In Goldfond’s debut fantasy, a young, nerdy priest seeks mythical beasts.
Quirky Fabian Vermeer has a dilemma: He’s assigned to venture into the real world to determine the existence of the fabled monsters he so fastidiously studies. If the creatures are real, he risks life and limb; if fictitious, Fabian risks his reputation as an exemplar of scholarly pursuit. Regardless, he has no choice in the matter, as the church and empire he serves have chosen to pursue safe, imperialistic expansion. Fabian embarks on this journey with Wilhelmina, an athletic, very tall female soldier, and his pet squirrel, Dashiell. Despite the company, Fabian remains wary of encountering the feared, despised, ethically bankrupt Bubblenuff. The journey quickly runs awry when the trio is forced to contend with a monster of an entirely different color. Goldfond’s novella is allegorically funny in several aspects, most notably in its satirical take on religion, which is best exemplified by messianic characters named Lord Sturdy the Impotent and St. Handy the Useless, or a passage recounting a discussion between church members about the type of currency used in the afterlife. The parallel critique of imperialism, however, is slightly less apparent. Dialogue is amusing, especially the adolescent verbal skill of Wilhelmina. Readers will feel sympathy for the likable protagonist as he attempts to fight demons and nurture his sense of self. The conclusion might initially seem misplaced within the story’s creative plotting, but, ultimately, readers will most likely come to see how well it highlights the satire. The theme of expansionism could be further explored in potential sequels.
A witty, fast-paced farce.