I have said it once, and I will say it again, I will give a positive review to any book that can get me to regularly laugh. It is impossible to not enjoy yourself if you are cracking up while you read, which is why humor fantasy has a special place in my heart. Which is why when I saw Fool’s Gold, by Jon Hollins, advertised as a hilarious heist story along the lines of The Hobbit meets Guardians of the Galaxy, I purchased it immediately and entered it into our book club. The question of humor books are always threefold: Is it actually funny? Is the book well written and interesting enough to stand without its humor? If no, is the humor good enough to forgive it it’s mistakes? Join me as I break down this new fantasy comedy and whether it lived up to its hype.
Is it actually funny? Short answer, yes it is. Fool’s Gold tells the story of a group of five individuals down on their luck in a land oppressed by dragons. They all end up in a moonlit cave together by chance, and formulate a plan to rob some of the dragon overlords in this corner of the country. It goes poorly, in a hilarious manner. The humor in the book had me in stitches often. While the plot follows three increasingly difficult heists, the soul of the book is in its cast of five thieves. First we have Will, a farmer who had his life taken from him by a dragon’s taxes and who dreams of revenge. Next there is the mercenary duo, Lette and Balur. Lette is a merc with a heart of gold searching for a better way to live and one last score. Balur is a hunk of muscle looking for a good time and to prove he is man enough to kill a dragon. Then there is Firkin, a crazed older alcoholic looking for his next drink after he had his life ruined by the dragons. Finally there is Quick, a scholar, and the straight man of the group acting as the conscious of the team. Each of them is funny in their own way, but the majority of the heavy lifting for me fell to Lette and Balur. They were consistently funny and any section surrounding them proved to be a great time for me. Will’s sections were usually great, but very occasionally had parts that fell flat. Firkin was rarely funny, but I also rarely had a problem with him and he ended up feeling very neutral as a character. I wanted Quirk to fall into a damn lava pit and die as soon as convenient, but we will come back to this.
Is the book well written and interesting enough to stand without its humor? Definitely. Despite my problems with Quirk, the character writing was generally decent and the worldbuilding was incredible. Fool’s Gold only takes place in a small corner of Hollin’s world, but that corner is absolutely brimming with life and culture. The dragons themselves were very interesting, and I really liked the short vignettes into their minds. The book is filled with pop culture references (such as the chapter titles like “We need a bigger boat”) and satire about the fantasy genre which I found fun. The heists themselves are exciting and amusing, and though I thought the grand finale could have been a little more grand (it was a slight bit obvious what was happening, making the reveal so-so), I was definitely satisfied with the plot and wanted more. The big issue I had with the book was with one of the five leads, Quirk.
Is the humor good enough to forgive it it’s mistakes? Other than being a tad repetitive, the major issue for me with Fool’s Gold is that Quirk is an unenjoyable character to read about. Quirk is a mage with a sordid past who tried to remake herself into a scholar who studies dragons. She acts as the straight man to the group, trying to steer them towards the greater good and ridiculing them when they act selfishly. The major issue with this is Quirk has massive self-control issues, and then is very self righteous about how great she is – which none of the characters give her a hard time for. It makes her an unpleasant and condescending POV to be around and it sometimes sucks the fun out of the book. I sense she was written this way to be satirical, but I think she falls short of her role and ends up simply being unenjoyable.
However, despite my complaints I definitely think Fool’s Gold is a good book and a blast to read. With some small adjustments to the pacing, plot, and character identities it could go from good to great and I am excited to read the sequel, False Idols, sometime this year. It is has some minor issues, but the world is exciting and the humor is on point. If you are looking for some good laughs and a fun heist, pick up Fool’s Gold and give it a spin.
Rating: Fool’s Gold – 8.0/10