The Wicked and the Witless by Hugh Cook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sean Sarazin, exiled son of a Kingmaker, returns to the Harvest Plains, the land of his birth, and sets about trying to get himself crowned king. Little does he know the vast web of conspiracy he's been ensnared in for most of his life...
The Wicked and the Witless tells the story of San Sarazin, the man known as Watashi in the first four books of the Chronicles of an Age of Darkness. In those books, we're given the impression that Watashi is a formidable warrior and strategist. This book shows us the truth.
The Wicked and the Witless takes what has become a fantasy cliche, the hero foretold in an ancient prophecy, and turns it on its ear. There is a prophecy but Sarazin has been nudged into fulfilling it by years of subtle manipulation. There are wheels within wheels in this story and endless political machinations and double-dealing. It was difficult to tell who was working with whom.
Sarazin is an unwitting pawn and as ill-equipped as most of Hugh Cook's protagonists. Thoric Jarl, the wise old mercenary, is a fountain of wisdom, gradually grooming Sarazin to become Watashi, whose name means blood and death. Sarazin's story raises questions about fate, destiny, and even history itself.
Easter eggs abound in The Wicked and the Witless. Miphon and Morgan Hearst are fairly prominent, as is that splendid bastard Drake Douay. The fall of the Confederation of Wizards and the rise of The Swarms is retold yet again, as is the war between Stokos and Hok.
Hugh Cook has woven a twisting tale sure to please any fan of political fantasy. Readers of the earlier Chronicles of an Age of Darkness won't want to miss this one.
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