Thursday, May 30, 2013

"TV Tropes" on Valdemar

Not a review, just a quick link to the TV Tropes page on the "Valdemar" books. There's an alphabetical trope breakdown at the bottom of the page, and a navigation bar across the top leading to other topics on the series: YMMV, Main, Headscratchers, Synopsis, Characters, and Analysis.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wuntvor 03: A Disagreement With Death (Craig Shaw Gardner)

Rating: 4
Year: 1989
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Read again? Yes

Fresh from fleeing Mother Duck and her fairy tales, Wuntvor and his companions learn that Death has taken Wunt's master, the great (sneezing) wizard Ebenezum. Death's holding him hostage and wants the Eternal Apprentice to hand himself over.

Snarks the horribly honest demon reminds them that he used to be a monk in the service of Plaugg the Somewhat Magnificent, and that Wunt might ask the third-rate god for help. Wunt and Snarks fly dragonback to the heavens--with a short stop to ask the Two Fates for directions (the third sister is on vacation).

The Fates' advice sends them to the Home of the Dragons. Hubert (the theatrical dragon) hasn't been home in quite some time. He's wildly famous, the local-boy-done-good, but his friends and relatives want to know why he's hoarding those tasty morsels (Wunt and Snarks). A little song, a little dance...and it turns out that the part of heaven where they'll find Plaugg is up, and a little to the left.

Of the six Ebenezum/Wuntvor books, this is the most disappointing. Once we've gotten through the Big Fight with Death, the book just winds down and seems to stop. A perfunctory resolution to the series.

Stylistically, through all six books Gardner's writing gets you there, but kind of plods along the way. Serviceable. The first time I read the series (1991 or so), it was cryingly funny. After maybe the 6th time, I'd say to just ignore the bumps and these short books will go by quickly.

Wuntvor 02: An Excess of Enchantments (Craig Shaw Gardner)

Rating: 4
Year: 1988
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Read again? Yes

Team Wuntvor have finally reached the Eastern Kingdoms. Wunt hopes to convince Mother Duck to help cure the allergy curse on the sniffling, sneezing, stuffy-headed-so-they-can't-use-magic wizards of Vushta.

Mother Duck isn't interested in helping Wunt. She's got an agreement with the Netherhells!

But her plans are far, far worse than handing Wunt and his friends over to the demon horde.

They will star in her fairy tales (even the Brownie, who really hates being called a fairy).

Once upon a time....

This phrase is part of the spell. Wuntvor finds himself as the Young Adventurer seeking the home of the Sun. He makes camp after a day's travel and is joined by a fairy--

--who suddenly breaks character, insisting that Brownies are NOT fairies. They're very sensitive about that. Brownies are an industrious tiny people who make shoes! Fairies are tiny people who hang out in the woods and frolic with satyrs! They couldn't be more different!

The spell is broken. Mother Duck, struggling artist, shows up and makes a few changes, amps up her spell, annnnd--ACTION!

Once upon a time...

Wuntvor is a traveler crossing a valley. A sign warns of danger ahead. The next bids him "BEWARE!" His trail leads to a bridge and the dangers that wait beneath...

Then one of the "trolls" drops out of character and breaks the spell.

Mother Duck is furious, but quickly regroups. A new story begins.

Once upon a time...

Wunt now walks in the woods and meets a tiny man--a tiny man who is NOT a fairy, but a Brownie--and who offers him seven wishes. One wish for a weapon, squandered on the magic sword he already carries.

Second wish, true love. The Brownie leads him to a tower. After a brief conversation with the resident Damsel, Wunt finds himself buried in an enormous fall of golden hair. He climbs, they talk, and he learns that he must defeat the Dragon beneath the tower to rescue the Damsel...

With each interruption, a new story begins. Each time he seems to be alone, Death shows up, trying to take the prized Eternal Apprentice only to be thwarted. There seems to be no escape from Mother Duck's stories.

Will Wuntvor ever reach happily ever after?

Wuntvor 01: A Difficulty with Dwarves (Craig Shaw Gardner)

Rating: 4
Year: 1987
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Read again? Yes

Vushta is saved!

Too bad about the wizards, though.

In trying to cure the sniffling, sneezing, handkerchief-filling wizard Ebenezum's allergy to magic, almost all the other wizards in Vushta have been stricken with the same curse!

Three tough-guy apprentices are after Wuntvor, demanding that he cure their masters or pay 200 gold pieces by moonrise the next day. Failure to pay the 400 in gold will result in unpleasantness (the ever-increasing fee is a running joke).

Meanwhile, there is discord amongst Wuntvor's companions. Snarks the honest demon is suddenly terrified of Brownies (instead of being merely disgusted by them). The Damsel and Dragon are sniping at each other (creative differences). Love interest Norei thinks Wuntvor's eye wanders too much and he doesn't take her seriously. The Dealer of Death has a quarterly review coming up and it likely won't be favorable because we're in the fourth book already and he still hasn't killed Wuntvor, Ebenezum, or Hendrek (a contract is a contract, friends or not). Hendrek is thoughtful.

Wuntvor must go to the Eastern Kingdoms to find help for the allergy-stricken wizards. Since his usual companions are acting weird, he decides to go it alone.


He's accosted by Death, who seeks to claim the lone traveler. Death believes Wuntvor is the mythical Eternal Apprentice--and Death can only take him when he's truly alone.

