During the return trip the band is attacked, the princess kidnapped, and Apropos, who is fleeing, comes upon his only enemy-friend Tacit, who had befriended him, taught him woodcraft, and designed his staff, in the woods planning to be the heor of the story and rescue the princess with a newly reborn phoenix. Apropos steals the phoenix and procures the princess, but the phonix flies them to a bordering land of a ruthless warlord who is hostile to their kingdom. Apropos and the princess work as hired help in the local tavern until the warlord has a wedding feast and they are offered a large sum of money for their service as hired help. Apropos discovers that the wife-to-be is none other than Astela so he blackmails her and relieves her of a large quantity of her ill-gotten wealth. Newly rich, they can now afford to send a message to the king (via a messenger witch) who arranges a rendezvous. During the course of the trip they are beset by Tacit, who is shot by the kings men before he can complete Apropos’ death.
All is not well at the rendezvous, for one of King Runcible’s knights betrays him to the itinerate king Meander. Apropos attempts a hair-brained scheme initially concocted for his escape and succeeds by his wit and by Sharee, a woman magician whom he had saved much earlier in his life, who vouches for him. Meander sees through the scheme anyway, but chooses to let Runcible go. So Apropos goes back to the castle, where a feast awaits him and he is knighted Sir Apropos of Nothing. Unhappily, he discovers that he is engaged to the princess (whom he likes but does not trust) and an evening tryst with her accidentally reveals that she is his half-sister. He refuses to marry the princess (but does not reveal the queen’s affair with the jester, who is apparently his father) and is thrown into a dungeon by the king, where is rescued by the jester. So, leaving the castle with nothing, just as he had entered it so long ago, he wanders off to (possibly) become the prophesied hero with Sharee.
Davis has written the post-modern fairy tale. The tale is set in the usual fantasy kingdom, complete with honorable knights, the phoenix, Harpies (their sons, actually), magicians (weavers), thieves (Tacit and Apropos), heros (Tacit), and princesses. However, the knights are, in fact, not terribly honorable—his mother was raped by several—and some Apropos’ fellow squires are quite mean spirited. Tacit, who began as a Robin Hood character, becomes a Hero, and then falls to unheroic bitterness and revenge after Apropos steals his route to Heroism. The princess is hardly a sweet character, a girl who is disenchanted with the fraudulence of the accident of birth and resentful of her parents’ arranging her life for her. Apropos, the ultimate hero of the story (if that title can belong to any character), displays no heroic qualities whatsoever, just a selfish devotion to saving his skin and advancing his own welfare.
Far from the fairy tale ending, Apropos rises from beggardom to prominence and in a few short hours back to beggardom. The hero and the princess do not live happily ever after, as she is not only his half-sister, but turns out have mixed desire for acquisition with love. (Although it does appear that Apropos and Sharee might live happily ever after.) Unlike the fairy tales where the hero largely does not change, Apropos starts off as a vengeful beggar, cynical about noble princples and concerned only for himself. He becomes, however, someone who sees the hypocrisy and is determined not to live it.
Destiny is often referred to by Apropos, as his mother had seen a phoenix being born shortly before he was conceived and had known that he had a destiny. And indeed, phoenixes do appear with surprising frequency in his life: the castle has a tapestry depicting the prophesied great hero riding a phoenix, and he steals one from Tacit (who was attempting to fulfill the prophesy). Davis’ destiny is post-modern in the sense that one makes one’s own destiny, yet almost more like Oedipus’ destiny—unavoidable. Nowhere is this more apparent than when Apropos hears Tacit singing a ballad to the phoenix. Hitherto Tacit has been the obvious hero: raised by unicorns, befriending the poor, and doing great deeds. And Apropos realizes that Tacit truly is the hero of the tapestry, that Apropos is unimportant, and he refuses to accept that. Standing at the nexus of the future, Apropos decides to take Tacit’s future for himself, or at least destroy Tacit’s role in it. Yet, he later discovers that his father the jester has forseen the great hero and that the hero looks like Apropos (only without an ear). Destiny, changeable yet unavoidable.
