First off, I have to declare that I received an ARC from Rebecca Douglass for my honest review of this book. I also made some comments on it which I believe she incorporated into the final version. I also have to declare a common interest in the work of our illustrator, Danielle English, who does Rebecca’s covers as well as mine. None of this biasses my review in the slightest. Nope.
Halitor the Hero, or Halitor the Hapless? I love the way each chapter casts Halitor into a different role. Even his name fits the unheroic mould, since halitosis is bad breath! The author brilliantly chooses an equally potentially punning name for the heroine, kitchen-maid Melly – or is that Smelly? – who Halitor almost saves from the clutches of an ogre. Strange really, since ogres are only supposed to snatch Fair Maidens and Princesses, but Melly comes from a suitably murky past, and who knows what her parentage might be? She’s a slave now, and a slave she will stay – unless she runs away with the aid of a hapless hero-in-training whose master has abandoned him, that is.
If that event were to occur, then maybe they’d stray into dragon territory, or have to escape from bandits, or giants, or other gruesome beasties. And they might come across an old woman in a cottage in a wood where they might seek shelter. And she might turn out to be a witch. But if Halitor and Melly are so weak and unskilled in the art of looking after themselves, they aren’t going to last that far into the story, are they?
This is a delightful, witty tale of two delightful and amusing mismatched companions, who turn out to be a pretty good team. Melly’s secret is not difficult to guess some way before it is disclosed, but this in no way detracts from the disclosure or the excitement of the adventure. It’s a journey of discovery, not only of the countryside they are in, and the beings within it, but of the workings of friendship and loyalty, and that incomparable thing which is so vital to skill – forgetting that you are trying to do something, but just doing it. That’s the secret to my golf swing, if only I’d remember to forget it.
It’s a great tale for would-be heroes and feisty maidens alike, and I’m really glad that the ending implies Halitor may ride again. Full marks to Ms Douglass (oh, heck, let’s call her Rebecca) for a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy adventure.
See Rebecca’s blog for a giveaway (paperback for US, ebook for the rest of the world).