A humorous fantasy book.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Page count: 246
Publisher: Ace

The book is part of my TBR challenge and for once I got a book with the monthly theme. This month it’s books which were published over 10 years ago. I’ve already read 12 books from my TBR this year!

Kevin is the Prince of Rassendas and like many unmarried Princes of the Twenty Kingdoms, he’s come to woo Princess Rebecca of Deserae. The Princess is blond, beautiful, and buxom but also nicknamed the Ice Princess. To Kevin’s dismay, the Prince most likely to marry Rebecca is Lord Logan, a military hero. While Kevin has also served in the military, he was a supply officer. He also has a great disadvantage to begin with: his father in known as Eric the Cool and Kevin is desperately trying to earn a better nickname. Still, Kevin knows Rebecca because he’s been to Deserae before and they’re already in love. But the princess has to marry according to her father’s wishes and the king of Deserae is hugely influenced by his Council of mostly businessmen. So, Kevin and Rebecca are trying to make Kevin the best choice for the council.

However, when Deserae’s Ancient Artifact Model Seven is stolen by the local Evil Overlord, the king declares that whomever returns the Artifact, will marry Rebecca. Everyone thinks it will be Lord Logan who, after all, leads the Black Guards. But Kevin grabs “the Handbook of Practical Heroics” (not to be confused with the “Handbook of Practical Fly-Fishing” by the same author) and heads towards the Fortress of Doom. Meanwhile, Rebecca, or Becky as she’s referred to most of the book, thinks that if she can return the Artifact, she can marry whomever she wants.

The book pokes fun at many fantasy clichés. There’s discussion on if the Comic Sidekick has to actually be funny and how many dogs one has to kick to be declared evil. The Fortress of Doom has guided tours for tourists and the gift shop is almost inescapable. The book also pokes fun at clichés about male and female characters: a man will always (try to) sleep with other women no matter how in love he is and a woman will always lie to her man, even (especially?) when she’s furious about his lies to her.

Still, I think that best jokes center on the Evil Overlord, Lord Voltmeter (He Who Must Be Named). He muses about heredity governing systems vs (male) democracy:

That was not such a bad thing. When power went to the eldest heir, there was a pretty good chance that the man who inherited it would not be a complete lunatic. Whereas when men competed for positions of power, it was generally acknowledged that the ones who got it were invariably the ones who could least be trusted with it.
Men like Voltmeter.

and about his evil stance:

He stood in the center of the room, his head thrown back in silent laughter, his arms raised above his head, his fists clenched in that famous, overtly dramatic gesture known to theatre students everywhere as “milking the giant cow”. Yes, it was hokey and clichéd, and Voltmeter knew it, but he loved doing that gesture anyway, the quintessential stance of a man mad with power. He practiced it several times a week.

This gesture is actually more familiar to me from comics than fantasy; it immediately brought to my mind Dr. Doom, Ultron, and Kang.

Lord Voltmeter has the Evil Assistant and lots of minions, not to mention the Diabolical Plan to take over the world. While Kevin is somewhat unusual protagonist (a diplomat, not a fighter) and Becky is a plucky heroine, I think that Lord Voltmeter steals the show.