Ever since I stumbled upon Jim C. Hinesí Goblin Quest, Iíve been a big Hines fan. Especially cool is the lovable goblin, Jig. Jigís latest adventure is called Goblin War, and if anything itís even more complete than the first two books. I loved every page of this novel, and Hines has definitely ensured that I will be picking up anything with his name on it. The Goblin series is for those of you who are sick of dark epic fantasy and just want an enjoyable tale that uses and abuses the typical fantasy stereotypes.
After defeating the Pixie invasion in Goblin Hero, Jig just wants to be left alone to cower in the goblinsí cave lair and be left to his own devices. However, such a fate is not his destiny. Once again, events in the outside world rear their ugly heads to scare and annoy him and his fellow goblins. Somebody is raising an army of monsters to take on the humans and elves in the kingdom, and the humans invade the lair looking for the Rod of Creation. Relatives of old enemies, along with an old friend or two, have come to force the goblins to help fortify a local city, and Jig ends up stuck between the two forces. When Jig finds out that this all may be a blind for a war between the Forgotten Gods (one of whom, Tymalous Shadowstar, Jig actually talks to on a regular basis), things get even worse for the little guy. Whatís a goblin whoís considered a runt among goblin-kind supposed to do? Good thing heís the only one with the common sense to do whatís right - even if running away does seem to be the better option.
Hinesí characterization skills have improved further between the second and third books in this series, and they were already pretty good. Everybody from Jig to Relka (the goblin who has become Jigís, and his godís, disciple) to the humans, the dwarf Darnak, and even the villain of the piece are three-dimensional and fun to read about. Even the minor characters are given some interesting little tidbit so we donít think weíve wasted our time with them.
Hinesí views into goblin society are even more welcome, portraying the callousness (ďWhen he screams, weíll know theyíve entered the mountainĒ) and the stupidity of the goblin race brilliantly. Hines takes stereotypes from role-playing games and other fantasy novels and uses them with a deft touch. Orcs are savage, kobolds are much like intelligent two-legged dogs with an attitude (but easy to kill), and hobgoblins are just mean. And donít get started on the ogres. Meanwhile, elves are graceful, arrogant and generally silent, efficient killers who are handy with the bow. Hines canít resist having Jig or Shadowstar comment on how goblins or other races usually are. On the other hand, Hines usually shows that there are always some who donít fit the mold, such as Jig himself.
Whatís even more deftly handled in Goblin War is the humor. The book is very lighthearted despite the deaths, and it never takes itself too seriously even when it is actually making a point. Itís not as funny as Goblin Hero but itís more consistently amusing than either of the previous books. More of the humor comes from the situation Jig finds himself in as well as his interactions with the other characters. They say that a plan never survives contact with the enemy, but Jigís plans often blow up even before contact, and he has to wing it. Usually heís successful, but thatís where the humor comes in.
There are some touching moments as well - the dawning respect for Jig that even the most hardened humans begin to develop as they see him in action, for instance. Darnak is from Goblin Quest and thus has always had some respect for Jig, and that comes out marvelously in their interaction. When the tables start to turn, he can barely hide his amusement even as heís trying to keep the humans alive in the face of the monster army. Itís all remarkably well done.
Finally, there is the plotting in Goblin War. Hines does manage to throw in some unpredictable turns, with the result that the God War actually seems poignant despite the deft humorous touches. From the ďAcknowledgementsĒ section at the beginning of the novel, it becomes obvious that this is the last Jig book, and Hines definitely makes the most of it. You wonít know whatís coming, but Hines brings the story to a satisfying conclusion. Youíll wind up wishing Jig well but knowing that heís going to be okay, even if greatly inconvenienced and out of his element (címon, you donít really think Hines would be cruel enough to actually kill him, do you?).
Goblin War is a standout novel. From the cute cover (though if thatís supposed to be a fierce, bloodthirsty wolf, Iíll eat my pen) to wonderful prose inside, this is a winning package. As Hines moves on to other things, Iíll be there right along with him.