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Hope you like jovial arguing

2 out of 5 stars
2 out of 5 stars
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-08-2017

The first thing you need to realise is that this is a book for children. This theory was tested by the occasional mention of guts and intestines, as well as one or two moments of blood (or blood-sucking) but I had to concede the point when people wouldn’t use language any harsher than “gosh darn”, not even the rudest and most callous character in the story.
Before I carry on, this book does have a Disney/Pixar sort of charm, and the writer does care about the world he’s created. If you’re in the mood for something light and easy to visualise (the author is especially good at setting a scene, describing the way creatures and places look), and you’re under the age of 14, then this is the one for you.
Even for a children’s book though, some characters, or rather the main characters, had about the depth of a kiddie pool (appropriately). The overexcited girl could have had some sort of baggage underneath the smiles, the musclehead could have been a bit kinder beneath the snide comments, and so on. I was under the impression that these characters themselves were children, especially in Jade’s case, who you could replace with a five year-old and no one would notice, until near the end of the book when they are finally referred to as teenagers.
There are plenty of side characters, some pretty good—especially the posh wizard who was in the doghouse with his wife—but half of them are the same person. I won’t say what kind, but I at least can’t have any doubt to what music genre the writer is into. On that subject, the lingo is a bit hard to put up with, between the yeah dude’s and the chill’s and bro’s. The use of the word “random” is particularly grinding, but then this is a children’s book, so I can hardly complain.
Random seems to be the theme here, as villains, side characters, problems and answers to those problems seem to be pulled out of a hat. The formula is this: animal + urban legend/element/historical warrior. I can’t say I dislike that though, especially as this is a spoof, but I would have thought the main villain deserved something a bit more thought out than what he ended up being.
To be honest, I was suckered in by the audio sample. A Star Wars reference got my attention, I had a decent chuckle, and that was good enough to hear the rest, surely. I had waded through myriad gritty grimdark fantasies and I was in the mood for something comedic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any more nuanced than referential humour, and even that is scarce.
As for the narration itself, I have to give the reader points for enthusiasm, and was especially impressed by how he was able to read the entire book without taking a single breath. However, his emphasis could use work. In sentences that ends with statements like “Jade retorts” or “I say”, it just kind of hits the ear wrong in the way he stresses his words. This could be in part to do with the present-tense writing style, a rare form of writing for a reason. I don’t know why the author went with that style, but past tense would have worked just as well, if not better.
The story itself is no more complex than the quest that is ahead of them. There’s a monster they need to defeat otherwise there will be consequences, they travel to defeat it, they visit interesting places on the way. It’s a simple formula, but it does work. The closest thing to a subplot is a hint of romance between two characters, but only because it’s pointed out by an outsider. I expect this is something to be touched upon in a further book, but there really needs to be some kind of chemistry between characters before their creator can push their heads together going “now kiss”, otherwise it comes across as a touched forced.
I thought there might be a twist coming when someone asks why the warrior organisation they work for would sent them to fight something so dangerous, but like several other observations made here and there, it doesn’t come up again.
Well, there is a subplot for the main character who wonders if he’s a bit too weird, which in itself isn’t a huge problem to have, but even less so when said character is the least weird person in the entire story. Which is another problem. Cliché characters are all well and good, but a main character who can only react to things around him demands something more frictional. I think it would have helped the book a lot for Sparrow to be the resident cynic, someone to question the odd ways people and places behave around him rather than going “hey, that’s pretty weird but whatever”. His quirkiest point is that he isn’t very good at conventional magic and the thing he’s best at is summoning various flavours of duck: zombie ducks, electric ducks, tracker ducks (which apparently translates to punk duck) and so on. This was more interesting, and there is a magic system applied to the summoning element, which I can appreciate.
The potential for a good story is here, but if I get through an entire book that calls itself a spoof comedy with only one mild chuckle, there must be an issue. Next time around, I would hope for more varied side-characters, maybe a few more women, and cleverer humour than saying look at this thing, so strange, okay moving on.