The Incorporated Knight by L Sprague & Catherine Cook de Camp
The Incorporated Knight is … a book? It’s not a comedy, not in the traditional manner. I never really laughed, though I did occasionally reflect that it was funny. It’s not a serious book either. There’s too much absurdity and sheer bumbling for me to feel attached to the characters or have expectations for the plot. And the plot is rather thin.
Eudoric, our level-headed protagonist and knight, wishes to wife. To this end, he sets off on a quest. By the back copy, you’d think that the book follows him along this winding quest until it eventually leads back to his betrothed. It does, except it doesn’t take the length of the book. It takes maybe a quarter of it, after which he has other betrotheds and plenty of unlikely, winding adventures.
His life is essentially a comedy of errors, except he and his squire are completely unflappable. For it to be a true comedy, someone needs to be flapped. This is where the slight comedy comes from: we note the absurdity and incongruity of what he’s going through, and ascribe humor to it. The humor doesn’t truly feel based in the writing.
I am, I must admit, a little disappointed by the female characters in this story. Most of them are barely on-screen, and none of them are portrayed tremendously favorably. It makes sense that he would have trouble with women romantically—that’s the plot of the book—but the tertiary female characters also tend to be a sorry lot.
That Eudoric takes everything in stride and, normally, refuses to hold these women’s faults against them helps mitigate this disappointment. And I love, love, that even in this medieval knight-era story where women are literally property, one of Eudoric’s only rules in courting is that the woman must approve of the marriage.
In general, I'm at a bit of a loss on what to think of The Incorporated Knight. It was clever, in ways, and funny, in others. There was never really any tension or compulsion to keep reading, and yet I finished the book. At no point was I in love—nothing gave me goosebumps or made me pause in appreciation of a perfect moment—but I was undeniably intrigued about where Eudoric would end up.
I guess I should determine if Eudoric and the world of The Incorporated Knight passes the Grocery Shopping Rule.
And they do. Because somehow a quest for an onion would cross three countries and involve several royals and a hideous monster or two. And when he finally returned with said onion, he’d discover that what he’d truly needed was a leek. And he’d sigh, and try to turn his onion in onion-aide—or, perhaps, caramelized onions, which would be a better fit here.
There are those stories where I’d argue that you need to give it a good 50-100 pages before you can really judge it. This isn’t one of those books. If you’re not interested by the time Eudoric is enmeshed in his first quest, then this might not be the best book for you. If you’re enjoying the easy pace and the gentle, distant humor of it, though, then you’re in luck.
You might enjoy this book if you like:
One warning: all of the dialogue is pseudo old-English. It's surprising how quickly you get used to it, but it comes on a litlte strong.
Cover art by Dan Horne