Peter David,
Sir Apropos of Nothing
(Second Age, 2001; Pocket, 2002)

The book begins with a half-naked squire, an all-naked lady and a newly dead knight. Apropos, the lothario caught in the act, seems at first to be your typical Jack character, a bumbling everyman who wins through every circumstance through pluck, luck and a simple unwillingness to back down.

Well, that's another book. This is Sir of Apropos of Nothing by Peter David, and his characters typically don't fit the molds we expect. Apropos is the lame-legged, bastard son of a tavern whore, and he doesn't aspire to bold deeds and chivalry. His sour demeanour and cynical outlook on life is matched only by his unflagging instinct for self-preservation.

His life is defined by betrayals, deceit and cowardice; Apropos is the protagonist of this book, but not the hero. (You'll see what happens to heroes along the way.) In other words, you probably won't find yourself liking him very much, even as you root for him as you'd root for any underdog in his position.

The story is filled with the stuff that makes fantasy fun, including a phoenix or two, a herd of angry unicorns, a pack of harpies (of a sort), a ruthless warlord, noble (and not so noble) knights, a fiesty princess and assorted royalty. There's a hero, too, although things don't turn out like he planned.

For readers familiar with David's earlier novels, such as Knight Life and Howling Mad, might expect a laugh riot, but Sir Apropos isn't that kind of a comedy. The tone of the book adheres to a more serious fantasy style, although there is an undercurrent of humor throughout, coupled with the occasional appearance of some egregious puns.

Sir Apropos of Nothing is a fantasy of a different sort. Some folks might be put off by the title character's unlikable nature, but chances are good you'll find yourself rooting for him, too, as he spits at all that's fine and true, and strikes a blow for normal people. Look for the sequel, The Woad to Wuin.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 24 August 2002

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