Well…this was just six kinds of fun! This is the result of two punsters in a no-holds-barred free-for-all. Robert Asprin would have given kudos. These two break every stereotype and rebuild them.
It starts with the farm boy, Worstley, who is accosted by a drunk booger-digging fairy wearing just one blue sock who tells him he is the Chosen one who will do great things with his destiny. He just has to figure out what that might be. Unfortunately for the story, Worstley expresses disbelief in the fairy’s abilities so she proves it…she gives the gift of speech and self-awareness to a goat. Now Worstley can’t get shed of the damn talking goat, Gustave, who has decided his destiny lies with Worstley on the road since staying behind in the farmyard is only going to put him into the supper pot.
In a somewhat nearby tower lives the Dark Lord Toby and his minion Poltro, a somewhat ineffective assassin but a crackerjack tracker. Toby gets a misdelivered letter intended for the Witch Grinda from her sister bemoaning the loss of her son and a goat that was intended for the night’s supper. Toby had been looking for a “leg up” so to speak on other wizards but hadn’t found the success he craved. A weird familiar would put him above many other wizards but he can’t get the darn hedgehogs to breed with the chickens. Finding and killing a Chosen One is almost as good but since Toby never ever leaves his tower, he sends Poltro off on the mission; staying behind with his beloved cheeses and stubborn hedgehogs.
At about the same time a warrior woman in a chain-mail bikini named Fia (the woman, not the bikini) is looking for an easy score. She needs some quick cash and a chance to enter a rose in the local Rose Show and be able to retire with a prize-winning rose garden. A shady Halfling assures her that there’s a castle ripe for the picking since everyone in it is asleep and it’s surrounded by rose briars. She agrees to the heist with the full intention of taking the heart rose and no intention of stealing anything else to the eventual dismay of the Halfling. And climbing the tower went well right up to the point when she realized she was hoisting herself up on a rope of human hair and panicked. Falling might not have done her any good but she probably would have survived. Landing on poor Worstley who was passing by didn’t do him any good at all. Fia felt so bad about it, she immediately slung Worstley across her shoulders and climbed back up to the tower. It was her thought that by putting poor broken Worstley in the enchanted tower he might be sleep-suspended until they could find some way to fix him. And she didn’t get her heart rose when she was accosted by the only non-sleeping inhabitant of the castle: its bard. Argabella was the unwitting dupe of the Sand Witch Grinda when she put the curse into play, suspending everyone but Argabella. And Grinda put a nasty twist on it when it also turned Argabella into half a bunny and caused her to believe she could never leave. Thinking herself a failure as a bard, Argabella was resigned to living alone until someone should come along to wake the sleeping woman in the tower and break the curse. Once Fia and Argabella took time to compare notes, Fia learned that the Dark Lord Toby had a wonderful rose garden and Argabella began to hope that Toby might be able to help break the curse. So off they go to the Dark Lord’s Tower meeting both Gustave and Poltro along the way.
Unfortunately, the Dark Lord, who never leaves his tower or his cheeses, has no cure to save Worstley or break the sleeping curse. So Fia decides to take the fight, so to speak, to the source: the Sand Witch Grinda. Grinda who laid the spell on the castle and is, coincidently, Worstley’s aunt. Toby chafes at the idea that Grinda might be more powerful than himself but leaving the castle challenges him quite a bit. He finally manages to persuade himself with the promise of pillaging spells or charms from Grinda once he overcomes her. So the whole troupe takes off for Grinda’s place.
They encounter all sorts of wonderful things like giants who want to eat them…of course, everyone wants to eat Gustave who feels extremely put-upon and is never treated as a full member of the fellowship. One of the more fun passages was their trip to the Goblin Market for supplies…a page right out of the Deveel’s Bazaar in Asprin’s Myth books and just as weird.
Surprisingly, the plot is great; some books of this nature would rely completely on the humor and puns to get the reader to the end but I liked the nature of their quest. And the characters were so much more than one-dimensional jokes; the character building was great. Come for the cheese and stay for the most surprising hero upset of the century. ~~ Catherine Book
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