The Book of Knights tells a fairy story in such simple language that it could be a children's book. Young Adelrune grows up with his foster-parents following the theocratic-mercantile religion of "The Rule", a set of precepts (and commentary) to be followed to the letter.
One must show kindness to wanderers who come calling at one's door. It is the duty of all the faithful to give correct welcome and hospitality.
...we must in all things keep an awareness of the boundaries of the Rule. This must be understood in detail: it is not enough to know that one is within the Rule, but also how far from the limit of proper conduct one stands. Praise to the righteous man, secure as he is in the very heart of the Rule...
When Adelrune finds a mysterious book telling of the exploits of Knights he reads it (even thereby showing disrespect for the Rule) and decides to become a Knight himself. Very soon he runs away from home, finds a mentor Riander, who lives in a strange and enchanted house, and goes on various strange quests to try to earn his knighthood. In the end he returns home, discoveres the grisly secret of his parentage, and learns a simple lesson about life and morality.
What distinguishes the basic story from many similar ones is the fast pace, Meynard's fertile imagination, and the strange tone of the book, which is at times more cynical and mocking than expected in a fairy tale. This unexpectedly sardonic tone reminded me of Jack Vance, and I began to look for similarities to Jack Vance's work. These were striking.
The beginning of The Book of Knights concerns a boy, Adelrune, trying to escape a religion which keeps wealthy merchants in power, and servants in their place.
How often had he heard Stepfather repeat, with smug relish, the words of Didactor Moncure: "All the wisdom of the world is to be found in the Rule and its Commentaries. All other texts are but a waste of parchment."
On the other hand, Jack Vance's The Anome starts with a boy, Mur, trying to escape a religion designed to keep men in power and women in their place.
"You can expedite your passage into the temple," spoke Osso. "Devour no greasy food, drink no syrups nor baklavy. The bond between child and mother is strong; now is the time to start the solvent process. When your mother offers sweetmeats or attempts fond caresses, you must say, 'Madam, I am on the verge of purification; please do not add to the rigours I must endure.'"
Later in The Book of Knights, when Adelrune is on his first quest as a Knight-in-training, he meets a group of small mollusk-like humanoids in their larval form, the Offspring of Kuzar.
"You said Kuzar is gone; where exactly is he now?" Adelrune asked carefully.
Kodo raised a tiny bald eyebrow. "I was using a euphemism, which I suppose must have confused you. It is not considered polite to speak of this in blunt terms, but I will make an exception for your sake. Kuzar is 'gone' in the sense of 'dead'."
This combination of cunning and foolishness is classically Vancean. In Vance's The Eyes of the Overworld, the anti-hero Cugel encounters a group of mollusk-like humanoids, and tries to get them to open their shells.
"Perhaps you are ignorant," scoffed Cugel. "Perhaps you know nothing save the color of fish and the wetness of water."
The shell of the farthest opened further, enough to show the indignant face within. "We are by no means ignorant!"
"Nor indolent, nor lacking in grace, nor disdainful," shouted the second.
"Nor timorous!" added a third.
I don't want to over-emphasize the Vance connection. (For example, there are parallels to Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, which also features a magical book that writes itself and helps boys become warriors.) In any case, this book is unusual in two ways. First, it is endlessly inventive. Meynard doesn't simply draw on the werewolves, witches, and vampires of the contemporary fantasy novel; he goes deeper. Second, the book doesn't attempt to modernize fantasy language as do Jim Butcher's Dresden Files or Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series does; it uses a more formal register. This more serious register is hard for a writer to handle—it can seem pompous—but Meynard handles it well.