Presented in the form of a series of interviews with various heroic characters from such games, Loremaster Elburn Barr is trying to figure out what the big deal is where heroes are concerned and compiling a journal of his findings. Elburn's brother and parents were heroes but he just doesn’t get it. He feels much more suited to the role of loremaster, the fantasy version of a journalist or author:
“A Loremaster’s sworn duty is to observe and record without involving themselves in what they witness—this is the path I have chosen to follow.”
The resulting interviews are hilarious and filled with snarky and sarcastic footnotes which give us an insight into what the smart and insightful Elburn is really feeling as he speaks to each of his interviewees. They are also filled with ‘in jokes’ which D n D players will relish. Early on Elburn seems to be obsessed with the question of whether there is any point having both a Cleric and a Paladin in the same adventuring party, which is undoubtedly a question the author has asked himself while playing D n D.
This unusual addition of a copious amount of footnotes is what lends both imaginative originality and another level of tongue in cheek humour to this book. To begin with I found the process of looking up footnotes as I was reading a little off-putting, but I soon began to see their usefulness and to enjoy the extra layer of humour afforded by them.
The interviewees are adventurers, members of the Hero’s Guild and other characters who help enable such a lifestyle. We get to learn all kinds of snippets about life as a card carrying hero and what types of peril this kind of lifestyle entails. Examples of the interviewees include a gnome dungeon master whose dungeon is a soft dungeon - a safe space for trainee heroes - a wizard who is haunted by a past fireball he cast badly (the miscasting of fireball spells by wizards is a recurring theme throughout the book). There is a dwarf Forgemaster with a mechanical production line of apprentices who has decided to put profit over poverty and therefore is focusing on quantity over quality with the lower quality weapons he forges. Another interviewee is an elven sorceress who he interviews while she is having a bath - a circumstance he finds somewhat distracting.
Each chapter is a separate interview with a new hero, but there is a story running throughout them. Elburn is searching for a trace of his adventuring hero brother who has been missing for ten years and who no one appears to have heard of. Each of the interviews adds on a little piece of information about events mentioned previously, building an overall adventure that has been taking place in this world while Elburn is making his way around it interviewing these characters.
The writing style is sophisticated and filled with witty descriptions which help to bring the world and its inhabitants to life:
“The Wizard’s face explodes into an excitable grin, his aged and crooked teeth suddenly pushing through his wiry beard like long-forgotten headstones rising above the thicket of an overgrown graveyard.”
This book should gain pride of place on the bookshelves of anyone who enjoys Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Fantasy TTRPGs and would make a great Christmas gift for any such people on your list!
I received a complimentary arc in exchange for an honest review, thank you, Andi!