An overstuffed confection that threatens to collapse under its own heft.
Cross Lord of the Rings with Yellow Submarine, throw in dashes of Monty Python, Douglas Adams, Shrek and The Princess Bride, season with more serious fare such as The Tin Drum and The Odyssey. That’s the sort of alchemy in which this sprawling novel by German writer/artist Moers (The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, not reviewed) trades, and part of the pleasure of reading it is to see what echoes will next bounce off its crags. Adults may be a touch embarrassed to be seen with a book about a little “Wolperting” who “would one day become Zamonia’s most illustrious hero,” a critter who grows up in the farmyard of (seven, naturally) Hackonian dwarves but somehow, magically, sheds his animal qualities and learns to wield a sword most impressively. Rumo’s skills come in handy as he goes off into the wide world of men and Demonocles (“If asked what fate he hoped to avoid at all costs, the average Zamonian tended to reply: Being captured by the Demonocles”), when the book becomes a touch more mature. Along the way, he falls in with a pretty girl Wolperting and encounters enemies, such as the unspeakably evil General Ticktock (think Ian McKellen in a very bad mood), to say nothing of a madcap king who, in one of Moers’s wonderful line drawings, resembles Klaus Kinski’s Nosferatu. The General has big plans, and he employs very bad assistants such as “Tykhon Zyphos’s Subcutaneous Suicide Squad,” micro-ninjas who conjure up images of Fantastic Voyage, sans Raquel Welch. These are nothing, though, compared to the Smarmies, critical creatures who go about wounding writers’ literary self-esteem . . .
Read it as allegory. Read it as a fairy tale. Whatever, it’s amusing—but still too long by half.