by: Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Series: Tales of Pell #1
Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.
This is not that fairy tale.
There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.
And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.
There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.
I cannot express how much I wanted to love this. Turning fairy-tales and fantasy on its head? Yes PLEASE. Immediately upon opening it on my Kindle, I was hit with the cover pun – and I loved it: Once. A pun. A time. Hah! I love puns. They’re so much fun.
Until the 900th pun. Somewhere along the way, to the 41% I managed to finish, I got bored with it all. With the characters who aren’t really developed, with the world that just seems weird for the sake of being weird, and with the story that I couldn’t even begin to make myself care about.
So you have the supposed Chosen One. Except…is he really? There’s the talking goat, Gustave-don’t-call-him-Gus that has a better handle on things in the world than most of the human characters. Toby, the Dark Lord, who hasn’t left his tower – ever really – and mainly wants nefarious powers for more cheese and artisanal crackers. Fia, the warrior in chain mail bikini, who only wants to grow awesome roses, stop accidentally killing people, and live a life of peace. Argabella, a cursed rabbit-woman bard, who’s not sure she can properly bard. And Poltro, the rogue who is afraid of chickens. Oh! Let’s not forget the titular Farm Boy, Worstley, who sets out to change the world.
“Because a Chosen One sets things right.”
“I thought a Chosen One just leaves a trail of blood and chaos behind him.”
Even though every character turns the tired tropes on their heads, they’re still just caricatures. They don’t feel like they have actual personalities. Which makes it really hard to care about them.
There were puns on top of puns, next to satire and parody, overflowing with hyperbole. It all just felt so … forced.
”Why which witch?”
”I don’t see why it matters which witch was the witch which cursed me.”
”I know some witches, and I’m curious.”
”Grinda the Sand Witch.”
”Never heard of her.”
The Sand-witch, get it?
I think I enjoyed Poltro the most, but it just all got to be a bit too much. I stopped highlighting stuff that I enjoyed at about 27%, and kept pushing myself to 41%. At this point, I just can’t anymore.
I’ve known my whole life that comedy and me are very touch and go. Funny books, funny movies…well, my wife would say I have no comedic taste. I just don’t find the stuff funny. I’m definitely in a very small minority with that, however, so this is likely to be right up others’ alleys. I will leave you with my favorite quote from the book:
Her footsteps made only the barest whisper in the grasses, like the secrets of caterpillars. The turf under her boots was soft and springy like the jiggly bellies of middle-aged men. Her mental prose was a purpose as a very purple thing. She advanced on the camp, cloaked by her actual cloak of mystery and menace but also by the night, two cloaks that cloaked great together, providing her near invisibility, an impenetrable fog of stealthy stealth as she—
“Hey there,” a man’s voice said, and Poltro froze. He couldn’t be talking to her. She was a shadow in the darkest pit, unknowable to any—
“Yeah, you. The one skulking around in the cloak and hood. What’re you looking for?”