With the framing device of him relating his adventures to his latest conquest, Quillifer is told in the first person. While this does serve to lessen the sense of danger at times, it acts as a good introduction to the world, especially since the majority of it is initially unexperienced by Quillifer. One of my favourite parts of the novel occurs early on as he describes the sights, sounds and smells of his home town. The love and affection he has for the place shines through. One of his best qualities is that while his subsequent actions are primarily to benefit himself, there is always the intention to use any influence he acquires to arrange help for his home.
Quillifer is a generally amusing protagonist although his antics can become wearisome at times. He can be quite changeable depending on his situation and what he is trying to accomplish. A frequent refrain is ‘I put on my _________ _________ face”, giving the notion that a lot of the time he is merely playing a character, one he thinks will appeal to the person he is dealing with and lead to him getting what he wants. His main problem though, aside from the desire to bed just about any woman he meets, is an innate need to prove his cleverness to others. Needless to say, both of these characteristics back-fire on him more than once throughout the novel.
Although set in a fantasy world that has some parallels with Renaissance-era Europe, there is very little in the way of traditional fantasy elements. There are mentions of spells, but it seems they are rare, expensive and fragile. Gunpowder is used by both artillery and aboard ship, although the majority of the warfare is still conducted by cavalry and pikemen. This is exceedingly well illustrated by a climactic battle between forces of the new Queen, including Quillfer and some of his friends, and a potential usurper. It’s obvious a lot of research has gone into getting period details accurate but neither it nor the world-building ever feels intrusive.
Quillifer is a fun and entertaining romp, excellent for readers who like their fantasy on the more realistic end or even readers of historical fiction looking to branch out.
4 out of 5 words just made up.