1993; 317 pages. New Author(s)? : Yes and Yes. Genre : Fantasy; Spoofery. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
King Gudge, the Lord of Hydrangea and chief of the Gorgorian hordes, is about to become a father. So comes the tidings from the Queen’s birthing chamber. And it’s a son! The news couldn’t be better.
But Queen Artemisia is having triplets; two sons and a daughter. And in Hydrangea, it is generally believed that the only way to have triplets is via three fathers. King Gudge isn’t going to be thrilled about that, and he has a decapitating way of dealing with things he doesn't like. The news couldn’t be worse.
There’s only one thing to do – give two of the newborns –the daughter and one of the sons - to the Queen’s trusted servant, Ludmilla, and have her spirit them away before anyone counts newly-arrived noses. That will solve everything.
But all babies look alike, and when Ludmilla mistakenly departs with both of the boys, desperate times call for desperate measures.
What’s To Like...
The aptly-titled Split Heirs is a lighthearted fantasy tale that basically revolves around a single theme – the hilarious confusion and mix-ups that occur when three identical triplets go wandering around in the same general area. One is a princess disguised as a prince, one is an apprentice sheepherder, and one is an apprentice magician.
There are lots of way-kewl secondary characters to meet, including a wizard-in-hiding, and a rebel leader with his not-so-merry band of youthful thrill-seekers. You’ll cross paths with a dragon or two, but that’s pretty much it for fantasy beasties. There is some magic, but it doesn’t overwhelm the storyline, and the transform spell is neither reliable or reversible, which leads to some chuckle-inducing situations.
There’s a small amount of mild cussing (“slut”, “to hell with”, etc.), and while there’s nothing overtly lewd here, there are some double entendres and allusions to adult situations. Indeed, you may have to field awkward questions about Bernice and Dunwin’s relationship if you let little Susie or Billy read this.
The first 50 pages seemed to meander to me, but that’s only because Watt-Evans and Friesner are getting everyone in place for the who’s-on-first-what’s-on-second shenanigans. In time, things straighten out nicely, and the storyline builds steadily to an clichéd, yet exciting ending. This is a standalone book; I don’t see that anyone has tried to develop it into a series in the 20+ years since it was published.
Kewlest New Word. . .
Doss (v.) : to sleep in rough or inexpensive accommodations. A Britishism.
Others : Skrink (v.); Fillip (n.)
“You were wrong before, you know. Of course, arithmetic never was one of your strengths. I remember saying to your dear, departed, decapitated da, King Fumitory the Twenty-Second, I said to him, ‘Our Missy-mussy has her charm, but she couldn’t add a wolf to a sheepfold and get lambchops.’ That’s what I said.”
“And I say -” Queen Artemisia’s clear blue eyes narrowed, “- I say that if you call me ‘Missy-mussy one more time, I shall ask my husband – may his skull crack like an acorn under a millstone – to give me your liver roasted with garlic, as a childbirth gift.” (pg. 13)
“Who are your parents?”
“Well, my father’s Odo, he’s a shepherd. And my mother’s name was Audrea. She was a ewe.”
“No, a ewe. A sheep.”
Startled, Phrenk asked, “Your mother’s a sheep?”
“Well, she was. She’s dead now.”
“You don’t look like a sheep.”
Dunwin shrugged. “I guess I take after my father.” (pg. 98)
“He’s a few vermin short of a plague, if you know what I mean.” (pg. 145)
Lawrence Watt-Evans and Esther M. Friesner have both written a prodigious amount of Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels, so it is somewhat of shock for me to day I had never heard of either one before reading Split Heirs. Both have lots of e-books available at Amazon, and a my local library carries a couple of their book-books to boot.
Wikipedia has articles on both of them, and Watt-Evans seems to lean towards a role-playing style of storytelling, while Friesner is more of a comedic sci-fi writer. Split Heirs appears to be their only collaborative effort, which is too bad, since I found it to be a witty and fun read (you’ll love Weeping Cheeses and Remulo & Rommis) and a plotline that held my attention. My only question was who was the target audience, since this was a strange-yet-clever combination of vaudevillian and adult-themed hijinks.
8 Stars. Subtract 1 Star if you find no humor in the one-liner, “Welcome to Wyoming. Where the men are men and the sheep are scared.”