Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Quest of Undoing - John P. Logsdon and Christopher P. Young

    2013; 342 pages.  Book 1 (out of 3 so far) of the Tales from the Land of Ononokin series.  New Authors? : Yes.  Genre : Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 6*/10.

    It’s a minor thing, really.  A mere technicality.  The esteemed wizard, Xebdigon Whizzfiddle, has been called out by his former apprentice, Treneth of Dahl, at the Wizard Guild for failing to ever complete a quest fully and to the letter of its contract.  That means technically Whizzfiddle isn’t qualified to be part of the Guild.

    No biggie.  Whizzfiddle simply needs to fulfill one quest, and there are lots of poor unfortunate souls looking for someone to take up their cause.  But he’s only got 30 days to complete the quest, and even something as straightforward as finding a lost cat won’t work if the critter stays lost or turns up dead.

    Well, how about a Quest of Undoing?  Find one or more persons (and we use that term loosely) who’ve had a spell put on them, track down the wizard who did it, and convince him to reverse the spell.  Easy peasy.  But Treneth has his reasons for forcing Whizzfiddle to go on a quest.  And if he can delay its completion for a month, someone will have to take Whizzfiddle’s place in the Wizard Guild.

    Now who do you suppose that would be?

What’s To Like...
    A Quest of Undoing is a comedic fantasy introducing a fresh, new world that brings to mind Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and Piers Anthony’s Xanth, with a couple pokes at Tolkien’s LOTR thrown in for flavor.  Whizzfiddle, the main protagonist, will remind you of Rincewind.   If you like your fantasy to come with a wide variety of beasties, this book’s for you.  There are elves, dwarves, wizards, dragons, orcs, trolls, werewolves, giants, halflings, ogres, gorgans and vampires, and probably a couple more that I forgot to jot down.

    The chapters are short, which makes for a quick and easy read.  The emphasis is on humor, and co-writers John P. Logsdon and  Christopher P. young do a decent job of keeping the wit flowing.  I wouldn’t call it “hilarious” as the book blurb implies, but everyone’s taste in humor is different, so if you are amused by flatulence, goat lovers, and the correct usage of finger gestures, this may be your cup of tea.

    I found the writing to be good, but the storytelling only so-so.  Our band of heroes spend a lot of time wandering around from one land to another, not accomplishing much, while we wait for Trenth’s intrigues back home to come to fruition.  The world-building is adequate, but not exceptional.  There is a very helpful afterword, titled “About the land of Ononokin” that should probably be used as an Introduction and moved to the front of the book.  The bipolar levels of technology – swords and sorcery on one plane; movie cameras cell phones on the other - didn’t seem believable to me.  For a better handling of anachronisms, see Terry Pratchett's approach in his Discworld universe.

    Despite being the first book in a series, this is a standalone novel.  The ending ties up all threads, but I didn’t find it very clever, both in resolving the Quest of Undoing and for the Wizard Guild intrigues.

    “Wizards stay in line,” Gungren piped up.  “Hurry up.  Us wizards got work to be done.”
    “It’s ‘we’ wizards’, Gungren,” Whizzfiddle said to Gungren as the others walked off toward town.
    “That don’t sound right.”
    “No,” Whizzfiddle said.  “I suppose it doesn’t.”  (loc. 537)

    “What’ll you gents be having?”
    “Ale,” Ibork said.
    “Do you have any freshly brewed tea?”
    “We have ale and stew, sir.”
    “’No’ would be a more succinct response,” Treneth pointed out.
    “That’s right true, sir,” the barkeep said, but when I respond in such a way, people ask what we do have.  Two birds, one stone, sir.”  (loc. 2394)

Kindle Details...
    A Quest of Undoing currently sells for $3.99 at Amazon, although I picked it up for $0.99 on one of its discount days.  Most of Logsdon & Young’s full-length books go for $3.99, and they also have a bunch of short stories for $1.49 or less.  They promote their e-books frequently via discount and/or freebie days, so be on the lookout for them.
“Okay, okay.  Don’t turn your britches into butt floss.”  (loc. 788)
    For all its wit, some of the attempts at humor were a bit disturbing.  There’s a gay character in our band of questers whose primary purpose seems to be to set up stereotypical gay jokes.  Another quester resorts to popping pills, which I guess was intended to be a scathing commentary on drug usage.  But it felt forced and out-of-place in a world of magic spells and potions.

    Even worse is the portrayal of the women.  Date rape is apparently an acceptable ploy in Ononokin.  True, it was a bad guy who used it, but most of the ensuing criticism seems to be that he was deceptive, not that he violated an unwilling victim.  Bill Cosby might find this gratifying.  Everybody else won’t.

    The other females are cast in an equally sexist light.  Offer any of them enough money and they’ll take off their clothes and pose nude for PlayDragon, which was yet another poor attempt at humor.  Assuming teenage boys are the target audience here, I’m leery of the message being sent.

    6 Stars.  This could've been a much better novel without the seemingly deliberate effots to be politically incorrect.

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