Pub Day Repost: Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne: A Comedic Fantasy Tells a Good Story While Playing with Too-Familiar Tropes

Kill the Farm BoyKill the Farm Boy

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell, Book #1
eARC, 384 pg.
Del Rey, 2018

Read: June 5 – 12, 2018
Ugh. I wish the eARC didn’t say I needed to hold off any quotations until I could compare it with the final copy — or maybe, I wish I had noticed that very tiny print before I got half a draft of this finished. On the other hand, I was having trouble narrowing down which of my lengthy options to use, because, if nothing else, this is one of the more quotable books I’ve read in the last couple of years.

Kill the Farm Boy is a comedic fantasy, a satirical look at fantasy and even a parody of the genre. But what makes it effective is that for all the comedy, there’s a decent story and some solid characters throughout. It’s be easy for it to be a collection of jokes, with no story; or a tale full of character types, not characters. But Dawson and Hearne avoid those pitfalls.

The titular farm boy, Worstley, is going about his typical day, full of drudgery when an inebriated pixie shows up to announce that he is a Chosen One — one who is destined to save, or at least change, the world. To demonstrate her power, the pixie gives one of his goats, Gustave, the power of speech. The goat isn’t too happy about being able to speak, but since he was destined to end up in a curry in a few days, decides to travel with the newly appointed Chosen One, his former Pooboy. The pixie, having Chosened Worstley, disappears. Worstley the Pooboy (hey, Taran, worse things to be called than Assistant Pig-Keeper, eh?) and Gustave head off on a quest for glory.

Despite the book’s title, we don’t spend that much time with Worstley — instead the focus shifts (for good reason) to a band of hero–well, a group of companions. There’s Fia — a fierce warrior from a distant land, who just wants to live a life of peace with some nice roses — and some armor that would actually protect her (not that there’s anyone who minds seeing here in her chain-mail bikini). Argabella, a struggling bard who is cursed to be covered in fur — she’s basically Fflewddur Fflam and Gurgi combined (last Prydian reference, probably). Every adventuring party needs a rogue/thief, this one has to settle for the klutzy and not necessarily bright, Poltro, and her guardian, the Dark Lord magician, Toby (though some would only consider him crepuscular), of dubious talents. I can’t forget Grinda the sand witch (no, really), Worstley’s aunt and a magic user of considerable talent.

There are no shortage of villains — and/or antagonists to this party. There are some pretty annoying elves; a hungry giant; Løcher, the King’s chamberlain and mortal enemy of Grinda; Staph, the pixie behind the Chosening; as well as several magical traps, Lastly, there’s Steve. We don’t meet him (I’m betting it’ll be in Book 3 when we do), but throughout these adventures we how much this world, and our heroes lives, have been turned upside down my the worst Steve since one (allegedly) unleashed the preposterous hypothesis that Jemaine was a large water-dwelling mammal. Steve . . .

The writing is just spot-on good. Dawson and Hearne have taken all these various and disparate themes, tropes, characters and surrounded them with a lot of laughs. There’s some pretty sophisticated humor, some stuff that’s pretty clever — but they also run the gamut to some pretty low-brow jokes as well. Really, these two are on a tight comedic budget, no joke is too cheap. The variation ensures there’s a little something for everyone — and that you can’t predict where the humor will come from. I will admit that early on I got annoyed with a few running jokes, but I eventually got to the point that I enjoyed them — not just in a “really? they’re trying it again?” sense, either.

For all the comedy — Kill the Farm Boy hits the emotional moments just right. There’s a depiction of grief towards the end (spoiler?) that I found incredibly affecting and effective. There are smaller moments — less extreme moments — too that are dealt with just right. Maybe even better than some of the bigger comedic moments. This is the reward of populating this book with fully-realized characters, not just joke vehicles.

