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No Country for Old Gnomes
Tales of Pell #2
by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Del Rey, $28.00, 389pp
Published: April 2019

Well…this was just eight 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.  While this is their second book in the Tales of Pell series, it is not a sequel; it stands just fine on its own.

It starts with Gnomes.  Gnomes are small with cute cardigans but for some reason the Halflings have commenced an undeclared war against them.  A guerrilla war, even, with sneaky attacks.  Onni and Offi, Gnome brothers, are chased from their family home, along with their parents, after it is firebombed by nasty Halflings.  Across the street, in a quiet little park, sat Kirsi – a pretty Gnome maid with a particularly attractive beard.  Kirsi had long harbored a smoosh on Onni and was sorta hoping Onni might decide a late-night walk in the park was just the thing when she was startled from her daydream by gloating halflings throwing firebombs at Onni’s home. Observing what was obviously a coordinated attack on the village, Kirsi decided returning home to a target was not a good idea; and believing Onni and his family gone, she decided to hit the road.

The Halflings – well, some of the Halflings – are being led by the dread Marquant Dique. Dique managed to recruit Faucon who is a more traditional sort of Halfling; concerned with good grooming and adhering to building codes. Faucon is a fearsome hunter and has a personal score to settle with Gnomes whose blatant disregard for building codes cost him someone dear.  And Faucon has help on his side in the form of a loyal Gryphon.  He suspects Dique’s reasons for forcing all the Gnomes from their home but figures he can deal with Dique later, after he takes care of his own business.  And the Gryphon will be his ace-in-the-hole; so long as he can keep her supplied with omelettes.

Enter Agape Fallopia, an ovitaur. (Yes, I’ll wait while you check with Websters…. Give up?)  Agape and her parents are half human, half sheep and are the caretakers of a metal man.  This particular metal man has been in their family for generations and they have been forced to spend their whole lives moving from place to place to protect it.  Agape’s parents are ready to retire and eager to advance their daughter into the position of protector.  The automaatti is in sore need of maintenance and Agape is determined to find a Certified Gnomeric Gearhand; just as it says on its back plate. Since there is a war going on between the Gnomes and the Halflings, the prospect seems a bit daunting.  And it doesn’t help to discover the Halfling Faucon and his Gryphon are determined to steal it away.  The game changes, however, when Gerd, the Gryphon, discovers Agape’s true nature.

And the final character to enter the story is the young dwarf, Baggi Biins.  Baggi has left his mountain home on a rite of passage, of sorts.  He has come to realize that he is suffering from an impending bout of violence.  He has to find a way to purge the violence so he can return to his knitting and herbs while avoiding the deadly cabbages.

Oh, almost forgot King Gustave.  Gustave was merely an annoying goat trying not to be eaten in the last book of Pell, “Kill the Farm Boy” but is now the King and his chief advisor is the Sand Witch Grinda.  (See the review)  They’ve received some distressing letters from various Gnomes outlining the indignities suffered at the hands of the murderous Halflings.  But communication with the local king Lord Ergot assures them that it is a small thing and the Gnomes deserve it.  But since Gustave is working very hard at being a good King, he decides they need to visit Lord Ergot’s refugee camps and see for themselves.  And this is where the fellowship comes together when almost everyone ends up at the refugee center and become acquainted with each other.  The troupe comes to the understanding that the current state of affairs will not be resolved unless they can find a copy of the Elder Annals. This forgotten document will restore order and law to the land; it is a document of great weight and importance.  But Marquant Dique’s war against the Gnomes is going to be something of a hindrance and he has a vested interest in keeping them from recovering the tome.

Along the way, each of the troupe discovers an unsuspected strength and develops a true fellowship with each other.  Believe it or not, all that is described above took less of the book than their journey to find the Elder Annals.  The authors are quite adept at tight plotting and incredibly enlightening dialogue and descriptions; there are no wasted words here, no boring exposition.  And while lesser writers might rely heavily on pun-ish dialogue to carry the book, these authors actually rely on plot.  Each character is fully realized and has an equally important role to play.  Did I mention that I loved this story?  After all, didn’t you smirk when you read the title?  ~~ Catherine Book

For more titles in this series click here
For more titles by Kevin Hearne click here

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