This debut novel finds a swordsman and his talking fish battling a heartless mage, minions, and a doomsday dessert.
In the magical realm of Grome, Thoral Mighty Fist wars against evil with his enchanted broadsword, Blurmflard. He also has incredibly white teeth, a best friend named Brad—who’s a koi—and a heart “too heavy for adventure.” As Thoral finishes drowning his sorrows at a tavern, he pops the air-breathing Brad into his belt pouch and heads outside for his steed, Warlordhorse. He’s attacked by three black-cloaked figures, members of the Bad Religion. Thoral dispatches them speedily and then travels to the Godforsaken Swamp in search of a mood-enhancing escapade. He eventually finds a ruined castle and runs afoul of Necrogrond, the sorcerer, who wonders whether Thoral is the “Chosen One” from the Goomy Prophecy of Doom. After matching wits and magic with his new nemesis, Thoral frees an imprisoned elf princess, Nalweegie, daughter of King Elfrod. He then learns of Necrogrond’s plan to wipe the elves from Grome. Teamed with Elfrod’s army, the hero begins tracking a grasthling (flying squirrel) who will hopefully lead them to the Heartless One before the Pudding of Power and the Bracelet of Evil render the sinister forces unstoppable. In this deliciously deadpan fantasy, Hardison (Demon Freaks, 2017) parodies a genre that’s too often humorless and convoluted. He names people and places with childlike silliness (“The Gap of Goosh,” for example) and rivals the wryness of Neil Gaiman with explanations like “She is called Nalweegie, the Evening Snack...because to look on her in twilight quells the hunger of one’s heart without making one feel overfull, as can happen with a more substantial meal.” Thankfully, the author loves gore, too, and serves fans plenty of it (“He tore both of the elephant trunks off the gorilla body and threw them” so that they “splatted against the black altar and writhed around like huge worms”). Even if readers believe fantasy should always be dark and epic, Hardison’s comedic inventiveness and stamina are miraculous to behold.
An irreverent fantasy crammed full of sunlight and surprises.