Too Many Curses
by A. Lee Martinez
This book was a surprise for me. I’ve read three or four by Martinez before, and he writes a pretty good wacky/funny fantasy. I expected this one to be the same.
And there are some elements of wacky/funny fantasy in here: it is the story of an evil wizard, one who spends his long life seeking more power for himself, which he then uses mainly to unleash his cruel vengeance on anyone who irritates him. His victims then live in his castle, transformed into mice, into decapitated animated skeletons, into nothing but an echo.Some of the curses are loony and silly and fun, and so are some of the characters living with those curses — a hero turned into a fruit bat, the wizard’s mother transformed into a clinging ivy plant while his brother occupies a small jar, reduced to nothing but a few body parts floating in goo, a banshee that can only materialize to give dire warnings, so she stretches the meaning of the word “dire” in order to materialize as often as possible, whereupon she moans hideously, “Yooooouuu’ll stub your TOOOOOOEEEEEE!” And so on.
But the main character is the very opposite of wacky. She is serious, and she is a genuinely good protagonist — both for the story, and as a person. Nessy the Kobold takes care of the evil wizard’s castle; that is her task, and she does it well. When things go wrong with the wizard, it is up to her to take care of things, simply because there is nobody else who can. Fortunately, Nessy is good at taking care of things, and she does the best she can with her limited abilities.
It’s a good story. There are some nice twists. I was a little disappointed with the revelation of what’s behind The Door That Must Not Be Opened, but the secret of the castle itself, and of Tiama the Scarred, and the final fate of the wizards in the story, was most satisfying. I loved Sir Thedeus (He’s the fruit bat), and the monster under Nessy’s bed who just wants her to read him stories every night. And I really did love Nessy, both as a character and as a protagonist; I agree with the message she presents to the reader, which is basically the same message from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: heroes may be small, but it is the small, good things that we do which make all the difference in the world.
Good book. Recommended.