4 out of 4 stars
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If you are someone who enjoys their fantasy and adventure contained to a strict set narrative following the typical ‘tortured hero saves the day while going on epic adventures’ guideline, Fish Wielder by J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison may not be the book for you. If, however, you are someone who enjoys that narrative and does not mind an added spice of goofy humor, blatant irony, and a fair amount of delightful fourth wall breaks and criticisms from the characters themselves, Fish Wielder could be just the book you are looking for.
In a typical hero introduction, we meet the protagonist, Thoral Mighty Fist, in a tavern drowning his sorrows in warm ale. Then, his trusty side kick, a talking koi fish, arrives to drag him on an adventure in the hopes of cheering Thoral up. At the very least, get him to die a hero’s death instead of brooding to one. From there, he traverses the land of Grome in search of evil doers and fiends to defeat, unwittingly uncovering a dastardly plot to destroy Grome in the process. Saving elf princesses, retuning lost treasures, keeping a dark secret or two of his own, and throwing himself recklessly into danger while looking devilishly handsome are all run of the mill tasks for Thoral Mighty Fist, as he goes on a quest to save all of Grome and those who live there in this epically hilarious fantasy adventure.
Perhaps the best thing about this novel is the use of ridiculous and often extravagant humor that J.R.R.R (Jim) Hardison supplies with a generous hand. From blatant observations from the characters themselves on the plot of the story, to the matter-of-fact statements from the narrator that would never seem like matter-of-fact statements to anyone else, this novel keeps you entertained and engaged throughout the read.
While I will say I truly love Hardison’s use of in-your-face irony, sometimes the repetition of certain tropes and jokes grated on my nerves. One in particular, the ‘hero escapes death by the skin of his teeth/ makes a comeback last second to defeat the villain’ trope got a little trite by the end. However, as I do believe that that was one of Hardison’s points, I do not hold that against him or the novel. As a reader, I would just let other readers be aware this might happen, but even so, it is still very much worth the read to the end.
Over all, this novel is a wild ride of an adventure, and I would recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor, a love of fantasy, and an inclination to see the norm flipped on its head. Written in such a way that the narrator seems to be talking to the reader like an old friend – or at least trying to convince an old friend that a story did indeed happen, no matter what unbelievable events may have taken place – Fish Wielder is sure to be a feel good read that makes you laugh, and sometimes want to cry, at all the amazing feats of wonder and coincidences that happen within its chapters. As such, I give it a 4 out of 4 stars rating.
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