An interesting fairy-tale set in a post-modern fairy-tale kingdom inhabited by people as they really are (or would have been), Sir Apropos of Nothing is a book that starts off fairly slowly but becomes increasingly engaging as the themes begin to develop. The conclusion is foreseeably satisfying, even though after 500 pages Apropos is still a beggar after having had many unexploitable chances to escape it, and leaves the reader with a disturbing ambiguity about their own life. How much of us acts as selfishly as Apropos? Have we had opportunities that we didn’t seize upon (for good or bad reasons)? Are we directing our own destiny? While Davis fails to make his world convincing—it is a little too arbitrary (perhaps by design)and has little depth—his characters are often disturbingly believable, covering the cynic within us, the youthful bully, the deceiver, and the politics of the authorities. In short, a thoughtful and interesting book that is well worth reading.
While thought provoking, it is fails to reach into greatness. The style is a little too bestseller-like: sex is unnecessarily graphic, the style a little too colloquial, and a one-dimensional background history. However, a must read for the fantasy reader.
||The main character. Cynical about nobility, views knights as hypocrites because they talk about honor yet rape (and later kill) his mother. Considers honor useless (“Apropos, ... one who has no honor, and no use for it, might feel tempted to flee at a time like this. I am not saying you are without honor...but if you are...then I would not let that thought cross your mind.” p. 192). Lives by his wits, always tries to turn a situation to his use. Only does what benefits him (except by the end).|
||Raised by unicorns. Befriends Apropos, teaches him woodcraft, designs his staff,
teaches Apropos how to use it. Intends to fullfil the prophecy of
||Daughter of Queen Beatrice and Odclay. Resents the King and Queen ordering her life (especially matrimonially). Views the world similarly as Apropos except that she combines it with royal expectations (“You keep saying that you know I love you. Do you truly love me?” “I want you.” “That’s not the same thing.” “When you’re royalty it is.” p. 499)|
||Weaver rescued by Apropos early is his history with Tacit (Tacit wanted to save her, but Apropos succeeded in doing so only to get himself out of the situation). Worked for Meander (presumably after her liberation) controlling the weather. Broke a vow to help out Apropos. Eventually randomly meets him in the forest.|
||Known as crafty, but in reality
not terribly intelligent.
||A nice woman. Had an affair with Odclay. Helped nurse Apropos back to health after he stood outside the castle in sleet at night and heat in the day waiting for justice.|
|Odclay the Jester
||“Runcible has no knack for
strategy at all. He’s neither wise nore clever...well, no more so
than the average man. ... It’s always been me, guiding him in
private, telling him what to do. He likes the limelight; I
like to run things, try and make the world a better place.” Father
of both Apropos (somewhat under duress) and Entipy.
||Betrays Runcible to Meander
||Sir Coreolis’ squire. Bullies Apropos. Forces him to bet that Sir Umbrage will win the joust and if not, be his virtual slave, causing Apropos to rig the tournament.|
||Knight who was once a great knight, befriended the king, and became eternally honored. Still is skillful but does not want to go into battle because he wants to continue living.|
||Heartless man. Beheads
people at the slightest displeasure. Furniture is made of human
bones. Hates Runcible; recently was defeated by him.
||Originally King of the far
North. He married his true love, but was just a little bit too
arrogant and the gods killed his wife. Forsook the North and
wanders wherever he wills, fulfilling his epicurean desires. Possibly killed Apropos’ mother.
- Phoenix: seeing a phoenix reborn is a harbinger of good future. The tapestry in the castle by Odclay the Farseer depicts the great hero riding a phoenix.
- Weavers: magic is accomplished by weaving the threads of a
particular area. Some areas do not have very dense threads
was caught in one of these). There are many types of weavers: generic weavers, comweavers (kind of like Western Union),
mediweavers (magical doctors), cosmetic weavers, farseers (rare).