Sunday, November 03, 2013

Nine Goblins: A Review

My kid is an enormous Ursula Vernon fan.  By "huge" I mean badgers me relentlessly to read Digger, her comic which has been nominated for the Hugo, among many other awards.

I keep swearing I will, when I have more time, which who knows, some day I might have more time.  (I have trouble reading graphic novels, as I may have mentioned a time or fifteen on this blog.  I can do it, it's just difficult for me to read texts and pictures at the same time.)

Anyway!  Today she came to me with the gleeful news that Vernon had a print story out, Nine Goblins.  How cool!  Now I could experience the joy of Vernon for myself!

I have read Vernon, and I am here to tell you the kid is right.  You should go and read likewise.

Nine Goblins is a novella, and Vernon has published it under a pseudonym, T. Kingfisher.  It's a ripping yarn, so it has that going for it; and very funny; but also populated with interesting characters, none of whom are stock characters, and it has something to say.

The main characters, the goblins, are the best characters: they're all in the goblin army (the goblins have gone to war against the humans, who have been encroaching on goblin land for some years now) which is a story in itself, the goblin army. Sergeant Nessilka, our main character, I suppose: she has command of our squad; Murray, who's more or less her second in command, and a goblin genius; Blanchett, who suffers from either PTSD or something more interesting, and whose captured teddy bear talks for him; Algol; the twins; and all the rest.

There is also an interesting elf, Sings-to-Trees, a very un-elf-like elf.

This is what Vernon does well here: takes the cliche, and plays against it.  She gets compared to Pratchett, and I can see why, since he does something of the sort, interrogating the fantasy tropes by playing against them; and since his works are also funny.  Pratchett's humor is sometimes very wink-wink-nudge-nudge, though, a kind of see-what-I-did-there-HA-HA.  Vernon never falls into that trap.

We also feel for and with her characters in a way I only sometimes do for Pratchett's characters. This is a novella, and it feels too short -- I wanted more -- but everything that is here it fully realized.  The world-building is great, the characters fully developed, the pacing perfect.

I'm just hoping this is only the first in a series.

Highly recommended.

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