On a cube planet embroiled in magic, monsters, adventure, and sticky buns, a sinister plot unfolds that will join unlikely friends on a journey where the flow of time is variable and youth is at stake.
Cubonia’s most famous treasure hunter, Broderick Porter, has just been hired to steal a necklace from Queen Annelise’s youngest daughter, Alexandra. For one so skilled, it should be an easy job. But the princess has different plans. When Broderick shows up looking for the necklace, Alexandra makes him an offer: she will give up the necklace if he trains her to fulfill her dreams of hunting monsters. When the duo delivers the necklace to the dastardly Witch of the Wastes, Alexandra is taken prisoner by the Witch and Broderick finds himself in the royal prison. Now Broderick must rescue the princess and set things right before he finds his head in a guillotine.
On a cube planet...
And that's exactly how far into the pitch for review of this book that I got before I yelled "I'M IN!"
Later on, when I came to my senses, I realized that I may have just willingly taken on a reading project that would be a dumpster fire all because I got excited by that opening line. I'm not usually so impulsive. Would I regret it????
A cube planet? How utterly ridiculous. Give it to me. Now. No joke; that's how much thought I put into whether to read this for review or not. Let it be a lesson: Blurbs matter.
The Golden Hourglass is a fantasy adventure romp of ridiculousness with constant undercurrents of satirical humor. The story follows the adventure of one Broderick Porter, extremely successful (and filthy filthy rich) thief. Er, I mean, treasure hunter(his words, not mine). He is so aligned to his honor and principles that he takes on a terrible contract to steal a necklace. From around the neck of the princess. It's not too bad though, he does have a pet/partner-in-crime griffon (who talks and is just as wise-cracking as Mr. Porter). Together, they break into the palace where they find both the necklace and princess. The princess, a wannabe monster-hunter, forces Broderick to take her with him as he flees from the castle. The bulk of the story rests on what unfolds after that. Double-crossing, enemies becoming frienemies, more deals being made, and an assault on the uber-powerful "Witch of the Wastes."
There is a lot to like here. First off, the overall tone and style of the story is very satirical/parody/Mel Brooksesque/wonder-of-goofiness. The beautiful thing is that the humor isn't over the top. It's not in your face or slapstick. It's just there. It pokes fun at ridiculous fantasy tropes, but keeps them as a integral part of the story. Broderick is a man of deep honor, but also a serious wise-a$$, with sarcasm in spades. And it works. It's NOT a parody, though it smells like it. And it's not a serious, straight-forward fantasy tale, though it sounds like one. It's funny and ridiculous, but also succeeds in putting forth a solid story line. It would honestly work well without any of the humor. And it would work well without any serious story and just gags. Obviously, it's better together, but it's like a half-moon cookie. No matter how you slice it, it's delicious.
On a more technical note, the writing is very good, editing is clean, and it reads well. I'm a big stickler for overall writing ability within books; the flow and structure of sentences, and this just felt good to read. And it was readily apparent within the first couple of pages. At page three, I am pretty sure I gave an approving nod: "Yep, this guy knows how to put words on a page."
One of the most common missteps in fantasy is dry, unending exposition and world-building nonsense. Here, there's none of that. The writing focuses on the story and characters, weaving in bits of the world as we go. It's clean and streamlined.
And the cover, while maybe not showing off what the story is about, is gorgeous.
And the dialogue. Is just. Great. A lot of the humor comes from witty one-liners and comebacks, often at the expense of another character or some well-known fantasy trope. It's marvelous. Characters and dialogue are what I take most pride in with my writing and what I most enjoy in reading. And this was top-notch. Authentic, witty, and well crafted. Sadly, a rarity in even the most well-respected novels out there.
First. My biggest gripe. (Not really.) If the blurb didn't mention the world being a cube, I would have been VERY hard-pressed to have known that after reading the book. You get some vague references to the different realms that exist on different faces of the world-cube, but it's phrased in such a way that the average reader is not going to go "OH! A cubic planet!" Even they name of the world, Cubonia, doesn't tell us for sure that it's a cube planet. Because, let's face it, a cube planet is not common in stories and is the last thing we'll jump to without being told virtually point-blank. Yes, I know it's a silly gripe, but it is why I picked up the book to read. And it also leads into another minor issue. While I appreciated the streamlined nature (see The Good above) I know some fantasy readers will want more information about the fantastical world. You get hints of it, and i think it's neat, but we barely scratch the surface of what exists in the world. I know Marinier plans more books in the series/world so there is time to get more of that juicy fantasy world stuff. Again, didn't bother me personally. Well, maybe a little.
Now, my only actual complaint. Some of the story stuff, especially near the end, was a little...cartoony. This book is heavy on the humor, but even so. I don't want to spoil anything, so bear with me as I cryptically try to explain what I mean. A lot of the resolutions, whether in a battle, or in the main storyline as whole, felt contrived and painfully simple. Also, without any real consequences or threat of consequences to the main characters. Don't get me wrong, it's totally enjoyable the whole read through, but there is no emotional involvement. Here's a bad situation/bad guy/tense moment...Oh, it's solved in a matter of seconds and the harm previously done is now reversed. It's nothing that breaks the book, but you can't go into this story expecting to have any emotion tugged on. Other than your funny bone.
This is as entertaining a read as I've had in a long time. I smiled, snickered, and marveled at the clever humor the entire read. The humor is well woven into the story and a pleasure to read. And while I may not have had any of my emotions touched beyond my sense of humor, it was done in such a way that that was enough. And the clean, no-frills, fantasy adventure was enjoyable as well, working well with the overall tone of the story.
But I want more interaction with the cube planet, darn it! How do you get around the edges? Do people fall off? How do bodies of water work on the edge? I want just ONE scene on the edge. I need to live that experience. I'll wait...