Phil Parker (tigertoy) wrote,
Phil Parker

Book review: Goblin Quest

Today's book review is Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines.

This appears to be the first book in a series, but it tells a complete story.

A silly little story that looks at the standard dungeon-crawl, sort of the archetype of the standard D&D campaign story, but told from the point of view of one of the goblins normally seen as a very minor obstacle in the heroes' path.  It doesn't have many places for actual laughter, but it's refreshing in not taking itself too seriously.  It's fun to read, and it's worth seeing the characters who are usually spear characters, if not just targets, given real personalities, and the characters who would usually be the noble heroes seen from a different point of view.

8 out of 10.


Jig is the lowliest goblin in the nest.  Weak and nearsighted, he's picked on by the others, but he's actually lived longer than many because he's smart.  He gets pressed into going on a patrol because the rest of the patrol wants to spend the time getting drunk and playing a game, so he has to do the actual patrolling himself.  He runs into a team of adventurers who take him prisoner, thinking he can lead them to their goal.  Barius is a prince far out of the line of succession who's become crazy with his own ego and sense of entitlement; to get noticed by his father, he has decided that he will find the Rod of Creation, an almost infinitely powerful artifact that was put in a great dungeon by a wise wizard because it was indestructible.  The party also includes Darnak, a dwarven cleric who has some sense of decency but in the end is loyal to Barius, Ryslind, a wizard who seems to have an awful lot of power, and Riana, an elf thief that Barius grabbed because she might be useful but for whom he has no respect.  The party first trashes the goblin patrol, and Jig survives by deflecting blame to his captain.  As they progress through several traps, Barius demands more and more magic out of Ryslind until something snaps and he becomes possessed by the force that was granting him his power.  They find their way through the lake of lizard fish into the lair of the Necromancer.  Riana gets stuck by a needle trap that starts turning her pricked finger into an undead; Jig cuts off her finger before Barius can kill her so that she doesn't become another super zombie warrior, but he doesn't explain that he's saving her and she doesn't get it on her own, so she blames Jig for the loss of her finger.  They are unable to find the Necromancer until Jig figures out the puzzle.  Then they find him, and we get one of the few real jokes in the book -- the Necromancer is a two-foot-tall blue-haird frilly-winged fairy who somehow got lucky, outwitted the real Necromancer, and took over.  Jig kills him.  Somewhere in here, Jig decides that he needs to have some kind of magic power to make it in the world.  Since Ryslind's magic doesn't seem so savory, he figures he should find a god.  He asks Darnak for religious instruction and decides, out of the thousands of available gods, he should worship the pretty much forgotten Tymalous Shadowstar, because only a forgotten god would be worried about a lowly goblin worshipper.  Then they haplessly find their way into a big cave that is a simulacrum of the outside world -- but Jig has never seen the outside world so he doesn't know the difference.  They meet Straum, the dragon, who is huge, powerful, and very bored.  He doesn't actually have the rod; if he did he would use it to escape the prison.  The rest of the party agree to find the rod and free the dragon.  After slaughtering the hobgoblins, they come to the goblin lair, and Jig suddenly realizes that the cook's spoon is the Rod of Creation.  He contrives to steal it, throw it down the corridor for the humans to chase, and spin a story in Goblin about how the humans aren't worth bothering to fight.  The humans were supposed to take the Rod and go, leaving the goblins alone, but they decide they have to go back and steal the dragon's treasure.  The dragon smashes Jig against the wall, and Jig finds himself in the presence of his god, where he makes a bargain to really become a follower in exchange for the power to heal himself and probably others.  He comes back and throws a spear into the dragon's eye.  One of the dragon's construct-children then pushes the spear into his brain when he's supposed to pull it out, killing the dragon and freeing Ryslind.  Barius immediately takes credit for the situation.  Jig tells the dragon children to leave the dungeon and go out into the world.  Barius makes Jig and Riana carry treasure out, but Jig realizes he will just be killed after the carrying is done.  He is working up the courage to backstab Barius, but Barius hears him.  Barius steps on Smudge, Jig's pet fire spider, and in his rage, Jig overcomes the fighter.  He takes the Rod for himself and turns Barius and Ryslind into giant trout which then suffocate.  He doesn't want to kill Darnak, so he turns him into a bird.  Riana is terrified of the world, so Jig turns her into a slightly prettier version of the dragon children.  Then he seals the dungeon.  He makes himself a pair of glasses with the Rod -- now he can actually see for the first time ever -- and goes back home to the goblins to return the cook's spoon.
Tags: book review, fantasy, jim c hines
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