This fantasy debut follows a man from the real world as he enters the strange realm of his wizard brother for a humorously magical quest.
Prince, a 20-something from Ocala, Florida, wakes up on a pile of straw. When he answers the knocking outside his abode, he finds his older brother, Ricky, dressed in the robe and conical hat of a wizard. Outside, Prince (named after the musician) discovers the town of Dereliction, which is in the medieval land of Noreth Tungol. Prince has no memory of leaving Florida, but Ricky says he’s been there for “quite a while.” Soon, Prince meets Manciple, the wizard training Ricky. At the behest of King Crimson, the trio agrees to a secret mission through the Elfwood forest and into Sawtooth Mountain. They are to steal the treasure of the Dragon Men. “Confrontation” with the Dragon Men, says King Crimson, “will not be permissible.” After a short peril involving spiders (one small, one gigantic), the group infiltrates the mountain lair full of riches. Naturally, they run afoul of King Draco, who breathes fire at them. Reacting instinctively, Prince hurls a precious stone that he’d found earlier at the fire-breather. Draco chokes on the stone and dies. So much for King Crimson’s orders for secrecy. It’s easy to tell that debut author Cactus adores the fantasy genre and its many tropes; while the events portrayed are incredibly silly, Prince takes as much of it as seriously as he can, especially in his guilt over killing someone. Cactus frequently indulges in dorky, Monty Python–style puns, but the prose itself is clever: Manciple “was quite possibly as old as the dirt he walked upon.” In setting fantastic scenes, Cactus usually succeeds with a controlled wordiness; he calls the forest “an asymmetrical sea of anxiety personified as wood.” Eventually, after much travel and chaos, Prince wonders if he’s imagining the entire adventure, though readers should keep in mind that “knowledge is the true power of the universe.” Regardless of its origin, the journey reignites the bond between two brothers.
A fantasy parody boasting strong morals and rock references.