The Knight by Pierre Pevel

The Knight book cover
Rating 5.0/10
Had every opportunity to be a thrilling fantasy adventure.

I have no doubt that translating a work of fiction from one language into another is no easy task – even more so, I suspect, if that work of fiction is fantasy or science fiction. However, that being said, the rampant mistakes and poor flow of The Knight by Pierre Pevel are at least partly the result of the work of the translator, Tom Clegg – though how much is hard for anyone to know for certain.

Pierre Pevel is the author of a series of books I truly enjoyed – The Cardinal’s Blades. A French author, anything I have read by Pevel has been translated from the original French into English by Tom Clegg. There were some obvious discrepancies throughout Blades which would let an astute mind determine notice there will always be some degradation through translation, but not enough to detract from the overall story.

Not so for The Knight, which is currently sitting on a 4-star ranking on the French (six 5’s, five 4’s, two 3’s, and a 2), leading me to suspect that there are at least some issues with the original which have only been exacerbated by a translation into a foreign language.

The story follows Lorn Askarian, a young man with a bright future cut abruptly short after he is branded a traitor and sent to Dalroth, a prison dominated by a mystical force known as The Dark. Unsurprisingly, he is freed by the twenty-fifth page, but that’s where the commonalities with other books dies. Avoiding tropes such as the unfairly-convicted hero would normally have been a good thing, however, what follows is a mishmash of confused plots and twists that leave the reader not only uncertain who to root for, but unsure as to whether anything was actually accomplished by the end of the book.

Which, as a side note, concludes with a dramatic cliff-hanger that is quite obviously a blatant and poorly executed attempt to ensure people read the next book in the series.

Lorn is at times a soulless loner and at others a bereaved and emotionally unstable friend. Neither is believable or compelling, and the swings between one and the other are baffling.

As are the jumps in perspective, which may swing back and forth multiple times between three or four characters all on one page. To make matters worse, grammatical errors abound, facts are absentmindedly repeated from page to page, as if the author himself never bothered to edit his own work (let alone anyone else, or the translator), and numerous instances of missing prepositions or articles.

What makes all of this so heartbreaking is that there is an ember of a good story within this mess, which if tended to by a skilled editor and a skilled translator may have been better given the chance to spark to life. Instead, motivations are lost, characterisation is two-dimensional at best, and the reader is never left with an opportunity to actually inhabit the story in front of them.

Frighteningly reminiscent of something a vaguely talented Frenchman might run through Google’s French-English translation matrix, Pierre Pevel’s The Knight had every opportunity to be a thrilling fantasy adventure, and decided instead to resort to painful mediocrity interspersed with seemingly-flagrant editorial oversights.

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