Friday, December 04, 2009


I've been on antibiotics for a week in an effort to kill off a kidney infection. The infection has left me feeling bruised inside and turned my wee an interesting colour. And it's still hanging on, so I've more tests and things next week. But it does explain why I've been feeling so run down these last weeks.

Here, for your entertainment and delight, is a review I did way back in February for Vector.

"Too Many Curses" by A Lee Martinez
Reviewed by Simon Guerrier

Nessy the Kobold is the servant in an evil wizard's castle. She feeds the monsters and chats to the ghosts and avoids the advances of Decapitated Dan. When the evil wizard accidentally gets killed, the castle thinks their curses will be lifted. But their troubles have only just begun.

It's a fun, fast-moving adventure packed full of daft characters and incident. The prose is straightforward and there are plenty of jokes. The chaotic plot, as more monsters and obstacles rain down on Nessy, is all nicely tied up in the end. It's a satisfying – and quick – read. Though there's plenty of icky things going on – belching and vomiting and being eaten alive – Martinez rarely lets us in on anyone's pain. For example, a character has the tip of their tail turned to ice and we don't get any sense of how that feels, how it chills the rest of the body. Nor is there much urgency about changing the tail back.

Perhaps this is part of Nessy's character – we're often told she's a practical soul, more worried about keeping the castle tidy than the various creatures that want to kill her. By the end she's changed her priorities and learnt to take charge of herself. But rather than her character developing all the book, this change comes rather suddenly in a final confrontation with... It would spoil it to say too much more.

I assume Too Many Curses is for the same sort of audience as devours Harry Potter. Which makes the swearing a surprise. Sir Tedeus calls people “wanker” several times and there's one occasion of bastard. (Ron Weasley can say “bloody hell” in the movies, but he can't swear in the books.)

There's the same recourse to books and the slow learning of magic as Potter, the same tests and dark wizards and dark humour. There's the same plucky, oppressed underling who must dare to challenge a legendary dark wizard to a duel. There's the same lessons of compassion overcoming evil, and of the hero's reliance on their friends.

But Too Many Curses lacks the emotional depth of JK Rowling. We don't feel for Nessy or her friends. The books ends open enough for there to be further adventures for Nessy, but there's no urgency for them.

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