‘Sir Hereward And Mister Fitz: Three Adventures’ by Garth Nix collects for the first time in one place all three stories about the titular protagonists. The two novels and one short story have all been published previously in different anthologies.
Sir Hereward is a knight, an artillerist, a swordsman and an ill-starred lover. Mister Fitz is a magically animated puppet, a sorcerer, a loremaster, a practitioner of arcane arts now mostly and thankfully forgotten and former nursemaid to Sir Hereward. Both of them are agents of the Council of the Treaty for the Safety of the World. Their job: locate and remove listed extra-dimensional entities, more commonly known as gods or godlets. Each of the stories in this collection describes their handling of one of those entities.
In ‘Sir Hereward And Mister Fitz Go to War Again’ (2007), the two unlikely companions come to a prospering city surrounded by derelict cities. It is not long before they discover the reason for this imbalance.
The pair have to travel ‘Beyond The Sea Gate Of The Scholar-Pirates Of Sarsköe’ (2008) to slay a godlet in the form of a giant yellow starfish, but first they have to disguise themselves as pirates to get unlikely allies who will help them reach their goal.
When Sir Hereward is recovering from his wounds at a peaceful monastery, the search for ‘A Suitable Present For A Sorcerous Puppet’ (2010) leads him to an unexpected discovery and nearly to his death. All the while Mister Fitz is digging…
All three stories are delightful to read, despite them being slightly different in tone. Whereas the first is relatively straightforward heroic fantasy, the second one is a bit more leaning to horror and the third one offers more comedy. But the deadpan tone in which they are all told makes them amusing. They are best read in publication order, just so that you get all the relevant information about the characters and the setting right from the beginning.
Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz are flawed heroes. They do good by slaying evil entities but both of them are prepared to sacrifice innocents to do so, as the lives of the many outweigh the lives of the few. Still at least Sir Hereward has a conscience – who knows, with a self-willed wooden puppet – and regrets some of his deeds. He is also the main viewpoint character. We see his part of the god-slaying with our own eyes, mostly keeping the minions occupied, whereas Mister Fitz does unspeakable things with esoteric needles out of sight, which lends his deeds an air of well-placed mystery.
The stories in ‘Sir Hereward And Mister Fitz: Three Adventures’ are a deviation from Garth Nix’s usual Young Adult fare, however a successful one. They are aimed at an adult audience, not due to too sexy content but because of the complex themes they tackle. The stories are overall very atmospheric and conjure images of an old world which has seen the rise and fall of uncounted civilisations, but they are also quite dark and gruesome at times. Garth Nix masters the short form as well as his novels and at least the two main protagonists don’t feel flat. The stories wouldn’t be out of place in an anthology like ‘Songs Of The Dying Earth’ and fans of Jack Vance and of high fantasy should definitely risk a glance. I would love to read more about the adventures of Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz. Perhaps Garth Nix will someday delight us with a novel about the two godslayers.
(pub: Subterranean Press. 134 page hardback. Price: $35.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-500-0)
check out website: www.subterraneanpress.com