An ordinary, money-grubbing Merchant struggling to make a coin off penniless, incompetent adventurers is forced to take on the impossible quest of saving his town and rescuing the woman he loves from a treacherous and powerful Wizard. A battle of wit, wits and haggling that is part homage to, part skewer of the richly worked and often overwrought fantasy genre. An artful, satire of dungeon crawls and cRPG's, the Merchant Adventurer is part Princess Bride, part Dungeon Pawn Stars and a rollicking good read.
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This book is part epic adventure fantasy and part tongue in cheek pointed humor at the often overdone fantasy tropes. Our main hero, Boltac the Merchant, is, indeed, a very reluctant hero. However, eventually, against his better nature, he is forced to join the adventure, outwit the bad guy, rescue his lady love, and bring prosperity to his home town. Or something along those lines. Really, Boltac is just focused on one thing: not letting his lady love know he actually has a soft spot for her.
One day a would be hero, Relan, strolls in to a shop wanting to purchase a sword so he can gallivant off to rescue his lady love. However, he doesn’t have the coin for it. So he asks to lease out a sword. Boltac rolls his eyes and eventually clouts Relan over the head and drags his unconscious body outside. But then the minions of an evil wizard (Dimsbury) and his side kick (Raddick). The owner of the local tavern, and secret sweetheart of Boltac, is stolen away. Now Boltac must make some tough choices.
The humor permeates this novel and is often of the skeptical variety. Boltac questions nearly everything, even if it is just in his head. He’s always weighing the choices, adding the coins, calculating what’s in his best interest. Relan is great sidekick for him, being so idealistic, so naive, so honorable. Boltac is constantly having to rein the young man in, and not always teaching him the ways of adventuring. The back and forth between these two is most amusing!
There are a few ladies in this book. I can think of two off the top of my head. There might have been a third. One is a supposed damsel in distress that is working with a group of folks running scams. The second is Boltac’s secret love, the tavern owner. She’s smart in her own right, taking charge of her actions and formulating a plan to escape from the first moment. However, we spend little time with her. The author shows he can write female characters, and yet he had so few in this book and gave them small, tiny roles. I hope his other books make better use of the female gender, as I fully intend to seek out more of his work.
Then we have the bad guys. They come in two flavors: ruthless and deserving of death and then we have the orc servants (like Samga the orc leader) who would probably have fairly quiet lives if left to their own devices. Raddick is vicious and enjoys killing for the sport. Dimsbury is the brains behind the evil duo and is quite ruthless in his own way. These potent villains make great adversaries for the shrewd Boltac and the idiotically heroic Relan.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It strongly reminded me of the days when my man played Dungeons & Dragons weekly and he come home in the early dawn hours, smelling of stale pizza, one too many energy drinks, and cigarette smoke, babbling about his exploits in a some dungeon or medieval forest. This book was like that, but far better since it was a coherent story and not just disconnected ramblings by a man who was obviously dead tired but too wired on caffeine to sleep.
Narration: Patrick McLean narrated his own book, and I always have a few worries when I see an author narrating his own work. But have no fears here! McLean does an awesome job of narrating this book. He has a perfectly shrewd and skeptical voice for Boltac, a wonderfully dense and optimistic voice for Relan, and a serpent’s treacherous sneer for Raddick. I also enjoyed his ‘I’m way too smart to deign to chat with you’ voice for Dimsbury. And don’t forget his toothy voice for the orc Samga. It was a most excellent performance.
It's always wonderful when you get a sense that the writer really enjoyed the story they tell. A fantastic listening experience happens when the performer enjoys the story just as much. I've been sometimes disappointed when authors perform their own work, but in this case it's IMPOSSIBLE to imagine anyone else doing justice to this slanted tale of wizard and magic and adventurers and the occasional damned damsel in distress. I'm hooked.