Soldier of the Mist

Soldier of the Mist
Soldier of Arete

Gene Wolfe

Futura 1987, Tom Doherty 1989
A book review by Danny Yee © 1996
Latro, a barbarian serving in Xerxes' army, suffers a head injury at the battle of Plataia and is afflicted with recurrent amnesia, leaving him unable to remember the past each morning. In return he is given the ability to see and talk with gods and spirits. This is the premise of Gene Wolfe's Solider of the Mist, which purports to be Latro's diary (written in archaic Latin). Gathering an odd collection of companions — a faithful slave-girl, an Ethiopian, a necromancer of ambiguous sexuality, Amazons, prophets, and poets — Latro visits Thebes, Corinth, Athens, and Sparta, takes part in the siege of Sestos, and explores Thrace, before a culmination at Delphi and a departure for Italy.

Some of Wolfe's fantasy meanders too much for my liking, with a continual flux of new characters and plot elements and a lack of overall cohesion. In Soldier of the Mist the familiarity of the setting prevents this being disorientating; it is also consistent with the premise. The fantastic and magical elements are skillfully managed, with suspension of disbelief never in doubt, and the result is an unusual and effective blend of fantasy and history — one more convincing in its feel for the period than many straight historical novels.

December 1996

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%T Soldier of the Mist
%Y Soldier of the Mist
%A Wolfe, Gene
%I Futura
%D 1987
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0708882250
%P xiv,335pp

%T Soldier of Arete
%Y Soldier of the Mist
%A Wolfe, Gene
%I Tom Doherty
%D 1989
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0812511557
%P x,354pp