So an Egotistical Bard, an Elven Warrior, a Prestidigitator, a Rock Giant, and a Ratarian Sorceress Walk Into a Bar...
Author: Sean Gibson
Star Rating: 5/5
Genre: Comedic Fantasy
Series: Heloise the Bard
Available December 15th, 2020!
“There’s a saying amongst adventurers: it’s not a quest until you’re covered in snizzard pee and have shit on your knees”
Move on over Bilbo, your adventure just isn’t epic enough! (Oh, mighty Tolkien, have mercy on me and my poorly made joke...)
“Ah, yes, well, no one means to suggest that the racial heritage of our good heroes would be in any way an impediment. After all, we here in Skendrick draw great strength from our, ah, diversity of, ah, um, well, our diversity of points of view, I suppose.” He surveyed the all-white, all-human, mostly male, universally stupid assemblage.
Whoever said fantasy had to be based in crappy centuries' old gender/racial stereotypes was WRONG. Thanks Sean!
The dragon, Dragonia, blots out the sun with great red wings as it soars to its lowly target. The people of Skendrick are devastated, as they lose their food, homes, and smaller humans to the fiery trail left in the dragon's wake. The village is left with no choice but to call for aid amidst their plight.
If only a brave band of adventurers could trudge up the mountain, through the swamp, and confront the dragon in its treacherous lair. If only there were such a selfless band of noble heroes, who only wish to do good for a people in need. If only the stories really happened the way an exceptionally charismatic and well-endowed bard tells it in the flickering candlelight of a pub...
Heloise the Bard has been telling the epic tale of Nadinta and her adventurers' great quest to slay dragonia for many long years. However, the time has finally come to write what really happened on that fateful journey. At least the part about the dragon was mostly true.
Sit down and hold tight. I've got words.
This was such a great experience! If I had to describe the entire thing with one word: vivid. The language is perfectly descriptive, so it's impossible not to picture everything that happens in the story. However, not too much so that flowery language may distract a reader. The story is paced perfectly for my tastes, and it was often very difficult to put the book down.
Actually this book's mini-arcs are each so well-developed and explored, that they felt almost episodic. Between the vivid imagery and the action-packed adventures our band of adventurers went on, I felt like I had just binged an amazing comic book series. However... it was a novel. Is that even allowed? Who let Gibson write like that? I want more!
The book alternates almost every chapter. First, the reader gets to experience the beautiful songs Heloise the Bard would sing about the adventures and the great deeds of our heroes. Then, we'd step into first person and watch, through Heloise's eyes, what really happened. The lyrical chapters felt like wrapping up in your favorite cozy blanket for anyone that's grown up on whimsical fantasy stories. The alternate chapters are full of snark and a healthy helping of Heloise's ego. In my experience, adult fiction in first person becomes very dry, as if we are scared to be anything close to middle grade. However, Heloise's narrative voice has all of the strong personality a middle grade narrator has, but is still definitely adult. It is very easy to become invested in a tale when the narrator is so clearly impassioned about it.
Since we are on the subject of Heloise, one of our main characters, let's take some time to meet the stars of the show. There are countless aspects of this novel that have taken my heart, but I think the characters are my absolute favorite part.
Heloise the Bard - As mentioned, our narrator. As we see the world from her perspective, we also get a very biased view of who she is. She may be the most beautiful and poetic bard with a particularly nice backside. She may also be a haphazard mess of a bard, with little more physically to bring in crowds. That's for you to decide. What we do know, is she is a half-elf/half-human on a constant quest for gold and dwarvish sexcapades. (Yes, I did just use that word in a real sentence. I bet you're putting in your preorder now.)
Nadinta Ghettinwood - Elven warrior, and undisputed leader of the group. However her skills in charismatic charm are... somewhat lacking. Nadi brings to the table the troubled backstory, an extremely specific keen sense of hearing, the swish of an elven blade, high moral standing, and an adorable crush.
Rumscrabble Tooltinker - Prestidigitation extraordinaire. Rummy will amaze and astound with his immense skills in sleight of hand tricks. Though his make-up as a half-dwarf half halfling makes for a rather comical appearance, Rummy makes up for it with a strong spirit. Even in the worst (and smelliest) situations, Rummy will maintain a cheerful demeanor. 100% guaranteed to play "Got Your Nose" at the wrong time. Will swing his mace like there's no tomorrow. Rummy is unapologetically himself, and confident in his body.
Borgunder Gunderbor - Borg is a massive rock giant. Perhaps it's the density of his rock skull, but the big guy is just a little slow on the uptake. However, he's guaranteed to have something worthwhile to add to the conversation, even if it is several minutes too late... and only really meaningful to him. Borg may not be the fighting machine the team wanted, but he's the rock body shield they got. Besides, all he really needs to be happy are a buffet and a receptacle for his all too frequent bathroom habits. (Think Groot... but instead of saying "I am Borg," he just answers a tick too late. I love this guy.)
` Whiska Tailiesen - Though each of these characters has a big personality, Whiska, a rat-humanoid, will always make sure she is the loudest. Though her training is quite limited, Whiska is a formidable sorceress. Most likely, she is insulting you or threatening to turn you into something... unnatural. She's just as willing to drink her weight in ale as she is to decimate an orc camp at the snap of a finger. (Very willing.) Her insults are always full of debauchery, oddly specific, and often uncalled for. Is it a tic, or a way of showing endearment? That's up to you to decide. At any rate, I'm going to try to stay on her good side...
