Bull and the Goblin Raid by Matt Heppe - SPFBO 2020 Book Review

Write on: Thu, 18 Jun 2020 by  in SPFBO 2020 Read 3139

For my first official SPFBO 2020 book review for BookNest, I review Matt Heppe's Bull and the Goblin Raid. 

What It's About:

Baron Theodus – commonly known as Bull for his larger-than-life physique – is a legend whose famous adventures are known all across the land. None, however, can tell his tales better than Bull himself, and that’s just what he intends to do for the good patrons of the Green Wyvern Inn. These are tales of love and loss; of goblins and dwarves; and of kind strangers and fearsome brigands. And what better place to start than at the very beginning: the goblin raid that sent Bull and his family on a journey that would forever change their lives. 

What I Liked:

There were specific characters that I felt truly invested in: Bull (the narrator) for his boisterous, sociable demeanor – he’s certainly someone I would love to have a beer with while listening to his stories; Ulutai, as his oftentimes humorous tone matched well with his third-person dialogue and pride; and Garwulf thanks to her mysterious manner and equally curious magic system. 

As far as plot goes, Heppe has chosen a unique way of chronicling his protagonist’s story, by having the protagonist himself – as an adult – tell the story to interested parties. Past and present collide as storyteller Bull interrupts his own narrative at times in order to interact with the men and women of the inn. In being transparent, this choice seemed a bit off-putting to me at first; however, as the book moved along, it quickly grew on me, highlighting – in an entertaining way – young Bull’s character growth. 

What Didn’t Do It For Me:

In some ways, Bull and the Goblin Raid is a classic coming of age story: boy gets picked on, boy loses everything, and subsequently, boy is forced to grow up fast and learn about the world and its numerous dangers. With that being said, much of the book reads like a young adult fantasy novel; however, about halfway through the story the language shifts from including no swearing at all, to f-bombs dropping every few pages. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind cursing in the fiction I read – especially if it adds to the story and characters – but it felt forced and almost as if Heppe was unsure of what kind of story he wanted it to be.

The main aspect of the book that made the read somewhat difficult was its length. I believe that Bull and the Goblin Raid could be something really special if Heppe were to take his time with his characters and turn it into a full-fledged novel. At 117 pages, however, I was left feeling as if almost too much had occurred, with not nearly enough time for development. For instance, there is an ample amount of time given to the description of the armor and/or outfits that the characters are wearing and what weapons or tools they’re holding; new characters are introduced in almost every chapter, with some chapters presenting multiple characters at a time; and a lot of journeying takes place. While this would be fine in a longer novel, at 117 pages, it prevents the author from really getting into the characters’ mindsets. I wanted to understand how Bull felt at certain moments; I wanted to know the depth of heartbreak other characters felt when tragedies befell them; I wanted to see the side characters develop more – some of them seem truly fascinating – and learn their motives and backgrounds; and all of which, I wanted to be shown, not told. Unfortunately, not much of this takes place.

For all of my misgivings about Bull and the Goblin Raid, I need to stress that it is not a bad story – in fact, it is really quite fun at times, particularly when it comes to the interactions between Bull and the band of fantastical misfits that he joins up with in the novel’s third act. If you enjoy the archetypal hero’s journey tale, as well as stories in which the protagonist learns how to succeed in life from those around him, this book could be for you.


Last modified on Tuesday, 07 July 2020 14:27

Max’s passion for fantastic stories began with weekly trips to the comic book store as a child. Now an English teacher at a boarding school, he is always reading. Max has written for sites like Geeks of Doom and SF Signal, where he created the Indie Author Spotlight. Max lives in Connecticut with his wife – who graciously embraces his need to display action figures all over the house – and daughter, who is inheriting her parents’ affinity for books.