I have a couple of quibbles, nothing major, but I’m not wholly over the moon with this (but I can probably hit sub-orbital status). There was a bit about a fairly articulate Troll being taken down by a female using (primarily) her wits that could’ve used a dollop or five of subtly. Clearly they weren’t going for subtle, or they’d have gotten a lot closer to it. But it bugged me a bit (while being funny and on point). Secondly, and this is going to be strange after the last 2 posts — but this seemed to be too long. Now, I can’t imagine cutting a single line, much less a scene or chapter from this, but it just felt a little long. I do worry that some of Poltro’s backstory is too tragic and upon reflection makes it in poor taste (at best) to laugh about her — which is a shame, because she was a pretty funny character until you learn about her.

This is probably the best comedic/parody/satire fantasy since Peter David’s Sir Apropos of Nothing — and this doesn’t have all the problematic passages. I’ve appreciated Dawson’s work in the past, and you have to spend 30 seconds here to know that I’m a huge Hearne fan, together they’ve created something unlike what they’ve done before. Well, except for their characteristic quality — that’s there. I cared about these characters — and they made me laugh, and giggle, and roll my eyes. This is the whole package, folks, you’ll be glad you gave it a chance.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

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Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne: A Comedic Fantasy Tells a Good Story While Playing with Too-Familiar Tropes

Kill the Farm BoyKill the Farm Boy

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell, Book #1

eARC, 384 pg.
Del Rey, 2018

Read: June 5 – 12, 2018
Ugh. I wish the eARC didn’t say I needed to hold off any quotations until I could compare it with the final copy — or maybe, I wish I had noticed that very tiny print before I got half a draft of this finished. On the other hand, I was having trouble narrowing down which of my lengthy options to use, because, if nothing else, this is one of the more quotable books I’ve read in the last couple of years.

Kill the Farm Boy is a comedic fantasy, a satirical look at fantasy and even a parody of the genre. But what makes it effective is that for all the comedy, there’s a decent story and some solid characters throughout. It’s be easy for it to be a collection of jokes, with no story; or a tale full of character types, not characters. But Dawson and Hearne avoid those pitfalls.

The titular farm boy, Worstley, is going about his typical day, full of drudgery when an inebriated pixie shows up to announce that he is a Chosen One — one who is destined to save, or at least change, the world. To demonstrate her power, the pixie gives one of his goats, Gustave, the power of speech. The goat isn’t too happy about being able to speak, but since he was destined to end up in a curry in a few days, decides to travel with the newly appointed Chosen One, his former Pooboy. The pixie, having Chosened Worstley, disappears. Worstley the Pooboy (hey, Taran, worse things to be called than Assistant Pig-Keeper, eh?) and Gustave head off on a quest for glory.

Despite the book’s title, we don’t spend that much time with Worstley — instead the focus shifts (for good reason) to a band of hero–well, a group of companions. There’s Fia — a fierce warrior from a distant land, who just wants to live a life of peace with some nice roses — and some armor that would actually protect her (not that there’s anyone who minds seeing here in her chain-mail bikini). Argabella, a struggling bard who is cursed to be covered in fur — she’s basically Fflewddur Fflam and Gurgi combined (last Prydian reference, probably). Every adventuring party needs a rogue/thief, this one has to settle for the klutzy and not necessarily bright, Poltro, and her guardian, the Dark Lord magician, Toby (though some would only consider him crepuscular), of dubious talents. I can’t forget Grinda the sand witch (no, really), Worstley’s aunt and a magic user of considerable talent.

There are no shortage of villains — and/or antagonists to this party. There are some pretty annoying elves; a hungry giant; Løcher, the King’s chamberlain and mortal enemy of Grinda; Staph, the pixie behind the Chosening; as well as several magical traps, Lastly, there’s Steve. We don’t meet him (I’m betting it’ll be in Book 3 when we do), but throughout these adventures we how much this world, and our heroes lives, have been turned upside down my the worst Steve since one (allegedly) unleashed the preposterous hypothesis that Jemaine was a large water-dwelling mammal. Steve . . .

