Helen, a teenage minotaur and Troy, an impossibly above average guy are toiling away at a fast food restaurant until a god decrees they must go on a quest for him — retrieving several magic items, vanquishing various monsters, and generally staying alive.
Nigel, an accountant with a wife he’s scared of, turns to a motorcycle gang filled with other white-collar types looking to fill their humdrum lives with danger and excitement (oh, and all but one of them are oddly unassertive and non-homicidal orcs). Their god assigns them to put an end to Helen and Troy’s quest — by killing them.
Before the climactic battle between the questers and the orcs, Helen and Troy are deputized by a seemingly useless yet ubiquitous government agency that oversees quests. Then they meet an oracle working out of a food truck, some fates, pick up a three-legged dog, visit a nature preserve that’s a dragon sanctuary, and meet all sorts of interesting people and monsters — all while taking a fun road-trip in a classic car.
This is the whackiest, goofiest Martinez novel I’ve read — until the last 40 pages or so, where it gets deadly serious while retaining a sense of the absurd. But while doing so, it has some interesting things to say about things like destiny and fate and body image and stopping outside one’s comfort zone. There’s a touch of romance, a sense of wonder, and a whole lot of fun to be had.
Like every Martinez character, whether a rebellious daughter, a curious child, a would-be orc, a cyclops, or a meddlesome minotaur mother there’s a core of humanity, of decency, to be found. In a day when even Superman is turned into a grim figure, it’s very refreshing to see that.
Yes, it’s an adult book — but it’s one I’d have no problem handing off to my 11 year-old daughter to enjoy (probably her younger brother, too, I just don’t think he’d stick with it). Come to think of it, I will.