NY: Tor, 1998. 222pp
Yves Meynard's delightful fantasy, The Book Of Knights, is the story of a young boy whose only outlet from an abusive home life is his discovery of an old copy of The Book Of Knights. Inspired by its tales of honour and adventure he runs away from home, resolving to become a knight.
At first glance, this may appear to be just another in the familiar genre of quest fantasies, albeit much better written than most. The individual adventures are highly original, and oddly off-center to English language readers used to the sanitized fairy tales of our Disney-dominated culture. There is an underlying edginess and quirky dark humour here that harkens back to the traditional French or German folktale, with all the potential for mayhem that implies.
But Meynard does much more than merely string together a series of unrelated adventures. In the final chapter, Meynard manages to pull all our hero's disparate adventures together into a single coherent whole, thereby elevating it from escapist fantasy to a highly satisfying morality tale. While the narrative keeps the reader entertained and distracted, Meynard slips in some of the most literate fantasy metaphor I've encountered in years, to immerse the reader in a universe of moral ambiguity. Instead of the simplistic absolutes of "good wizard vs bad" that pollutes so much of the fantasy section's shelf space these days, Meynard confronts his characters with real moral choices, asking them (and the reader) to think for themselves. It is the sort of book that makes you feel you've grown as a result of reading it, even though you were having outrageous fun the whole time.
I highly recommend The Book Of Knights. Indeed, in tone, maturity, and significance, it must be considered Quebec's answer to Sean Nobody's Son.
Review by Robert Runté.
Originally published in Under the Ozone Hole.