Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Dungeoneers, by Jeffery Russell

Today I'm looking at another fantasy novel about professional adventurers, The Dungeoneers, by Jeffery Russell. Because this was a suggestion when I read The Palace Job (along with Orconomics) I was a little worried that this might end up being very similar to the other stories. Fortunately I can say that this book definitely has its own niche. On a sliding scale from most serious to most comedic I'd say this falls between the more serious nature of The Palace Job and the more comedic nature of Orconomics, with maybe falling a little further on the serious side. All that being said, this is pretty enjoyable.

The Dungeoneers begins with Durham, a guard who's worked at the sheep gate for the past five years and didn't expect his career to change terribly any time soon. When an order for him to follow a caravan arrives, he assumes it'll be some very boring babysitting for a merchant. Much to his surprise Durham discovers that the caravan he's been assigned to is a band of dwarves who professionally explore and loot dungeons for nobles, as well as retrieve powerful artifacts and keep said artifacts from ending up in the wrong hands. It seems there's been some mixup in the paperwork and Durham will be in far more danger than he possibly could have imagined.

The main thing I liked about this book was the idea of professionals who take out traditional fantasy problems in a manner different from what we're used to. (Although that may be because it bears a striking similarity to the idea for my own book, The Dragonslayer Manuscript) Thud, the leader of the Dungeoneers explicitly tells Durham that they're not adventurers or heroes. Those sorts of people wander into places and usually get themselves killed. The Dungeoneers are professional dungeon-delvers. They avoid risks, they carefully search for traps, they have a variety of equipment to solve problems, and they're willing to pull out gunpowder or a ballista to make sure everything goes smoothly. I like how Russell took the problem of looting a dungeon and took it to an incredibly straightforward and business-like solution.

The book does spend a lot of time on exposition and establishment because it's the first in a series so it's a little lighter on the things-happening parts. I want to say at least half the book was spent on exposition rather than plot, but within the plot we actually saw characters do things and use their skills, rather than just be told about it. Durham actually proves very observant for a guard and his skills come in useful for the party, and every dwarf on the team has their own unique talents. So I think Russell did a pretty good job there.

This is a fairly short read but it's interesting enough that I'm willing to consider getting to the next book in the series. (Although considering I have another thirty books to read that looks incredibly difficult right now) But if you like fantasy with a twist this is a good choice.

- Kalpar

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