Deadpan humour meets swashbuckling swords-and-sorcery in this collection of short stories from fantasy heavyweight Garth Nix. A series of adventurous tales about friendship and duty, Sir Herward and Mister Fitz: Stories of the Witch King and the Puppet Sorcerer pulls together eight previously separately published stories, plus one new story of the dynamic god-slaying duo.
Sir Hereward, the rare male offspring from a society of witches, is a knight and sword-for-hire. Unlucky in love and desperate to settle down, if only for a short while, he travels the world with his friend and former nanny, an ancient and sorcerous autonomous puppet called Mr Fitz (formerly Mistress Fitz). The two are agents of the Council of the Treaty for the Safety of the World, tasked with locating and removing dangerous extra-dimensional entities commonly known as gods. Even if the rest of the world has forgotten the treaty and the countries that signed it no longer exist as they once did.
Each of the nine stories in the collection stands alone as they were originally published, meaning this is the perfect book for keeping by the bedside for whenever the desire for a small dose of high-fantasy adventure overcomes you. Since each story was originally published separately, they each offer any essential background you need to understand the story, meaning you never need to fear forgetting vital information, while simultaneously offering a new insight into the characters each time.
Though Hereward is put forward as the hero of the story, it’s often Mr Fitz who actually gets the job done, always steering his protégé away from distraction and towards their end goal. Hereward is a reluctant hero, seemingly indifferent to his work, and more interested in the pleasures of life than to the peace he is meant to protect. His youth – at 25 years old – means that he sometimes struggles to see the larger impact of both his and Mr Fitz’s actions, but he continues to fulfil his role out of a sense of duty (and with gentle nudges from Mr Fitz).
I will admit that Mr Fitz is my favourite character. Unable to lie and compelled to give an accurate portrayal of every situation – even when half-truths may suit the situation better – he is somewhat creepy and unpredictable, and there’s a sense that he values both time and life differently. His centuries of living have given him a greater insight into the machinations of the world, and, like Hereward, he seems to view his role as an agent of the council with an almost detached sense of duty. Yet, as the stories go on, it’s clear he genuinely cares for Hereward and would do anything to protect him.
This collection is told in a narrative style that almost parodies traditional high fantasy. Each story allows time for setting, character and plot, meaning it moves a tad slower than a lot of his novel-length works but also allows for the opportunity to be fully immersed in this fantastical world.
Perfect for fans of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz are the heroes you wouldn’t expect, from a world you’ll wish you could explore even more.