Sir Hereward. Knight, artillerist, swordsman. Mercenary for hire. Ill-starred lover.
Mister Fitz. Puppet, sorcerer, loremaster. Practitioner of arcane arts now mostly and thankfully forgotten. Former nursemaid to Hereward.
Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz. Agents of the Council of the Treaty for the Safety of the World, charged with the location and removal of listed extra-dimensional entities, more commonly known as gods or godlets.
Travellers. Adventurers. Godslayers . . .
Garth Nix is best known for a number of successful young adult or children’s series, including the Abhorsen trilogy (soon to be a quad-logy). The three adventures promised by the subtitle here are at the upper end of that age range at the youngest, and Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz has what is often described as an “adult” sense to it…
That primarily comes across in the female characters. Across the three works, we meet four women; three are almost immediately objectified by Hereward, described in terms of arousal, sexuality, how attractive he finds them. The other is described in those terms too, but only in the negative. For a writer who did such a good job of representing a variety of women when writing to young adults, Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz is a bit of a disappointment in that argument; is it possible to argue Nix presents himself as seeing women as losing their humanity when they reach adolescence, or is this to argue too much from too few texts? Either way, it’s a serious issue in this slim volume.
Mind you, it’s pretty much the only serious issue. Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz is mostly about fun, albeit often of a quite dark kind; these are swashbuckling tales taking joy in their fantasticalness, in their invention, in their fast-paced simplicity. Lying somewhere between epic and sword and sorcery in their scope, we never really see Nix lay out consequences for the actions taken by the two protagonists, except perhaps for other people; that approach to writing, especially when the stakes could be huge or tiny, actually works rather well, and makes the fast fun of the stories more effective. Of course, they’re also full of darker moments, and Nix takes an almost Martinesque approach to death, the only two characters who are protected being his protagonist; but with slim characterisation for the rest of his cast, that lacks the pathos granted to it by Martin’s skill.
In the end, if you’re looking for serious, deep or meaningful stories, look elsewhere; for good portrayals of female characters, again, look elsewhere; but for simple, fast fun? Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz will, with a certain glorious simplicity, fill that gap quite nicely.