Goblin War: Humorous adventure fantasy for kids and adults

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsYA fantasy review Jim Hines Goblin HeroGoblin War by Jim Hines

Goblin War is a completely different novel from the first two novels in this series. Those two books were constrained by the small world of the lair and its surrounding caves. The goblins never left the caves under their mountain, for all the adventures that they had. This meant that the second novel, while having a different set of circumstances, was much like the first in plot and style, and didn’t add too much that was new to Jig the Goblin’s story. But in Goblin War, author Jim C. Hines has Jig and many of his fellow goblins leave the cave for the wider world, a world that pretty much wants to destroy them.

Jig is trapped between two competing factions, both intent on wiping out him and his goblin clan. The first, the human rulers of the upper world, need slave labor to perform various tasks too dangerous for the morally superior humans. The second, and army of orcs, trolls, goblins, and one human-hating tree (humorously likened to Shel Silverstein’s giving tree) bent on destroying the so-called “goodly” people.

In Goblin War Jig’s god, Tymalous Shadowstar, plays a much more significant role in the story. Each chapter begins with a history of how the forgotten god came to be forgotten, and why his worship was never picked up by some cult or other. They are so forgotten that even other gods have forgotten their existence. Hines’ explanation of the nature of the forgotten gods is one of the cleverest yet simple ideas I’ve seen in fantasy. The way that part of the story hinges on a clever loophole caused by word choice appeals to my own love of wordplay. It was wonderful to watch how Tymalous Shadowstar is revealed throughout the book, and he becomes a truly three dimensional character, not just an occasion for a disembodied laugh.

Jig, of course, continues to be in fine form. Whereas in Goblin Quest Jig is simply learning bravery, and then in Goblin Hero he is learning how to perform the actions of a hero, that selfless sacrifice so common the hero archetype, Goblin War relates how Jig steps into the mantle of leadership. He is no longer the lone hero, solving all problems on his own or with minimal help from a few companions. Now he is directing and changing the course of events by intentional decisions. Reading the progression of Jig over the course of the three books, you get a sense of how great men become great men (even when they are blue, pointy-eared goblins).

All in all, I think Goblin War is Hines’ best novel so far. He has stepped out of the small confines of the goblin lair and opened up a new world for Jig to experience. This novel has more elements for humor, more action, and more plot threads. Hines is growing as a writer. This growing skill and comfort with writing is allowing him to write more complex and funny novels. It is sad to think that for now, Jig is on a well-deserved hiatus. Hopefully Hines will return to Jig’s world, or in some way connect the novels he is currently writing now to Jig’s story. Either way, I would like to see more of Jig.

Goblin War is humorous adventure fantasy. It is lighthearted and fun to read, and is a safe purchase for older children who like to read fantasy. In fact, once I have my own children, I may use Hines novels to teach about the nature of heroism to them, because of the way he shows its natural progression throughout the book, while still being extremely entertaining. You will still need to know some of the tropes of fantasy to enjoy this tale, and it would be best to read the entire series from the beginning, else Jig’s decisions and some of the character references in the novel might not make sense. The second novel does have some repetitious characteristics from the first, but Goblin War is a different tale altogether.

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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