Disclaimer: I don’t go looking for these things. They just find me. Like The Egyptologist, except not awesome.
The first book, Goblin Quest, suffered from flawed writing and an over-reliance on subtle humour that only D&D players would understand. Why do I think the writing is flawed? The voice is at times too modern. There is a lack of technical skill as well. Tense changes that would be normal in oratory but unacceptable in prose. The world-building is fine, but the whole thing suffers from having zero likeable characters aside from Jig, and he’s not that great.
I know that the adventurers being bastards is part of the point, but it doesn’t make the book any more fun to read.
The second book, Goblin Hero, does not rely on D&D humour. It does not try as hard to be funny, which is a very good thing, since failed humour is painful. Forced humour is almost as bad, if not occasionally worse. The style is still that of a skilled amateur. The voice still sounds like it’s trying to be “hip.”
When I first heard of Jim Hines, I think it was to do with an egalitarian view of genders as they should be represented in art. His views were poorly expressed, as I recall, but he seemed like a nice guy who wanted to make people laugh. And so it really made me wince when I realised that he had made a bit of a misstep with the secondary main character. What’s it called? Deuteragonist.
Goblin Hero begins with Jig, and constant references to the last book. Then it introduces Veka, a female wannabe wizard. She’s obsessed with the “Hero’s Path”, a book she carries around along with a nearly useless book of spells. She is jealous of Jig and his fame, wishes she could be a hero so bad it hurts, and oh yes… she’s fat.
This… why did he think this was a good idea? I’m barely a third of the way through this book, but all through it, I kept stepping back and thinking about it.
I’m not seeking offence here. It just seemed so bare-faced…and yet accidental. So it got me thinking about just why it bothered me. In a world of true equality, the story looks like this:
Jealous of the main character, the deuteragonist tries to use a book to become a hero, and bumbles along behind, misconstruing the instructions and generally failing because of not being the hero.
Which should have been fine. A little clunky and 80’s movie sequel, but fine.
The problem is that we don’t live in a truly equal world. Male submission and dominance amongst males is pretty familiar to us. We want to see the underdog win, but there are also times when the buttmonkey sidekick is just that. And no one complains.
However, what it seems like when it’s a man and a woman (for simplicity of terms, boy/girl sounds juvenile, and they’re adult goblins anyway), it sounds more like this:
Jealous and helpless to even equal the male hero’s power, the weak woman deludes herself into thinking she can have any power or acknowledgement. She bumbles through failures and nearly ruins things for everyone else.
The man is sensible and right-minded, exasperated with the woman’s weak attempts to empower herself while he knowingly clicks his tongue and waits for her to come to her senses.
I’m really hoping this ends up better than it has started. There’s still one more book in the trilogy, and I have a copy of The Libriomancer on my shelf that I really REALLY want to like.
….btw, her book is written by “Josca.” The Hero’s Path. Anyone who doesn’t get that it’s Joseph’s Campbell and The Hero’s Journey… I wish I was you. It is the most belaboured joke and is not only an inanimate character, but the spine of the story. Its spine is literally poking out.