The Good, the Bad and the Smug by Tom Holt
|The Good, the Bad and the Smug by Tom Holt|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Clever and witty aren't qualities anyone has ever levelled at goblin king Mordak. The author Tom Holt, however, is both, covering satire, great gags and an object lesson in boom and bust economies in one fantasmic bundle.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: July 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
Mordak, award winning goblin king, is on a quest for truth. His companion Efluviel is a journalist whom he'd sacked and who is elf – that's two counts against her, without taking the smugness into account. Meanwhile a little man spins gold from straw, offering benefits as well as a riddle. He may sound familiar, but forget the fairy tale; this Rumplerimp… Rumpski… bloke has a more sophisticated strategy. Oh and have you heard about the two chaps who pre-invented the Hadron Collider in their garden shed? No? Well, stay tuned.
To many British fantasy author Tom Holt needs no introduction. He's written literally dozens of humorous fantasy novels since his debut Expecting Someone Taller back in 1987 and this doesn't include his Lucia novels and fantasy written under the name of K J Parker. (Parker was a secret identity till April 2015). Let's just say he's written lots and I'm suitably ashamed to admit this is the first Tom Holt novel I've read. What a good place to start though!
The big surprise in the novel for me has been the education. Amidst entertainment the author manages to explain via extended parody the mechanism of rising and falling economies in a way that would turn the excellent Robert Peston envy emerald. The even bigger wonder is that he does this without ever dropping other spinning plates such as plot and comedy.
Yes there is much laughter with something for everyone in the plethora of jocularity. In terms of humour identification he's more John-Fillimore-esque than Pratchett. For instance Elven Quest springs happily to mind as a goblin relays to Mordak how a battle has progressed:
Down in Mine Shaft 17 they won't trespass there anymore!
No, because it's theirs!
And then there are the deliciously groan-worthy as demonstrated by the idea of a Zulu based musical entitled Assegais and Dolls.
Between the smirks we travel on various satisfyingly enticing plot threads. As well as the wondrously grumpy Mordak and Efluviel's journey, we share Goblin Archie's adventures in Hollywood and meet the South Chudworth and District Particle Physics Club (aka Norman and Clive).
Holt encourages us to re-examine human ritual, homicide laws, politicos' priorities and sub-prime mortgages (among other things) with a very barbed, incisive tongue splicing through the cheek of convention. One may even ponder the similarities between Mordak and a certain Australian media magnate.
As I finished this book and tried to assure a concerned-looking husband that I was laughing randomly in a good cause, I wondered how I could have possibly overlooked Tom Holt before now. It's an error I will make up for as my e-reader wish list is now unashamedly dozens of novels longer.
(A resounding thank you to Orbit for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you'd like to try out Tom's more serious alter-ego, we recommend The Escapement. If you'd also like to continue dipping your foot into the fount of guffaws, then get thee to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages.
The Good, the Bad and the Smug by Tom Holt is in the Top Ten Fantasy Books of 2015.
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