The Banned Underground: The Amulet of Kings by Will Macmillan Jones (The Banned Underground: Book 1)

The Banned Underground follows the adventures of a brother and sister who have to stay with their weird aunt in the countryside when their mum has to go into hospital. This weird aunt is a witch, and the teenagers soon get sucked into a world of dwarves, magic, and a bog troll called Fungus that lives in her cellar and plays the saxophone.

The dwarves are under attack by a mage who wants the Amulet of Kings, which is a powerful magic artefact that had unfortunately been lost when the dwarves had a party. Using the power of magical wards that they found in their aunt’s basement, Chris and Linda now have to help the dwarves as war breaks out in the green and pleasant fields of the Lake District.

It’s difficult to categorise The Amulet of Kings into adult or young adult fiction, because the actual story is a bit cartoonish, but the jokes are often aimed at adults. It’s got a Terry Pratchett sort of feel to it, with a lot of word play, and there are some great jokes in it, but unfortunately I think there’s just far too much jokey waffle. Any conversation that anybody ever has just descends into comic musings, puns, and witty retorts, so the story flounders and the several actually clever remarks just get lost.

The plot itself is quite simple, as in the dwarves are fighting the minions of the evil mage whose right hand man has stolen the amulet, but the title, cover and the excerpt on the back of the book lead to you presume the book will be about Fungus and his band ‘The Banned Underground’, when he actually is rather minor, which is unfortunate because having a jazz-loving troll as the focus of the book sounded really interesting.

Overall, if you like daft humour and jokes about Yorkshire and the mental prowess of drummers, it’s not a bad read. I think a lot of it would depend on the kind of humour that you like – Pratchett is often sarcastic and satirical, which is why I love his work, but this is more slapstick silliness. I think Fungus as a character should have been more central to the plot, a lot of the ‘humorous’ rambling needs to be cut to provide a sharper and funnier story, and the characters of the children need to be developed further than just Chris being a bit of a sulky teenager, and Linda being a bit of a sulky teenager that really likes food.

6/10 If you like daft humour and jokes about Yorkshire and the mental prowess of drummers, it's not bad.

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