Fish Wielder by J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison - 9/10
Fish Wielder, at a glance, may appear to be lazily written nonsense that simply borrows tropes from other fantasy classics for a cheap laugh. Luckily, and you might have guessed from the 9 out of 10 rating, I personally believe it to be a work of comic genius. In no small part, the joy of reading this book comes from trying to guess how the story will subvert our expectations and just when you think you've worked out what is going on, and it really looks like you understand the overly complicated schemes of the bad guy, it turns out you were probably wrong.
Fish Wielder is a story about the most epic of heroes, who in this case goes by the name of Thoral Mighty Fist. Naturally no hero is complete without a tragic backstory and a small collection of trusty, but quirky, sidekicks and Thoral has both of these by the bucket load. This book takes us through a most convoluted adventure full of love, tragedy, a bit more love after that, a lot more tragedy and a good fight every ten pages or so. There is also a lot of drinking, sage advice and talking animals.
I would go into more detail about the story, but doing so would really damage your enjoyment of the book since there are so many surprise revelations and cleverly used 'borrowed’ plot devices for you to enjoy as you walk alongside Thoral in his quest for a mighty death. Not literally walk alongside him of course, he's a fictional character and you are reading a book, but you get what I mean.
If you have previously enjoyed other classic works of fantasy, ranging from Lord of the Rings to the Wizard of Oz, you will almost certainly enjoy looking out for the 'Easter eggs’ hidden within. Unlike other books that have simply parodied stories, such as Bored of the Rings, Fish Wielder uses the tropes carefully and to good effect. It also helps that it borrows from a range of stories rather than just picking at the low hanging fruit from a single plot. The narrative style is easy to read and the pacing of the story is well thought out. Even though for the most part the characters are merely templates used across the genre, each has their own unique twist to bring something a little bit special to the occasion and it is for these reasons that I feel the 4 star rating is so well deserved.
I'm not normally a laugh out loud kind of person, so even for a book as funny as this I didn't. However, I can easily imagine beings with a lesser power of self restraint giggling away to themselves on the train, or at home, or wherever it is they happen to enjoy reading delightful works of fiction. Due to the nature of the genre that it is simultaneously mocking and exemplifying, it is hard to tell if there will be more books in the series. I really hope that there is, but if not it stands alone well and the time invested is well rewarded.
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