Goblin Hero: Unique brand of humor

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsYA fantasy review Jim Hines Goblin HeroGoblin Hero by Jim C. Hines

Jig Dragonslayer has a new quest in Goblin Hero. This time, an ogre has come looking for his help. This is, of course, the last thing the diminutive Jig wants. Nonetheless, spurred on by his god, Tymalous Shadowstar, Jig finds he must accept the ogre’s request. But fighting pixies is not Jig’s idea of a good time, and in this sequel to Goblin Quest Jig must once again rely on his pusillanimous goblin brain to save everyone (including hobgoblins!) from the pixie invasion into the cavern complex the goblins, hobgoblins, and ogres call home.

Jim C. Hines uses his unique brand of humor to tell this funny adventure tale. Jig is his old self: a reluctant but effective hero. Yet Hines has also branched out and given the reader some new characters to enjoy. There is Grell, the ancient goblin nursery maid; Braf, the dumbest but biggest goblin in the lair; Veka the wannabe goblin wizard; and Slash, the hobgoblin with a strange fear for a warrior. Each of these characters will pluck a chord with readers of fantasy, and once again Hines has played with the usual tropes to create a humorous look at what it means to be a hero.

Jig is once again the reluctant hero that readers of Goblin Quest will remember. But the new character that makes this story fun is Veka. A reverse Jig, Veka very much wants to be a hero, although she would like to be a wizard hero as opposed to Jig’s warrior one. As the story progresses it is Veka’s character that changes the most. She grows in her understanding of heroism throughout the novel, even with several misfires along the way. Watching the interplay between Jig and Veka, and the two different ways they approach saving the lair, gave this book more depth than its “humorous fantasy” label would imply. Hines is exploring the theme of heroism in Goblin Hero and Jig and Veka’s approaches show that often “there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s.”

Still, it is hilarious. Jig has a common sense approach to solving problems. This, when placed in juxtaposition to the idiocy of his fellow goblins, creates a lot of laughs. There is also the slapstick humor, especially when Braf hurts himself with his own weapon, or when Grell smacks the idiot goblins around with her canes. Smudge continues to play his role of sidekick to Jig, and the little fire-spider gets him out of one particularly tight situation.

Hines still suffers a little bit when it comes to describing the space around his characters. By that I mean that it is not always clear who is standing where in relation to whom, and that it is not always clear which tunnel is branching off from which and in what direction. This was especially a problem for me in the first bottomless pit scene. I was not clear on how the action was flowing, and had a difficult time picturing the events in my mind. This was because I wasn’t sure who was where and whether tunnels were above or below one another, where the bridge was in relation to the action, and so on. Of course, other readers may have no problem, or be able to fill in the blanks with ease. For me, this was a difficult scene to enjoy, because I simply didn’t understand the spatial relationships.

And some readers may not find Hines humor all that humorous. You have to like the sort of “woe is me” attitude of Jig. Since you know all will turn out well in the end (it is a heroic fantasy, after all) you can smirk and smile at Jig’s complaints. I find this kind of thing funny, but others may not. Hines humor is not the satire of Terry Pratchett, or the sardonic thoughts of Robert Asprin. But if you enjoyed Pratchett’s Going Postal or Making Money, the main characters share a lot in common, and the humor plays out similarly.

I recommend that any reader who thinks this book is interesting first read Goblin Quest. It will be necessary for the reader, as the back-story is an important part of Jig and Veka’s relationship.

I do recommend that you read Jim C. Hines work. He is funny, his characters are ones you’ll easily identify with, and his story has all the elements that make a dungeon crawl fun. The Goblin Series is a fun interweaving of a Dungeon and Dragons setting, Mark Twain’s wit, and Steve Martin’s slapstick all from one gifted author.

FanLit thanks John Ottinger III from Grasping for the Wind for contributing this guest review.

Jig the Goblin — (2004-2008)  Young adult. Publisher: Jig is a scrawny little nearsighted goblin — a runt even among his puny species. When Jig’s patrol is ambushed by a group of adventurers, he does what goblins do best: throws down his weapon and surrenders. Thus begins Jig’s quest, as the adventurers force him to serve as their guide through the labyrinth of tunnels beneath the mountain. Led by Prince Barius Wendelson, their goal is an ancient magical artifact, hidden here ages past. As the group moves deeper into the tunnels, Jig finds himself face to face with creatures of goblin legend: ogres, trolls, not to mention the long-dead servants of the dreaded Necromancer, all leading to one final, deadly battle. To survive, Jig will have to find a way to combine heroism with his own goblin ideals. The result is an unpredictable adventure that will leave readers cheering this unlikeliest of heroes and questioning some of the most basic traditions of fantasy quests.

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JOHN OTTINGER III, a guest contributor to FanLit, runs the Science Fiction / Fantasy blog Grasping for the Wind. His reviews, interviews, and articles have appeared in Publisher’s Weekly, The Fix, Sacramento Book Review, Flashing Swords, Stephen Hunt’s SFCrowsnest, Thaumatrope, and at Tor.com.

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