Kill the Farm Boy
Written by: Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell
Sequence in Series: Book 1
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: July 17, 2018
Genre: Fantasy | Comedy
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.
This first collaboration between Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne is meant to be a light-hearted romp roasting traditional fantasy tropes. I felt the premise of the book was so promising, I bought it in hardcover, which is something I rarely do. I was so excited I paired it with Drew Estate’s Unico Series Papas Fritas and Jameson’s limited edition the Cooper’s Croze, both of which I will review in future posts. Could the cheeky wit of the authors compare to The Princess Bride with its tongue in cheek humor poking fun at all the things we love about fantasy? Could the world of Pell build a place as wonderful and fun as Discworld?
The answer was a resounding no. The book does not create interesting and dynamic nontypical characters to love in the way The Princess Bride does. For fans of Terry Pratchett, the world of Pell falls far short of Discworld. Terry Pratchett uses witty humor to make often scathing commentary on reality by upending traditional fantasy narratives. He never takes himself too seriously and always has a point underlying his fun adventures. These authors take their opportunity to truly add to the world of fantasy and create predictable opposites of the hero’s journey archetypes. I expected wit, irreverent references, maybe a dash of sarcasm; instead, the book relies on an over abundance of puns (something I never thought I would say could happen) and a plethora of fart and masturbation jokes.
The pacing of the book is choppy, reading more like a series of excuses for stand-up / knock down humor in the guise of side-quests. Mostly the book is character driven but unfortunately the characters are exactly as they are introduced to you and read more like caricatures of the two-dimensional sort. As an underlying point, a great deal of the character creation heavy handedly pushes identity politics. The authors also rely on the belief that, by making the characters the polar opposite of the traditional, that they’ve done something creative enough that things like characters arcs need not apply.
I was impressed with an unexpected nuance when the book dealt with loss and grief, it was one of the strongest parts of the story. It almost made me feel something other than indifferent towards a character. I was left wondering why they bothered with this part of the plot when they undermined its poignancy a few chapters later. The only saving grace of the adventure is the goat, Gustave, who is a fun surprise. His point of view within the story isn’t necessarily insightful but at least it’s entertaining counter-commentary to what’s happening at any given time. It’s the closest the authors come to being witty.
Overall, the books humor was more lowbrow than I would want, especially for what is intended to be a serial story. The plot was thinly held together with the veneer of a Chosen One who doesn’t want to be Chosened going on a quest to prevent his Choseness. The plot was generally all over the place as the authors tried to fit as many poorly presented pokes at fantasy tropes as they could into the story. The characters held much promise for being able to carry the story but their minimal amount of actual character had them dropping their potential all over the place for you to step in. Which is kind of how you feel by the end of the book, as if you’ve stepped in a pile of nonsense that leaves you covered in a waste of your time.