Peter David's The Woad to Wuin is the second book in the Sir Apropos of Nothing series. The title of the book makes it obvious that this is a tongue-in-cheek book, and David delivers nicely on the title's promise. Though not as good as the first book, it is definitely a worthy successor to it. Only a weak middle part of the book mars what otherwise is a funny, interesting take on the fantasy genre.
After leaving his bride-to-be, Entipy, at the end of the previous book, Apropos has hooked up with the weaver (another word for magician) Sharee. The book begins with Apropos finding the ďOne Thing to Rule them All,Ē a ring that goes around something other than a finger and causes him to be in a permanent state of arousal, as well as causing any woman in the vicinity to lust after him. This is quickly resolved (though the adventure to get rid of it is epic, David tells it in only a few pages), but Sharee has left him due to the fact that she blames him for what happened and what she turned into.
Later, though, when Apropos spends two years owning and operating an inn, Sharee shows up desperately in need of help, having stolen a jewel from a horrible warlord. The people after her force Apropos to run with her through the dark caves of Baídaíboom and then into the Tragic Waste. After collapsing there, he wakes up to find that heís a warlord (or Peacelord, in his case) who has evidently been looting and pillaging cities for months. Heís understandably confused by all this, as he has no memory of any of it.
What has happened to him? Why canít he remember? Apropos is a cynical man who only looks after himself, so why shouldnít he keep on doing something that heís apparently successful at? And how can he get so lucky, a man who has never had good luck in his life, to have a beautiful and insatiable woman at his side? When he finds out what happened, he also finds out a lot about himself, and about the limits of his selfishness.
Apropos is not your typical fantasy hero. Heís self-centered, always looking after his own interests before othersí. Thatís what I love about Peter Davidís writing: he always does the unusual. I wouldnít want to read about this type of character all the time, but it is a nice change of pace. In The Woad to Wuin, David takes Apropos on a journey of discovery that brings him face to face with the depths of his self-centeredness, as well as what little moral sense he has. Itís an interesting relationship the he builds with Sharee, as they are companions of necessity more than anything else. They donít really like each other much, but they are both outcasts and so share a certain kinship. Deep down, though, there seems to be a grudging respect between them despite their animosity. Apropos saves her life a few times when he knows that it involves risking his life. When his men capture her, he goes out of his way, risking his power, to try and set her free. He constantly regrets these actions, however, when she continually spurns his help because she knows the type of man he really is. I found watching the two of them fascinating, and thought the book lost a little during the sequences when she wasnít there.
There arenít that many other essential characters in the book, really, but all of them are well-rounded with intriguing bits about them. Thereís Kate, Aproposí lover while heís the Peacelord. She seems like just a stereotypical ditzy blonde, but she has a hidden depth to her thatís revealed in time. Warlord Beliquose is aptly named; he speaks in nothing but shouts, the volume of his voice shaking everything around him. All of his conversation is in capital letters, which anybody who is familiar with the Internet already knows is considered shouting. The men in Aproposí army arenít quite as well done, but even they have one or two little quirks that make them interesting. The most fascinating of them all, though, is Bicce, the hound (part woman, part creature) who Beliquose uses to track them. Even though she is mostly a beast, she has a certain nobility about her, especially toward the end of the book where she turns into something you donít really expect. I found her the most intriguing of the minor characters, and David does a good job in portraying her.
The plot, while fairly interesting, desperately drags in the middle. When Apropos wakes up, you spend a lot of time wondering along with him about what has happened to him. Then he starts doing some horrible, nasty things. While he does suffer attacks of conscience, it is still very jarring for the ďheroĒ of the book to be doing all of this. It can get a bit unpleasant, actually, and eventually rather boring. Apropos slowly learns some things about himself, so itís still valuable -- itís very important to the development of the plot. Itís just a slog to get through. Things start to pick up again as the reader finds out whatís really going on. The book explodes at last into a breakneck pace with revelations occurring right and left.
Itís a shame that The Woad to Wuin is disjointed in this fashion. I really struggled to get through the middle part of the book, and thatís not something that usually happens with Davidís writing. With this exception, the book is a wonderful exploration of a self-centered character who has had nothing but hard knocks in life. He is the product of the rape of his mother and his mother is then killed by somebody else who was also in the process of raping her. He does find some information in this book about who that person may have been, but itís left unclear whether or not this is a symptom of the alleged perpetratorís madness, or if itís really true. I want to read more about Apropos, and I canít wait for the next book.