main cast. For example Daimonia’s grandfather Jhonan is the text book example of a man afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His reliance on alcohol and his disturbed sleep, where he is haunted by previous battles, are clear signs of the struggles he faces. Jhonan may be my favourite character in The Way Knight, his disfigured hands lend the visible scar of his affliction. He is presented as a man who never really left the battlefield, treating his grandson like an insubordinate soldier and always carrying his dagger. A man who at one point defends himself brilliantly, showing up a character who may seem to have the advantage.
As the title suggests their is the Way Knight, Goodkin, battle scarred and duty bound he is the image of a veteran mercenary. The Way Knights are a loosely organised order of knights, more akin to mercenaries, who protect those who pay them, at any cost. Goodkin is shown to be fearless, hacking men apart who stand against him with an efficient brutality. Like the rest of the characters he suffers from an unseen affliction, along with the visible ones, a lattice of facial scars. His problem it appears resonates from some loss, his need to fulfill the contract that Daimonia sets him upon becomes the essence of his being. His unwillingness to attach himself to those he travels with hints at several possibilities.
One of the aspects which I adore in Wallis’ work is his ability to set a scene. His explanations of a setting are beautiful,, and for this review I did something I never thought I’d do. Something, in the dark corners of the fantasy community and overall novel community believe to be an act of heresy, I folded the corner of a page. Yes I know! I’ve already found an appropriate wall to stand in front of for the firing squad. No worming out of it like Captain Blackadder for me. But this is the description that i had to share;
‘A drowsy mist had idled in from the coast, cooling the evening. The wispy air was illuminated by a brilliance of stars looming in vast constellations.’
Some may find the pacing of the novel to be a little out of step. The passage of a day moving from one sentence to a next can make it feel hard to understand the difference in time between the beginning and the end. Along with this a few minor issues I picked out on was that some of Dai’s lines felt slightly wooden, as if they were thrown in as soon as they were thought up. Whereas most other characters appear to, in my mind at least, have had their language thought through.
These two problems though do not detract overly from the rest of the experience, this is definitely a novel I will be going back and reading again in the future. Perhaps next time jotting down my thoughts in the margin, to keep my mind working throughout.
Wallis is truly what people would refer to as a nice bloke and I implore you to go out and find yourself a copy of this. It truly stimulates the mind. He can quote me on that bit if he wishes (hint hint).