Cover Story: You’re Trying Too Hard
Ralph, the main character, seems like just an awkward kid. The taped-together glasses were a bit over the top for his character, and he never once wears that kind of armor in this book. Also, I think they could have come up with a better title. Finally, this book’s page numbers were maddeningly in Roman numerals, which is hugely annoying for a guy like me who doesn’t use bookmarks.
Ralph’s parents have always insisted that Ralph never, ever, under any circumstances make a wish. Ever. He’s not even allowed to attend his own birthday party; the temptation of the candles would be too great. Ralph is so lonesome that he doesn’t play role playing games…he fantasizes that he could play them.
But all this changes during his teenage years, when his mysterious English aunt and uncle invite him to the UK to help set up their WiFi network. Soon Ralph discovers the secret behind his family’s wish prohibition, and the curse they all labor under. Ralph, along with his cousins Cecil, Daphne, and Beatrice, are soon sucked into another dimension, where wishes come true…but not how you’d expect.
Drinking Buddy: No
Ralph could have been an interesting character, all awkward and clumsy and likeable. But he was just kind of dull. The same goes for wealthy socialist Cecil, flighty little girl Daphne, and morose Beatrice. There was great potential for an incredible posse of adventurers, but in the end, they were about as well-developed as a per-generated D & D fighter.
Testosterone Level: Weird
The back cover promised killer bunny rabbits and bothersome bacteria. And it delivered. There were also buxom fairies, bored zombies, and talking whales. But everything felt disjointed. Why do the fish have words written on them? Why did Ralph’s aunt and uncle really invite him to England? What was up with that mile-high tree? As soon as something interesting happened, it vanished, never to be mentioned again. And the bloody combat adventuring scenes held all the excitement of a Road Runner cartoon. The main characters die and return to life so many times that it was tiresome.
Finally, while there was no romance in this book, Ralph did play the knight in rusty armor to Beatrice more than a few times, causing great jealousy from another boy. And Daphne seemed to have a bit of a little-girl crush on Ralph. Which would all be cute and fine except EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE ARE FIRST COUSINS.
Maybe the author was going for a Victorian vibe, but I just got creeped out when Ralph’s other aunt, in the guise of an evil witch, tore off his shirt and pants.
Talky Talk: Yeah…
It was a cute idea. Three kids, three wishes. Cecil, playing a Robin Hood type, liberating the enslaved fairies. Daphne, the fairy tale waif, escaping the Snow Queen. Beatrice, traveling to the underworld to meet her deceased birth mother. And Ralph, bumbling through on the sidelines like an extra unsure of his cues. It was a good idea, but too episodic. There were a more than a few chuckle out loud moments, but far too many confusing one-off characters and unresolved plot twists. I felt like I was reading chapters of good fan fiction from someone else’s universe.
Bonus Factor: Seen Narrator
This book is told from the third person, with the disembodied narrator spinning the tale. At first. Except you start to get the impression the narrator really does not like Ralph. The further you get into the book, the more personal things get. And no, this isn’t a surprise character making an appearance at the last minute. It’s truly the narrator, the guy telling the story. And he has it out for Ralph. He alters reality to screw with Ralph and to protect Beatrice. What’s up with that?
For once, the person who tells the story gets their own backstory.
Bromance Status: NPC
It was fun slaying dragons with you, but I don’t really need to relive the campaign. And the whole undead horse race thing seemed tacked on.
FTC full disclosure: I received neither money nor experience points for writing this review.