Then a ferret shows up. And Tap the Brownie...and Guxx Unfufadoo and Brax the salesdemon...Hubert the theatrical dragon and his Damsel...the unicorn...Hendrek and Snarks. Death is furious...but rules are rules. He can't take Wuntvor, so he leaves.

Guxx Unfufadoo is no longer a rhyming demon. Because of the spell involving his nose hair at the end of the previous book, any attempt at rhyming sends him into sneezing fits! Now he can only speak in verse. Brax carries a small drum for beating rhythm.

Wunt and the gang keep heading east, eventually reaching the Eastern Kingdoms and meeting the Seven Other Dwarves (Nasty, Touchy, Snooty, Spacey, Dumpy, Noisy, Sickly, and Smarmy...yes, there are actually eight) and their frightening mistress, Mother Duck.

Will Mother Duck help Wuntvor...or will she bake him into bread?

Ebenezum 03: A Night in the Netherhells (Craig Shaw Gardner)

Rating: 4
Year: 1987
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Read again? Yes

Vushta, City of Forbidden Delights, has gone right to hell!

The Netherhells, that is.

Apprentice Wuntvor and his sneezy master Ebenezum finally reach the city after two books, Death, a Brownie, a gold-pooping chicken, an angry union representing bog womblers and other downtrodden imaginary and mythical beasts, a lap-lusting unicorn, a dragon and damsel stage act, a brutally honest demon, an assassin who loves to strangle wild boars, several attacks by Guxx Unfufadoo and his horde of Netherhells demons, a love-interest witch, a giant, and a long trip across the sea (powered by sneezing)!

And now the city is gone, dragged to the Netherhells by evil rhyming demon Guxx Unfufadoo. Not even one Forbidden Delight for Wuntvor to sample.

All that remains is the less-fashionable West Vushta. two wizards, some apprentices, and a costumer.

Plans are made. Wuntvor will venture into the Netherhells, armed with what few weapons could be found:

Wonk, the Horn of Persuasion.
Cuthbert, the cowardly talking sword.
A "Get Out of Jail Free" card.
A magic hat that produces scarves, flowers, or ferrets when one says "yes", "no", or "perhaps".

He will be joined by Hendrek and his cursed battleclub Headbasher (which no man can truly own, etc.) and Snarks the horribly honest demon.

And three ferrets.

All they have to do is find Guxx Unfufadoo and snip a single nose hair from him.

They meet up with the Dealer of Death, who once relished the the challenge of killing demons, but now wanders the Netherhells wishing for a good, solid wild boar to strangle.

Can our heroes defeat Guxx once and for all and rescue the Fabled City of Vushta?

Ebenezum 02: A Multitude of Monsters (Craig Shaw Gardner)

Rating: 4
Year: 1986
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Read again? Yes

Sneezing wizard Ebenezum and his trusty--if clumsy--apprentice Wuntvor are still on the road to Vushta,  City of Forbidden Delights. They travel with Hendrek the warrior and his cursed warclub Headbasher (which no man can truly own, but can only rent) and Snarks, formerly a monk in the service of third-rate god Plaugg the Reasonably Magnificent.

Snarks is a demon so unpleasantly honest he has to wear a hood to muffle the truth.

Then the Brownie shows up.

Then a unicorn seeking a virgin lap upon which to rest his weary head.

Then a giant bird--a Rok--nabs the wizard and his apprentice, flying them miles away to confront the nefarious (and unheard-of) Association for the Advancement of Mythical and Imaginary Creatures (AFTAOMAIBAC). They demand better treatment, what with unicorns and dragons and fairies getting all the good jobs in stories and tapestries. What about bog womblers? Satyrs? Griffons?

Ebenezum 01: A Malady of Magics (Craig Shaw Gardner)

Rating: 4
Year: 1986
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Read again? Yes

When wizard Ebenezum tries to awe his new apprentice by summoning a fearsome demon, a broken line on his protective pentagram means the demon's not in the wizard's control!

Even worse, this is Guxx Unfufadoo, a horrid rhyming demon whose dread powers grow with every rhyme!

After a brief battle--part of which with Ebenezum's beard stuffed in the demon's mouth to keep it from speaking--the wizard banishes his foe back to its home in the Netherhells.

Then...the sneezing begins.

Ebenezum finds himself cursed with a horrible allergy to magic. Even minor spells send him into convulsions of sneezing.

Now the stricken wizard and Wuntvor the apprentice must take to the road for Vushta, the famed City of Forbidden Delights, to seek a cure. But first, they raise some traveling funds by rescuing a damsel from a dreadful dragon...well, kind of. The dragon's really into theatre and takes on the damsel as his partner.

Soon our heroes encounter their next foe, Hendrek of Melifox, armed with the enchanted warclub Headbasher, which no man can truly own, but can only rent!

Then they meet Death; a woman with a chicken that poops gold; an assassin named the Dealer of Death (and who loves to strangle wild pigs); and an enclave of monks who worship Plaugg, the Moderately Great.

Very much in the vein of Robert Asprin's "Myth" series, which started as a send-up of heroic fantasy and swords-and-sorcery tales. As with Asprin's Skeeve the apprentice, Gardner's Wuntvor must handle the magical burden for his master (in Skeeve's case, his original teacher was assassinated; his second lost his powers as a prank by the previous guy). Wuntvor is incredibly clumsy, but he means well, and his successes are more from screwing things up than from being competent in magic.