The writing is just spot-on good. Dawson and Hearne have taken all these various and disparate themes, tropes, characters and surrounded them with a lot of laughs. There’s some pretty sophisticated humor, some stuff that’s pretty clever — but they also run the gamut to some pretty low-brow jokes as well. Really, these two are on a tight comedic budget, no joke is too cheap. The variation ensures there’s a little something for everyone — and that you can’t predict where the humor will come from. I will admit that early on I got annoyed with a few running jokes, but I eventually got to the point that I enjoyed them — not just in a “really? they’re trying it again?” sense, either.

For all the comedy — Kill the Farm Boy hits the emotional moments just right. There’s a depiction of grief towards the end (spoiler?) that I found incredibly affecting and effective. There are smaller moments — less extreme moments — too that are dealt with just right. Maybe even better than some of the bigger comedic moments. This is the reward of populating this book with fully-realized characters, not just joke vehicles.

I have a couple of quibbles, nothing major, but I’m not wholly over the moon with this (but I can probably hit sub-orbital status). There was a bit about a fairly articulate Troll being taken down by a female using (primarily) her wits that could’ve used a dollop or five of subtly. Clearly they weren’t going for subtle, or they’d have gotten a lot closer to it. But it bugged me a bit (while being funny and on point). Secondly, and this is going to be strange after the last 2 posts — but this seemed to be too long. Now, I can’t imagine cutting a single line, much less a scene or chapter from this, but it just felt a little long. I do worry that some of Poltro’s backstory is too tragic and upon reflection makes it in poor taste (at best) to laugh about her — which is a shame, because she was a pretty funny character until you learn about her.

This is probably the best comedic/parody/satire fantasy since Peter David’s Sir Apropos of Nothing — and this doesn’t have all the problematic passages. I’ve appreciated Dawson’s work in the past, and you have to spend 30 seconds here to know that I’m a huge Hearne fan, together they’ve created something unlike what they’ve done before. Well, except for their characteristic quality — that’s there. I cared about these characters — and they made me laugh, and giggle, and roll my eyes. This is the whole package, folks, you’ll be glad you gave it a chance.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, Chuck Wendig

Three SlicesThree Slices

by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, and Chuck Wendig; Galen Dara (illus.)
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #7.5

Kindle, 166 pg.
2015
Read: January 25 – 26, 2016

No man who is master of his fate should ever reek of cheese.

Criminy Stain’s observation may seem a bit out-of-place given the authors and characters in this anthology. Shouldn’t it be more visceral or blood-related than cheese? Actually, no. Kevin Hearne explains:

I can’t recall precisely where I heard that tyromancy was actually a thing, but methinks it was during the summer of 2012. As soon as I knew it existed I knew I had to write about it, the way some people have to climb mountains or crack safes once they see them. And if I could find another couple of authors brave enough to do it, maybe we could produce the world’s first tyromancy-themed anthology. So my quest began and now here is the spiffy MacGuffin: THREE SLICES, or rather three stories where somebody along the way predicts the future via the coagulation of cheese.

So, he got a couple of other writers to contribute a story et voilà, they’ve got themselves a pretty unique book. Honestly, I think if I knew the theme, I’d probably have picked this up earlier, rather than waiting until the release week for Hearne’s Staked (and really only then because he insisted his story was “vital” to read before the new book).

A Prelude to War

This happens within a week of Shattered (and ends a few hours before Staked, I think). And yeah, it turns out to be pretty vital for starting the latter. Sure, you could’ve pieced things together, I think (I’m only on page 10, so that’s a guess) — but why work that hard, when you could just spend a little time with Atticus, Oberon, Granuaile and Orlaith (especially Oberon, always especially Oberon)?

I sorta want to talk about all of it, but the story is so short, I’d end up spoiling too much. So let me just stay that this is fun, it’s exciting, and the table it sets for Staked looks great.

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

It took me a little work to really get a handle on what was going on here in this Blud story (and I’m pretty sure I only achieved B+ level of comprehension). I’m not sure if this is prequel-y or if it fits into the continuity of the series — but it feels prequel-y.

It was creepy, dark, and moody. The tyromancy fit into a Twilight Zone-like part of the book. Then Criminy got into one of the more disgusting (appropriately so) fight scenes that I’ve read in the last few years.

