Unaccountably, Davis fails to name this darkly serious sequel to his equally glum Sophoclean epic Sir Apropos of Nothing
(2000), The Woad to Wack and Wuin
. Perhaps his work on the novelization of that stark tragedy Spider-Man
(2002, not reviewed here) left him addled with grief. But after 50 novels, many in the Star-Trek: The Next Generation series, after gargling up grunts for The Incredible Hulk
, and wringing his brain for scripts for Babylon 5
and still other TV series, what can be left of man or writer? Well, enough to spell out the woad to Wuin. Who is the stingingly brilliant Sir Apropos, son of a tavern wench raped by a group of knights? Something of a cynic, for whom the world is one of endless betrayal and deprivation. Because his mother saw a phoenix burn to ash in a wood and rise again in flame, Sir Apropos is born with flaming red hair, teeth, a lame right leg, and a hodgepodge of facial features. He now carries about his murdered mother, reborn as Mordant, a phoenix too hideous to be looked upon by his beloved, beautiful weather-weaving sorceress Sharee. Apropos's present antiheroic but Schopenhaurean journey, into a world where will and idea arise knotted in twists and tangles, turns on an enchanted gem known as Eye of the Beholder, which he finds under a deformed dwarf hung from a tree in the forest. The gem is on a ring bearing an inscription, as Nibelungen rings since Das Rheingold
(and borrowed by Tolkien) must: "One thing to rule them all." The ring, working its way through a hole in his pocket, lodges at the base of his upright member, and won't come off, not even after an amazing night of arduous ardors with insatiable Sharee.
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