The Dragon Lords: Bad Faith – Trust Me On This One

51ifgjed8slHere we have the end of a trilogy with a lot of ups and down. Dragon Lords: Fool’s Gold, by Jon Hollins, was one of my bookclub books awhile back (reviewed here). It was a satirical take on quest fantasy that my club had a wide range of opinions on. Some thought it was incredibly bad, and some with better taste (like myself) thought it showed a lot of promise despite its flaws. I decided to continue on with the series and read book two, Dragon Lords: False Idols, which you can find the review of here. The short summary of that review is – book two showed a ton of improvement, and was a very solid read. Today, I am talking about the final book in the series, Dragon Lords: Bad Faith, and deciding if I think the entire thing is worth your time.

The plot of the final book is slightly reminiscent of the previous two: our merry band of rejects repeatedly fails their way into saving the world by murdering beings severely outside their weight class. Will, Lette, Balur, and others spend most of their time wandering from place to place, trying to execute half-ass plans that backfire immediately. The book is funny, outrageous, and a generally good time with lots of memorable insane moments. I will say that the third installment has a much more somber tone than the first two (and it feels appropriate). The humor is still there in spades, but it moves from less of a focus on slapstick, and more towards a focus on bad puns in chapter titles and contextual humor. The book manages that rare quality of being both sad and funny, and it works well.

In addition, the key difference between the plot of Bad Faith and the other two books is that this time the crew is motivated from a desire to save the world instead of a desire to save themselves from poverty. When looking back at the series as a whole, it’s truly impressive how Hollins organically grew his team of sociopaths into better people. I found their (sometimes painfully) slow transition into admirable people believable and relatable. There is always a question when reading about flawed protagonists of: is it worth reading about absolute asshats now for emotional pay off when they become good people later on? In this case I would say yes, but only just. I think where the crew of characters ends is a great spot – but I also don’t think it’s the greatest character development of all time.

Where the book really shines is in the worldbuilding. I can tell that Hollins was sort of making up his world as he was going in the earlier books – but Bad Faith has a fully fleshed out, and interesting, world where the team spends a lot of time wandering around. Hollins also finally gets around to exploring the backstories of some of our more silent characters and I really enjoyed the depth they added to some of the previously shallow people.

The book ends on a really strong note, but getting there was occasionally a little slow. There are definitely some pacing issues that feel more apparent due the third book’s smaller amount of jokes. The focus on POV’s is fairly uneven, with some characters hogging the spotlight. I don’t think there was anything inherently wrong with this, but in Bad Faith’s instance it results in some characters over telling their stories a bit. I can only hear the inner monologue of a person so many times before I think “I get it”.

Overall, I would definitively say that Dragon Lords is worth your time. Humor in fantasy is hard, and while these books might not always be perfect – I think they bring enough originality and quality to the stage to be worth anyone’s time. If you are looking for a laugh, a lot of failure, and watching a boat load of people learn how to be slightly less garbage – I recommend you check out the Dragon Lords series by Jon Hollins.

Rating:
The Dragon Lords – 7.5/10
Bad Faith – 8.0/10

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False Idols – Restoring Faith

51wy42bxtkvl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Earlier this year I read a fun book called Dragon Lords: Fools Gold, by Jon Hollins. I thought it was a comedic romp with a little bit of substance that was dragged down slightly by character relatability and depth. While I was a little late to the party with Fool’s Gold, I decided to jump on Jon’s sequel, False Idols, thanks to the lovely people at Orbit sending me a review copy in return for my honest opinion. This year I have seen a multitude of authors improving on their past books and learning from their mistakes; the question is did Jon follow this trend?

What is False Idols about? – In the wake of liberating their small country from dragons, our five person crew from Fool’s Gold all went on their way to live happily ever after. This, unfortunately, didn’t work for everyone. Three of our crew find themselves unsatisfied with their new wealth and life, and the other two soon find themselves forced out of their ever after. On top of this, a new set of dragons have set themselves to conquering, not just the tiny country we visited before – but the entire continent. However, the oversize iguanas have decided for a change of tactics. Instead of brutal oppression, the dragons have decided to oust the gods and ascend to the pantheon in their stead – and then go back to brutal oppression. Unsurprisingly, our crew soon finds themselves united and once again plotting the deaths of dragons.

Did he fix the issues? – In short, yes. I am elated to see so many writers I like getting better and better this year, and am happy to add Jon’s name to that list. My major problems with Fool’s Gold were that some of the characters were unlikable (primarily Quirk) and that the plot of the book was a tad repetitive. First, not only did Jon revamp Quirk into a much more enjoyable character to read about, he also maintained her character identity from book one to have the best of both worlds. Quirk still has a stick up her ass the size of a redwood, but Jon has toned down the condescending tone that drove me insane in the first book and has raised the awareness of her character flaws amongst his cast making her a lot more fun to read. On top of this, Jon has developed and improved every member of the cast to make them more relatable. He still tells the story of deeply flawed, and sometimes unlikable people, but I no longer found that these character elements imposed on my reading experience.

The first book was broken up into three similar arcs of: locate dragon, plan to murder dragon, watch the plan fall apart and wing it. It was a fun idea but it started to feel a little repetitive by the end. In contrast to this, False Idols has a much deeper plot that pulled me in. The humor in these books is enough to carry them by itself, but paired with a plot that got me invested in the story made the entire book feel like it stepped up. In addition, I thought that the prose of book two was simply better than it was in the first book.

Does it still have what made Fool’s Gold good? – As I mentioned above, False Idols is still hilarious. The contextual humor of the situations our cast finds themselves in continued to make me laugh out loud, though I will say that because this book takes on a more serious and dark identity that meant I probably laughed a little less. The chapter titles still made me chuckle every time saw one, and character reactions and dialogue had me in stitches.

In Fool’s Gold we got a nice glimpse of Jon’s worldbuilding and I was excited to see it fleshed out more. False Idols shows us a variety of countries and cultures as the crew travels around trying to stop draconic oppression. I won’t spoil their various quirks, but just know that I don’t think you will be disappointed with Hollins’ imagination.

Is it perfect? – Books rarely are, but I think False Idols is a lot closer than book one. I only had one minor annoyance this time around and that was the relationship between Lette and Will, two of the protagonists. At the beginning of book two they have just broken up, and I felt that the book spent a tad too much time with them thinking of each other. However, this was only a very small bother and I otherwise thought that False Idols was fantastic.

On top of all of this, False Idols ends with a massive cliffhanger that has me on the edge of my seat for the sequel. The book addressed all my issues with its predecessor, is still hilarious, and has developed a plot that has completely pulled me in. Jon Hollins has done wonders to improve his already great series and I highly recommend you check these books out as soon as you can.

Rating: Dragon Lords: False Idols – 9.0/10
-Andrew

Fool’s Gold – A Few Too Many Quirks

27415414I 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