I am still extremely sad about Terry Pratchett dying. I can tell others feel the same way not only by the occasional post I see on social media, but also by the increased number of fantasy humor books hitting the market. I applaud the effort of any writer who tries to follow in the footsteps of the late Sir Pratchett, but they’re very large shoes to fill indeed.
The Dungeoneers is a story in the fantasy humor subgenre. To be honest, I don’t know for sure whether the author, Jeffery Russell was a fan of Terry Pratchett, but I’m assuming so due to the tongue-in-cheek narrative and attempts to turn fantasy conventions on their collective heads.
I really appreciate what The Dungeoneers tries to accomplish and I likes portions of the story. For instance, the rants about how unprofessional “adventurers” are, as well as the process of how a professional dungeon delving crew conducts business were both amusing. In fact, some of the traps in the dungeon that The Dungeoneers explored in the story had me wincing in sympathy; in most of the RPG games I’ve played, I would have been a stupid adventurer who was poisoned or impaled on all the nasty whatsits.
However, while humor was one staple of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, so was its characters. Sure, Mort was funny, but as readers we also /cared/ about Mort. Unfortunately, this is where The Dungeoneers falls short. By the end of the story, the only character I cared about was a dog that was not even a side character, more a part of the scenery. The characters were pretty much all 2d and our main character’s “destiny” hinted at in the book’s blurb was rather underwhelming. The climax of the action is both completely over the top as well as not being very compelling; at no point did I feel any tension. Last but not least, most of the jokes fell flat, and this is truly a sin for the sub genre this story was trying to inhabit. For instance, the peculiarities of the Dwarves were not only not funny, but also further served to make them more unrelatable. Some people might find the concept of gender swapping, hermaphroditic dwarves in an adventuring party funny, but I didn’t. It also made it harder for me to tell who was who. This was compounded by the fact that some of the characters in the party didn’t have any defining characteristics other than what job they did.
I think the MC could have pulled it all together, but by the end of the story, the only thing we know about him was his job history and that he was an orphan. Seriously, that was it. He seemed like an OK person, but while reading I only cared about his fate to the extent of any other OK sort of person I meet (or read about).
I give this story a 2.5 out of 5 stars. I finished the book and it wasn’t bad, but I won’t be buying the next title in the series. However, I think the author, Jeffery Russell shows great promise and if he writes a new story for a new series, I will probably pick it up.