04 September 2016

[funnay] Fish Wielder: High Fantasy, Meet J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison, Your New Court Jester.

I suspect that there are depths to the epically silly tale I've not yet found. It opens itself up on repeated viewings like a … what are one of those many-petaled flowers, you know, the ones you see in Japanese design?


Yeah, right. That's it.

This is another way of saying our friend J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison has finally released his novel Fish Wielder and we've read it, almost twice now, and it is just about everything we've hoped it would be. Which sounds glib in this era of everyone writing superlatives on everything, but which totally fits here.

Fish Wielder is the story, of course, of Thoral Mighty Fist and his quest to prevent The Heartless One … the Grand Master of the Bad Religion … from tracking down and consuming the Pudding of Power, a treat that was created a thousand and two years ago by the Dark Lord Mauron and whose consumption would enable the eater to command another piece of jewelry and conquer the land of Grome somehow. He manages to complete his quest with a cast of characters every bit as absurd as you can name, including elves, because it's not a fantasy epic without dignified, very very important elves. There's also the talking koi, claustrophobic talking horses, young elf-warrior-maidens with hilarious names, assassins that can't assassin straight,  running gags done right, and magic practice that was born on the Food Network.

In this world, if Gordon Ramsay yells at you about how undecooked the pudding is, you'd best pay attention.

The book is over-the-top in almost every good way. It describes itself as 'kind of like Lord of the Rings, set in Narnia, written by the guys to made Monty Python and the Holy Grail while they were listening to the music of They Might Be Giants'. It's only an unfair description in as much as it doesn't cover all the marks it hits and decisively rubs out. I detect hints of Hitchhiker's Guide in there (Thoral always seems to have a towel at the ready), for instance. It starts out fast and furious; within two chapters we're not only introduced to our hero and his second but his first set of assassins do themselves in with comic timing not seen since the Three Stooges.

The story's greatest magic is in timing, pacing, and the way all the jokes link together in the way a fine clockwork does. There is a ton of stuff going on here, and the layers all work well together. There are reveals you don't see coming that are made at just the right moment, and eventually you realize that all characters are just as they look, but not as they seem. And, all along, Jim's deftly orchstrating all the reveals and the homages, and he's winking at you, knowing you'll get the joke.

If I had to pin down the style, I'd say the best parallel would be Police Squad!. The show only lasted for six episodes, and the reason legendarily given is that it was because you had to actually pay attention to the show. Fish Wielder's humor is just as witty and non-stop as the Zucker-Abrams-Zucker Airplane! school of comedy.

All of which finally means that high fantasy, which needs a new court jester, has found one. Fish Wielder should share a shelf with Aspirin, Anthony, Pratchett … It's a world that's a very intelligent joke.

Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9968943-1-9
Retail Price: $16.99, Kindle Ebook: $7.19
Learn more of the world of Thoral and Bradfast at the book's site, http://http://fishwielder.com/.
The book's Amazon page can be found at this link here, available in both dead-tree and ebook. 

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