I finished reading A Lee Martinez's newest novel "Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest" the other day and I very truly loved it. Who is A. Lee Martinez, you ask? Well he is one of the best writers writing the best novels with the best schticks. He is a guy who writes about awesome things with amazingly relate-able and complicated characters that all flow like amazing films and really, they all should be. Divine Misfortune, the Automatic Detective, Gil's All-Fright Diner, Monster (it is a crime that only one of the five I just mentioned have wikipedia articles), and the one I just said above that I just finished, which I'll review below!
I am a sucker for the "quest" motif in fantasy and adventure stuff, and I think it was handled great here. I loved the orcs, I loved Helen and Troy's relationship, I loved the world. It is a great book, and would make a great film, to boot.
It isn't a perfect book, but my complaints are very minor. Sometimes the way the action is described, while nice and bloody like a quest is back in the old legends, is a bit jarring from the rest of the tone of the book. It is one thing to be smashed to a pulp (a semi-cartoony sounding bit of violence that is consistent with the tone Martinez set up) and to have your jaw all but hanging off and teeth being knocked out, which is a much more visceral and harsher bit of violence. It is a minor distraction that is in and of itself well written, though.
I also found it odd that there were moments where the books, which is mostly centered on Helen, seemed to think it gave equal weight to Troy. The limited perspective was probably (when on the protagonists) 70/30 in Helen's favor. I think the goal was to have it really be equally balanced, but Helen just ended up taking more of the protagonists perspectives, so when it did switch to Troy's perspective it didn't feel as natural.
Those two things might sound like big complaints, but they really truly aren't. They are minor things I noticed that in the end had no real impact on the fantastic story. I loved how the concepts of villains/heroes were twisted and turned. I loved the world that was set forward and the modernization of the old legendary Quest tropes. I loved the defiance of Fate (or fate) and how the book never answered really if fate was truly in control or just a good guess. Martinez's Helen is one of the best female protagonists I've read in a very long time, and Troy is a difficult character to write in the same veins as Superman (which Martinez has stated in the past on his website) that he took to very well and because a very good "mostly perfect" yet still flawed and intriguing character.
And the orcs! They were my absolute favorite characters, Nigel and Peggy and James and Franklin, all of them.
I could keep talking, but in the end, I think I've said everything that's important. You should read this book. Touching, adventurous, tense, funny at points, and thought provoking all throughout, which is the BEST thing a book can do in my opinion. Read this.
A or *****