Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: The Dark Lord's Handbook by Paul Dale (UPDATE)

As I ramp up to releasing my first novel, I thought it would be a good idea to see what else was out there in the fantasy genre.  In part, this was to size up the competition, but also, to gain inspiration or, in some cases, to get ideas about what NOT to do.  As I do this, I will leave short reviews here of the different books I come across.  These will all be ebooks from Amazon, mostly free, though today's entry set me back a whopping $2.99 (likely the price of my own book when it releases).

Without further ado, here is my review of The Dark Lord's Handbook by Paul Dale.

What I Thought

After I got through my initial disappointment of this not actually being the handbook itself but rather a story about someone else reading the handbook, I was along for the ride. It tells the tale of a fledgling dark lord, Morden, who receives the titular handbook and uses its lessons to Rise and begin to take over the world.
This is a clever premise and the author turns many common fantasy tropes on their heads, which I appreciate, telling a fairly compelling story along the way. I liked (or at least was interested in) almost all of the characters and was surprised by a few twists the story took. In fact, for most of my reading session, I wasn't sure exactly where everything was headed, which for the fantasy genre, is always a good thing.
There were a few grammatical quibbles that another pass by an editor could fix, but nothing that detracted too much from the experience. The main problem I had was with a few of the jokes that fell flat for me. One that stands out in particular is (minor spoiler ahead) when the orcs sack a town, they hang the guards up by their underwear, using a technique that the orcs referred to as "the wedgie". I know this is supposed to be comedic, but the best comedy in the book is the jokes that arise from the situation, not anachronistic humor. There are a few other examples throughout (the subject of "lawyers" was a bit nonsensical to me as well) and in some places, the book delves into other subjects (mortgage backed securities) that don't really mesh well with the setting (I had braced myself for a tirade about sub-prime lending that, thankfully, never appeared). It could have worked if the author was a bit sneakier about it, but it felt heavy handed to me, along with some of the other talk about the middle class. That being said, I still was able to read through the book quickly and was anxious to find out what happened to the main characters.
Should You Read It?
Do you have $3?  Do you want to read an enjoyable fantasy novel?  This one will fit the bill.  The negatives I listed are far outweighed by the positives.  I would recommend it if you are at all intrigued by the premise.  As of this writing, this is the author's only novel.  I hope it isn't his last.  I'd like to hear what happens next to all these characters.

(UPDATE 7/21)
The box art has been substantially improved.  You can't judge a book by it's cover, but, if you could, this would add another half star!

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