Manly Hero, heir to a dynasty of mighty warriors, reluctantly embarks on an adventure/quest in Rood’s debut fantasy novel.
Rood (the pen name of writing couple Petra Hernandez and Adam Lombard) turns in a solid, enjoyable start to a comical fantasy series set in a magical realm. Thrakis was once a place of epic deeds, where noble families with imperious surnames such as Champion and Hero fought wickedness and monsters. But the now-peaceful Thrakis has become a dull place of shallow social climbing and wedding announcements ever since legendary Mortimer Hero slew the last dragon. Now Mortimer is a drooling, elderly invalid, and Manly Hero, his undersized, 30-year-old grandson, is contemplating a low-paid career as a butterfly curator in the national museum. One day, Mortimer suddenly regains his senses, springs from his wheelchair and guides Manly to the disused Adventurers Guild to prepare for an actual, genuine, perilous quest. It seems that a fire-breathing dragon has reappeared in the north, and Manly’s secret crush, the princesslike Amelia Champion, has been abducted. Manly heads out on a quest, competing with two other teams of aspiring rescuers/dragon slayers, to confront the menace. His two best friends accompany him: newly vegetarian, wannabe-wizard Cronimus Crudge and lusty pirate wench Ruby. Rood nicely imagines this fantasy world, and the story’s banter and wordplay are consistently witty. However, the book threatens to bog down in conversation from time to time; the fact that high-born Cronimus can’t bring himself to confess his love for Ruby, for example, is a major topic of conversation. Manly is also a rather pallid protagonist; until the finale, he does a lot more reacting than acting. The denouement invokes a deus ex machina that’s a bit too similar to the loyal house-elves of the Harry Potter mythos for comfort, and it ensures the survival of all the characters for the inevitable sequel. That said, the tale contains enough twists and verve to whet genre fans’ appetites for its next installment.
A fun fairy-tale fantasy that should please fans of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride.