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Claude Lalumiere's Fantastic Fiction
Latro in the Mist

by Gene Wolfe

(Orb/Tor, $17.95, 640 pages, trade paperback; published in January 2003.)

Gene Wolfe's Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete -- the novels that comprise the omnibus Latro in the Mist -- are the first two installments in an as-yet-incomplete fantasy epic set circa 500 cover scanBC. Latro in the Mist, inspired by Greek myth and history, is an evocative labyrinthine puzzle, drenched in melancholy beauty and peppered with thrilling adventure.

The hero is a man who believes his name to be Latro. He is probably a Roman mercenary. But he himself cannot trust that information. Not only does he not remember anything about his past, but every morning the previous day's events also fade from memory within the first few minutes of consciousness.

As a result, Latro must rely on the friendship and honesty of those around him. The flip side of this curse is that Latro is now able to perceive and interact with gods and other supernatural creatures. Or perhaps he's schizophrenic.

The Soldier novels are presented in the form of translations from the scrolls on which Latro records his days. The scrolls, which Latro must reread every day to understand where he is, are filled with contradictions, as, from one day to the next, Latro cannot tell truth from lies and the people Latro meets have their own agendas regarding the mysterious mercenary. Latro's scrolls reveal him to be a deeply compassionate man prone to great deeds. There is also circumstantial evidence that he may be a werewolf, a favourite motif of Wolfe's.

Latro in the Mist -- lushly romantic, tender, and intricately complex -- is a sumptuously written epic and imbued with a profound aura of mystery. It is filled with linguistic and mythological enigmas and clues, revealing more of its hidden story with every new reading.

Originally published
in The Montreal Gazette, Saturday, 29 March 2003.

Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction is a series of
capsule reviews first published in the Saturday Books
section of The Montreal Gazette.

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