Writing an engaging story that combines comedy and fantasy can be tricky. These themes share some common traits: there’s an unknown variable in magic that prepares the reader to be mystified, which is has a similar structure to setting up a humorous scene for a surprise punchline. But the themes don’t always mix well. While reading a comedy, I often wonder if the author is sacrificing certain story elements in exchange for a timely and humorous scene. Who has time for a deep dive into a character’s background when it breaks up the rhythm and cadence of a well-executed joke? It’s a thin tightrope to walk, but the rewards for its success can be plentiful. In Steve Thomas’ witty Klondaeg the Monster Hunter, the early focus on humor was entertaining enough for me to ignore the underdeveloped plot, yet I was surprised and charmed at how quickly the story fleshed out by journey’s end.
Klondaeg is a heroic dwarven warrior, adorned in metal armor, who carries a double-bladed axe. If you are wondering if each blade of the axe talks and argues with itself, then you are correct! Sinister is the clever axe blade, while Dexter is the “slice-first-and-apologize-later” type. There’s a lot of humor to mine from these two bickering souls stuck inside a weapon, which is good thing, because Klondaeg isn’t much of a conversationalist. He only seems comfortable when he has a monster to chase and kill, and we’re mostly left in the dark for why that is. The three personalities are enough to carry the thin plot from scene to scene, and the author tends to jump from one confrontation to another, filling in the back story later. This can be advantageous, as it’s fun to join Klondaeg in the midst of harrowing scenario, while the reader is left to puzzle things out. The pacing is swift and the dialogue sharp.
We are first introduced to Klondaeg as he faces off against an undead magma goat(!). He soon gets tangled up in numerous adventures involving shapeshifting gnomes, bionic space-faring birds, prophets, crocodile-mermaid hybrids, demon spawn, prison cells, and worst of all, dinner parties. Although Klondaeg is a simple man with a singular goal, he is endearing. His bravery and prowess are enough to keep him alive through most battle scenarios, yet it’s the ‘thinking and planning’ aspects of life that seem to trip him up. (In other words, a near-polar opposite of Liam Perrin’s main character in the comic Arthurian fantasy Sir Thomas the Hesitant.)
The book is split into five sections. Thomas calls them “episodes,” and I think that is apt, as they each can be consumed in about the time it takes to watch a sitcom, or read a good comic book. Klondaeg drifts from one monster-hunting scenario to the next, and we barely get more than a single line about his background or motivations, but it still works well as a lighthearted and funny tale. The finale surprised me as it brought most of the (surviving) characters back for a gripping final episode, and it brought quite a few laughs as well as some heart.
There’s future volumes of Klondaeg written, and I’d like to explore his story further. I hope that Thomas spends a little more time on character development, as well as showing us a bit more about what the surrounding world has to offer. For the time being, I can easily recommend Klondaeg the Monster Hunter for anyone who enjoys the lighter side of fantasy, creative battle scenarios, and more than a few laughs.
Review by Adam Weller
7/10 from 1 reviews
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