This is a book that shouldn’t work.
At first, the book reads like a parody of a fantasy novel. There’s an evil unicorn and an evil rainbow and a pair of fire kittens, who threaten to lick their victims on the ankles. The early chapters are hilarious, but humor is a risky strategy: Readers might not take the book seriously when the characters are in danger. But Clark has worked very hard to make sure that the traps are both funny and frightening. The dwarven probability locks are especially clever. They’re not locks: “We have two doors in front of us,” a character explains; “If we pick the correct one, we will enter the vaults. If we pick the wrong one, we will die instantly. They are both unlocked.” The real problem is that the more serious passages of the book are a little dull. The villain, Rezormoor Dreadbringer, seems just as foolish as the characters in more traditional fantasy novels. His master plan is to capture the hero and then give him the Codex of Infinite Knowability, the most powerful spell book in existence. For every trite moment, though, there’s a joke that works beautifully.
A Bieber joke at about the 100-page mark justifies the entire book. It will be dated by the end of the year, but by then, readers will be eagerly waiting for the next volume. (Fantasy. 8-13)