On the one hand, I wouldn’t object to spending more time in this world, but I can’t see myself expending a whole lot of effort, either. Just not my thing. I think I’ll stick to the Hit books for now.

Interlude: Swallow

Good, ol’ reliable Chuck Wendig — he can write dazzling sentences, character descriptions that I will dwell on for days, and yet I can barely stand to read him. I keep waiting for the lightning bolt that will change things and he will become one of my favorite readers. But I can’t even get a static shock to make him someone I want to read — particularly Miriam Black. Interlude: Swallow ain’t gonna change that. Sorry, Mr. Windig. (I did chuckle mightily at Miriam’s quoting Ralphie Parker). Miriam’s rants about mornings, and then her comments on breakfast and then breakfast sandwiches probably made the time I spent worthwhile.

Overall, for me, this was really only worth the effort for Hearne’s story — but fans of Dawson’s Blud series or Miriam Black should have plenty of reason to pick this up, too. If you happen to be a fan of all three series, you’ll probably love this book.

—–

3 Stars

Hit by Delilah S. Dawson

HitHit

by Delilah S. Dawson
Series: Hit, #1

Hardcover, 324 pg.
Simon Pulse, 2015

Read: November 21, 2015


When I heard Dawson talk about this on The Once & Future Podcast this past Spring, I knew I had to read it. But like with about half the things I say that about when I listen to that podcast, I never got around to it. I’m so glad I finally remembered to grab it. This was a great read — a heckuva gut punch. A great immersive experience.

Sure, we’ve all read dystopian fictions that take place decades (at least) after the fall of whatever society preceded it. But have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in the opening minutes of a dystopia? Panem before the Capital City was wretched hive of scum and vanity? Well, that’s exactly what Patsy Klein is going through.

Yeah, Patsy Klein — some parents, right?

So Patsy is given a task: work as an indentured servant/debt collector for 5 days and collect from these 10 people. To collect, get their signature and record one of three choices: pay up everything you owe to the bank, now; become an indentured servant yourself for 5 days; or be killed, and here’s a 17-year-old with a 9mm to take care of that. Take your pick.

How can anyone get away with that? Well, Valor Bank (and a couple of smaller entities) has bought — lock, stock and barrel — the debt of the U.S. and every individual in it. Which is a lot of debt when you stop and think about it (all that’s required, really is, something like a California Rolling Stop to reach that conclusion). Valor Banks wants that debt taken care of pronto — and thanks to a subclause in that credit card application that no one ever reads, and some greased wheels in Congress, they can present these choices to pretty much every citizen. Patsy’s part of the first wave of these collectors, moving out before the majority of Americans have figured out what’s happening.

Killer concept, right? Utterly horrific — and yet almost utterly believable. Like I said before, when you plunge in and read this in a sitting or two it works great. If you take the time to think about some of the elements, I’m not sure it’d hold up nearly as well. But man, it was a fun read, even when it made you uneasy about what Patsy was doing.

And before I go any further, I just have to add that this is one of the best cover designs (front and back) I’ve seen this year. I hope someone got a promotion/bonus/raise out of this.

Again, I’m not sure how well this would hold up to examining various aspects of the world. It’s clear that there’s a pretty well-developed world supporting this, but the more we see of it, the more we understand the machinations that Valor Bank went through on both the macro and micro level — which it seems clear is where the sequel is going — the less I’m going to like it. A vague, nebulous Other doing horrible things is frequently better than seeing the Man Behind the Curtain. Right now, this is great — grabs the imagination, taps in to zeitgeist-y resentments towards banks/financial entities, and adds a deadly teenage girl. You explain everything, let us see what’s going on and I’m afraid we’ll end up with something like Allegiant (I’m convinced that was the biggest problem with the end of the trilogy, Roth explained too much).

A great read with some real weaknesses that easy enough to overlook if you want to. This’ll grab you, make you feel every hit, every shot and every regret.

—–

3.5 Stars