AHHHHH! I love these characters So. Very. Much. If you read and enjoyed the Rat Queens comics, trust me when I tell you, you're going to adore this book too! If you don't just love a ragtag group getting up to absurd shenanigans, I think you are reading the wrong blog. This book is filled to the brim with absurdity and hilarity. 10/10, highly recommend!
(Side note: I'm in desperate need of fan art of the group, because I cannot art very well. Please read the book and supply it posthaste.)
This is an entirely new segment in Food For Thought reviews, but I'm going to give some of the random thoughts I jotted down during the reading experience. Enjoy.
mmmm sticky buns
I imagine the town hall meeting are very similar to Gilmore Girls town meetings. If I was there, I’d bring popcorn.
Farmer Benton makes me think of Hagrid mixed with Statler and Waldorlf.
So THAT'S what herding cats would be like
This is the first fantasy book since Lord of the Rings that I’ve read with mention of half-lings/hobbits. I love it so very much.
OH, NOT “MM STEW” AT ALL!
I feel like I'm reading No Fear Literature... but it's so good?
Exclusive Q&A with Sean Gibson!
Q1: Inspiration often comes from unlikely places. For instance, in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl came up with Veruca Salt's name after inspecting a medicinal bottle for warts. While drafting out character names or one of Heloise's mini-tangents, did you have a similarly hilarious ah-ha moment?
When I was a lad growing up in suburban Michigan, people used to refer to the sweat that builds up on your undercarriage as “duck butter,” which I found to be both a fanciful evocation of an extremely disgusting phenomenon and supremely hilarious. At some point in time, a new local pizza place opened up called…Duck Butter’s Pizza. My mom told me she thought we should try it, I explained to her what duck butter was, and we never spoke of it again. But, I kept the menu and, while unpacking some boxes back when I was writing the book, stumbled across it. After laughing myself silly for 17 minutes and then vomiting at the thought of duck butter-covered pizza, I knew I had found the name for one of the many disgusting obstacles our heroes have to overcome: the Dukbuter Swamp.
Q2: If you were a dragon, what would you horde?
I don’t know whether I should answer this question as though I were transformed into a dragon with my current proclivities intact or as though I had never existed and had simply been born a dragon, because I think the answer would be very different. If the latter, gold coins, obviously. Cold currency must feel exquisite against tough dragon skin. If the former, boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (both elbows and spirals, because sometimes you need to be a saucy minx and mix it up).
On the plus side, the only people who might attack me in my lair would be people with sophisticated palates, like 7-year-olds and stoned college students.
Q3: Every character in this book is a huge personality, yet no one character steals the spotlight at any given time. (I tip my hat to you.) However, I want you to put a spotlight on one now. If you could spend one day with a single character from your world, who'd you pick and what would you do?
The obvious answer is Heloise, because it would be a delight to watch her demonstrate her superiority while verbally eviscerating everyone she meets. But, really, it’s Rumscrabble Tooltinker.
I’ve always been fascinated by people who are really good at sleight of hand. You know you’re being tricked, but a skilled performer can make you think, for a brief, glorious, mind-blowing second, that magic is real. And there’s something so joyful about that experience, especially when it’s shared with other people. For that one second, we stop being ironically detached and feel the wonder that so often eludes us after childhood. Throw in the fact that Rummy’s just a genuinely kind person and I would happily spend a day trailing him, watching as he delights, confusticates, and generally radiates kindness.
I know, I know—I’m a giant softy. Like Borg, just with less rectal space.
Q4: What is Borg's favorite food at a buffet?
Q5: Whiska’s obscene insults are hilarious and extremely specific. I imagine you had absurd brainstorming sessions over a bottle of whiskey. What is your favorite Whiska insult? While we are at it, how would Whiska insult me? (Give me your worst, flea bag.)
Though it’s an extremely unsanitary and foul-tasting habit, I’m a firm believer in putting your money where your mouth is. There’s nothing like the taste of dirty copper with a dusting of e. coli on your tongue to get you going in the morning.
Where was I going with this? Oh, right—I think that if you’re going to have a character who’s rude and insulting, you have to show that character actually being rude and insulting (though, to be fair to Whiska, being rude is more like a reflex action than a premeditated act, sort of like how I always weirdly apologize to people when THEY step on MY foot).
Sadly, I consumed a distressingly small amount of whiskey during the writing of this tome, mostly because I wrote it primarily during my commute. Fortunately, commuting anger fueled many a colorful phrase. My favorite is probably when she calls Rummy, a skilled prestidigitator with a penchant for close-up magic, a “useless coin diddler.”
As for you, Lori…you’re a plant-killing, phone-losing, slack-jawed Fruity Pebble muncher who can only remember which hand is your left because it’s the one you stupidly use to reject sweet, delicious root beer when someone offers it to you.
(On Whiska’s behalf, I apologize for the very general and non-specific nature of that insult.)
Q6: The people want to know, where can we preorder this beautiful monstrosity?
This book is inside each of us. People just need to look into their hearts to find it.
But, if they are less metaphorical, they can visit the Parliament House website to preorder the paperback: https://www.parliamenthousepress.com/product-page/the-part-about-the-dragon-was-mostly-true-by-sean-gibson. The ebook version is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other purveyors of subpar literature everywhere.
And, keep your ears peeled (not literally, because ouch) for the audiobook. We’ve got an amazing reader working on it who, in addition to being a phenomenal thespian and singer, is also a dice-making D&D nerd. So she’s great.
Well, you heard it straight from the man himself... go get that preorder!! This book can only be a crazy fun ride!