Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Outsorcerer's Apprentice - Tom Holt

   2011; 350 pages.  Book 3 in Tom Holt’s Doughnut series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Fantasy; Contemporary Humor.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    Lately, in wherever-we-are, a number of people have been plagued by strange thoughts.  For instance, Buttercup, who wears a red riding hood and meets, greets, and chops up several big bad wolves a week, is beginning to question whether she (and the wolves) have any choice in the matter, and whether she’s contributing to the wolves becoming an endangered species.

   Meanwhile, Sir Turquine, a dashing knight and slayer of several dragons per week, is starting to wonder how the kingly rewards heaped upon him for services rendered affect the economic sustainability of the land, and what the wizard does with all the dragon meat Sir Turquine delivers to him.

    Then there’s King Mordak of the goblins.  Goblins have fought Dwarves for centuries.  So why is he suddenly sensing the futility of war?  And finally, there’s Prince Florizel.  He’s not having any strange thoughts, but his oh-so unprincely actions range from sheer silliness to ample cause for him to be strung up for heresy.

    But one thought runs amok through all their minds.  What the heck is going on?

What’s To Like...
    The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice is the latest addition to Tom Holt’s current Doughnut series.  The previous book, When It’s A Jar, is reviewed here.  They’re both fine examples of Holt’s masterful wit and storytelling, but I liked this one even more because the Fantasy element takes precedence over the business world.  It is a personal taste, but my favorite books by this author are those that incorporate myths and fairy tales into them.

    As always, Holt spins a bunch of storylines, and then challenges the reader to figure out how he’s going to tie them all together.  As always, he accomplishes this nicely, and I found this book was easier to follow than some of his other works.  The overall storyline – a real-life character finds himself in a fantasy setting – has been done before.  But Holt finds a way to put a fresh, new spin on it.

    The book spoofs a number of literary works, including several fairytales and (most noticeably)  Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  Holt also pokes fun at Multiverses and Existentialism, and tips his hat to Vivaldi and Robert Jordan.  Yet he also manages to weave some serious insights into all the mayhem, touching on topics such as Outsourcing, Economics, Litigation, and Marketing. 

    There’s some French thrown in, which is always a plus for me.  There’s no sex or drugs, and I don’t remember any cussing.  The ending is quite satisfying, and the epilogue was both unexpected and funny.  This is one of those books that can entertain both grown-ups and kids.  Little Billy will like the dragons and goblins.  Little Susie will love the unicorn and the strong female protagonist, Buttercup.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Picaresque (adj.) : rough and dishonest, but in an appealing way (such as a hero).
Others : Brash (as a noun); Wodge (n., Britishism); Posset (n. )

    Mordak wasn’t easily intimidated.  He’d won the throne in single combat with his predecessor, a mighty warrior who’d devoted his life to disproving the old saying that the quickest way to a goblin’s heart is through his stomach.  He’d fought dwarves, Elves, humans, cave-trolls, dragons and his first wife’s cousins.  He prided himself on his brash confidence.  If there’s one thing goblins admire more than a leader who wears his heart on his sleeve, it’s a leader who wears his enemies’ livers on his epaulettes, and who do you think started that fashion?  (pg. 200)

    “Oh come on, you’re the wizard’s nephew.  You must know these tunnels like the back of your hand.”
    Benny shook his head.  “I keep telling you,” he said.  “I only found out the wizard was my uncle a few hours ago.  Before that, I’d always believed he was something boring in shipping.”
    Turquine raised an eyebrow.  “You thought your uncle was a teredo beetle?”
    Buttercup sighed.  “Please,” she said to Benny, “don’t try and be smart.  When you do, it provokes him and he makes jokes, and I’m not sure I can stand it much longer.”  (pg. 327)

 “Nice unicorn.  Take me to your doughnut.  Please?”  (pg. 144)
    The Outsourcerer’s Apprentice works just fine as a standalone novel, but it is also Book 3 in Tom Holt’s Doughnut series, which centers around YouSpace, a multiverse-entertainment system that uses doughnuts as portals to parallel worlds.  I still haven’t read the first book in the series, unimaginatively titled Doughnut, but my local library carries it, so I will probably borrow it in the near future.

    Mr. Holt is not yet finished with using pastry to hop to other dimensions.  The next book in this series, The Good, The Bad and the Smug, is due out later this month.  According to the Amazon blurb, it features the goblin King Mordak, which was indeed my favorite character in TOA.  I don’t know how long Holt will stick with this series, but as long as it has world-hopping and fantasy characters, I will be a devoted reader.

    9 Stars.  Add ½ star if you’re enough of a Holt-maniac to realize that Sir Turquine is a recurring character, having also appeared in Holt’s 1994 novel, Grailblazers.

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