You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Sorcerer's House

The Sorcerer's House is a fantasy novel by Gene Wolfe that was released in early 2010. It features many elements familiar to Wolfe's readers: a first person narrator who is somewhat unreliable; mysterious forces that the characters must come to understand; partially human creatures; the faerie world; and at least one temptress.

The novel is a series of letters written by and to Baxter Dunn, or Bax. Bax is recently out of prison for defrauding his twin brother George and is trying to find a way to establish himself in the small town of Medicine Man. He squats in an abandoned home but discovers that he is named the new owner of the home. He is not sure of the fact himself but doesn't want to question is new luck. The house has two salient features: the rooms seem to multiply and he is always finding new parts of the house. Also, there seem to be other squatters or homeless inhabiting some rooms. He runs into a teenage boy named Emlyn in one room who is looking for a device he dropped while running from Bax--the triannulus is a sorcerous device that can help you receive what you ask it for. After Bax returns it he discovers that it works almost too well, when he keeps receiving money. In fact he learns he is also the heir to a valuable plot of land near the river.

The townspeople warn Bax of the mysterious events surrounding the house and its former owner. He is helped by Doris, a real estate agent who falls for him, and a police officer named Kate. He soon discovers a fox who can turn into a woman, a werewolf, an old man who seeks to be his butler, and Emlyn's twin brother. With the revelation that Emlyn has a twin, there is a parallel with Bax and George that begins to color the events. George is a background figure for most of the story but his existence is an influence on all the action, especially as Bax is writing most of his letters to George. While Bax declares that George is the good brother and he is the bad brother, their actions seem to contradict his belief.

As the story progresses, Bax puts together the pieces of who the former owner was (hint: it was a sorcerer) and how he came to be in its possession. Different elements start to come together, though some mysteries are red herrings. The triannulus, which had so much potential turns out not to be used later at all, though the antique car in the garage comes to have significance. The end brings the questions to a satisfying end, though I was a little disappointed at some of the loose ends. And while the epistolary format works quite well for the story, what is lacking is George's point of view. He seems like a caricature, and has a barely credible turnaround in the last pages which is unfortunately not described or explained very well. Even though it is nice to have parts where the reader must read between the lines or furnish some imagination, this could have been developed more. It also would have been nice to read more about the house, though its presence is felt even when the characters are far away. Otherwise the story is a lot of fun, wild but not too dark, full of mysterious characters and places. B+

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Blogger James said...


George's POV is absent because he dies midway through the novel. That pistol was given to Bax to kill him, and he did when he attacked the car.


10:40 AM, December 29, 2010  
Blogger Dylan Peters said...

Hi James. It's not clear what happens to George at the end of the novel--though it can be read that the last letter from George is really from Bax, and George never returned from being "lost". As for attacking the car, if you mean when Bax shot the werewolf, I don't remember it being implied that that was George, and George shows up later to get lost in the house. I do delight in the ambiguity in Wolfe's novels.

1:08 PM, December 29, 2010  

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