Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines is the first in a trilogy of books about a goblin named, “Jig.” (I’m assuming the other two books are about Jig, I’ve not actually read them yet. But I will…read on…) Jig is a misfit and spends his days just trying to stay out of the way of most of the other goblins. He has a quicker wit than most other goblins, but that’s hardly valued in the goblin world. Through a series of serious bummers Jig quickly finds himself in a place he’s never been: outside the goblin community with a narcissitic human prince, a crazed wizard, a dwarf (a race that hates goblins), and a thieving elf (another race that hates goblins).
From page one I connected with Jig and I suspect most other readers do too. Hines’ strength throughout the story is his ability to create compelling characters that you can easily identify with. The ensemble of unlikely adventurers described above is an intriguing group to follow as they venture into the realm of the “Necromancer,” fight a dragon, and search the bowels of a mountain for a legendary artifact. Along the way I definitely grew to hate some of the characters and grew to love the others. This, I think, demonstrates a great success for storytellers. Some characters need to be hated for the story to work. Some need to be loved. Hines achieved both.
Hines’ other strength is his own semi-snarky and always self-deprecating sense of humor that creeps into the story at various points. During many Terry Pratchet-esque moments I had to put the book down as I laughed out loud. I won’t spoil it here, but I’ll tell you the most side-splitting joke for me was the one about fetishes certain people have for their own name. (I know that sounds weird, but if you read it, you’ll know what I mean and probably laugh hysterically too. It’s not as weird in the book as it sounds here.)
Goblin Quest uses a lot of familiar fantasy tropes and ideas (i.e. hunting a mountain for an artifact of power, elves hating goblins, slaying an evil dragon who guards a heap of treasure, etc.). But Hines manages to employ all of these ideas as classic elements of the genre rather than cliches. (It’s something I hope I can manage as I write my own story about a goblin.)
I had the pleasure of hearing Hines speak at a writers event a few years ago. He gave a talk at the Grand Rapids Public Library called “So, you want to be the next J.K. Rowling?” (Or something to that effect.) I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to him beyond a quick, “Thanks!” as I left the event, but I remember enjoying his candid discussion on what the life of a writer is really like, and the kind of determination it takes to achieve publication. It was great to finally read one of his books now.
Goblin Quest is highly recommended for anyone who likes the fantasy genre, and anyone who is interested in a fast-paced, laugh-out-loud read. I look forward to finishing the series!