Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Adventures of Sir Edric by Thaddeus White

(Warning: may contain spoilers)

There are too many fantasy authors whose influences are solely earlier fantasy books and not enough who will make laugh.

So let us give thanks for Thaddeus White for he is the opposite of these things and the world is better for it.

Sir Edric is an anti-hero hewn straight from the same rock as Harry Flashman and Blackadder; amoral, dishonourable and conniving. His man servant, Dog, has the same unflappable, capable nature that characterises P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves. The Adventures of Sir Edric can be read as a love letter to British comedy.

We also have elves, dragons, witches, dwarves and so on and so on. This is a fantasy book after all and part of the joy of it is the way White gleefully plays on the fantasy tropes for laughs. It makes me wonder all over again why there was never a blossoming of people following in the footsteps of the Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic.

So now you know what this. How good is it?

The answer is I started out the book with belly laughs and finished it with quiet smiles. That averages out as pretty damn good, but not the masterpiece I thought I'd be telling people about thirty pages in.

White can write a scene as keen as any of the many influences listed above. You know roughly what's going to happen - successes and failures alike will be just thwarted - but it's still a surprise how it happens most of the time. That takes no little talent. 

He knows how to write a story too, although at times that gets lost in the structure of mini-quest after mini-quest. Yes, relationships evolve, emotions ebb and flow, but the formulaic nature of things can make it seem like a collection of short stories. That's probably to an extent deliberate but the repetitive nature did wear away at my enthusiasm.

The other thing that wore away at me are the characters. Or rather the lack of them. The book is populated by stock stereotypes who do the things required to make the comedy work. And after a bit, that isn't quite as interesting. It doesn't help that the most realised character, Sir Edric, is utterly dislikeable. Of course he is! He's an anti-hero. But anti-heroes are meant to have charm and they benefit from being set against equally dislikeable types and I'm dubious as to whether that happened.

I probably sound like I don't like them that much and that is being misleading. I like it very much. I am grinding my teeth down to hard white peas because I wanted to love this and I only like it. That's the sort of thing that really has you worrying away at what you dislike in something, not indifference. I recommend it. I truly do. I'll buy the next one. 

I just hope that next time, the characters match the comedy because if they do, it could be exceptional.

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