Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Review of Goblins Know Best, by Daniel Beazley

Every so often a book comes along so in-tune with itself that it helps define the very genre that would try to label it. Goblins Know Best is just such a book.

Goblins Know Best: the Trivial Trials of Bogrot and Gorag by Daniel Beazley is a Fantasy novel told from the perspective of a Goblin chef named Bogrot Blistertooth. Raised in Gert’s Kitchen of the city of Kentai (A city so prone to earthquakes that it holds no permanent structures) Bogrot is a budding chef in his own right, driven to become one of the finest cooks in the land. Often drawn away from his kitchen for errands, adventures, and other misfortunes, he travels in the company of his best friends: a ravenous and rambunctious Orc named Gorag and a talking pony with a victim complex, Mona, acquired after he cooked and ate her brother.

The novel is laid out as an anthology. Rather than chapters each section of varying length is a self-contained story set in chronological order that might contain anything from Bogrot sneaking into an orc gathering to cut a double-crossed Gorag loose from his backstabbing brother, to traveling deep into the swamp for rare slugs that have become the mainstay ingredient in a popular curry. Along the way the pair meet and explore the wildly varied and interesting population and landscapes and play host to a collection of bizarre and genuinely endearing and funny encounters. Following the adventures carves out a world that while still having all the trappings of traditional fantasy tropes manages to feel like an incredibly unique experience that not only subverts the Fantasy genre, but is possibly the best example to date of emphatically non-epic fantasy by way of its focus on the humble goals of its protagonists and the intimate natures of the conflicts. Even minor characters are believable, with their own hopes, goals, ambitions, and shortcomings. They’re not allies or enemies of Bogrot, but they share his world and understand his challenges. Goblins Know Best is an excellent example of character study due to being so far removed from the epic struggles that dominate the genre that it allows you to see these characters in their natural state with their usual struggles. The subtitle ‘Trivial Trials’ perfectly encapsulates not only Bogrot and Gorag, but also our look at each individual character in their world just trying their best to get by.

I make no secret of enjoying works with the classic Tolkien races that so many modern authors try to avoid, or even for having a preference  for Orcs and Goblins in general (probably thanks to Warcraft). But with that said I feel comfortable with the claim that Goblins Know Best is by far my clear favorite out of all the books I’ve read this last year, and the entirety of my read-through was an absolute joy.

You should read this book if you enjoy: Collections of shorter works, Greenskins, copious tongue-in-cheek humor, self-aware writing, genre subversion, and first person perspective.

You should avoid this book if you dislike: Pun names, phonetic spelling of accents, traditional fantasy races (elves, orcs, goblins, trolls, gnomes, centaurs and others all make appearances).

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