Book Review: The Goblin Wars Part One: Siege of Talonrend

So I read a book. Whoop-dee-doo, right? ‘Course. After doing some thinking about it, I decided to write a review to help sort out my thoughts about it. Neat? I sure hope so.

I was conflicted after reading this. My gut told me to just slap it a rating and leave it alone. Perhaps that might actually be for the best.

But I’m not one to shy away from a challenge. There was a lot to both like and dislike here. In pointing those things out, I hope to both give feedback to Mr. Thaman and grow as a writer myself.

Spoiler warning: I will give everything away without a shred of mercy or tact!

Still here? Great! Let’s dive into them tunnels and start digging!

The first part of the Gobllin Wars series offers exactly what it says. In any other case, that’d probably be a very bad thing. Goblins were, are, and will stay an overused fantasy race. A Tolkinistic atavism. Luckily, Mr. Thaman has put his particular twist on these little buggers, giving them  a mistress reminiscent of the good old Overmind. This, in my opinion, worked marvelously. Especially later, when her control over the creatures starts to fizzle out. Different individuals deal with their newfound freedom in their own different ways, which was fascinating to see. To me, this was likely the most interesting part of the book.

On the other hand, we learn of the aforementioned Lady Scrapple through lengthy exposition, which significantly dulls her impact. In fact, I think that if the prologue were to be omitted entirely, the scene of her dramatic rage near the end would have given her at least twice the punch.

I found the city of Talonrend a lovely place. I really liked everything about it. Its backstory is mysterious and tickles the imagination about what might be happening behind the scenes. The architecture is marvelous, its defensive systems are imaginative, and I’d have been saddened to read about its winged spires getting plucked and broken. Great work on the city there.

Mr. Thaman seems to have a knack for the grandiose in general. The war at the end of the book was very, very well described, especially from the perspective of the human prince. It was a pleasure to read.

On the other hand, while I found myself invested in Talonrend itself, I could barely get into most if the book’s characters. Gravlox was good. So was Vorst, most of the time. Why most of the time, you ask? Because pieces…. or rather chunks of her character development just seemed to happen. She falls in love with Gravlox practically offscreen. They kind of win a fight, and the next we see them they are making out as part of some healing magic. Why? I’m not saying this has no sense, but I’d liked to have seen at least a hint of why this was happening. The goblin commander was also very well done, no complaints about him at all. An effectively conceived and executed semi-tragic villain right there.

Speaking about villains, I found them disappointing. Well, not immediately. The scheming lady Keturah was intriguing right from her introduction. She had the air of someone with a plan; someone who was playing with fire yet knew exactly what she was doing… only to die from overcommiting to a proxy battle. I found that not only anticlimactic but damaging to the nature of the character. Jan, the other villain and de facto main antagonist of the book is pretty much a card-carrying bad guy. He seemed competent as well… until the point he pretty much destroyed his own plan in a single fit of rage. The goblin army he and his sister planned on unleashing onto Talonrend? He killed it himself.

And then there was Herod. Herod was a likeable guy through and through. Up to the point where he flat out refuses magical treatment from a goblin after pretty much acknowledging they’ve saved his city. Granted, he might be going delirious from the fever. Or maybe it’s something that would be resolved in the next book. But damn, it is a strange transition for a likeable character, and it occurs literally within a single scene.

Given what I’ve written, one would think that I hate this book. But I don’t. Not at all.

This is a fun, light read that plays with fantasy tropes in a way I’ve never seen before. This, I think, gives it power. And it’s not only that, but there is a lot of soul to be found within these pages. The language might be rough in some places, but the message gets through. The author really seems to enjoy writing this, and that translates to the reader. Or at least it did to me.

So in conclusion, I give this work 3.5 stars, rounded up. And I thank Mr. Thaman for making goblins cool. So the rest of us don’t have to.

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