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John David Anderson – Standard Hero Behavior

February 3, 2008

15. Standard Hero Behavior by John David Anderson (2007)

Length: 273 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Started: 02 February 2008
Finished: 03 February 2008

Summary: It’s been ten years since all of the heroes packed up and left the town of Darlington, including Mason Quayle’s father. Mason lives an unassuming and boring life as a freelance bard, until he stumbles across the information that a band of orcs, goblins, ogres, and trolls are forming up to attack his town. Now he must leave town, armed only with a borrowed sword, a broken-down horse, his best friend Cowel, and a copy of his father’s book, Quayle’s Guide to Adventures for the Unadventurous, to find some heroes to save his town.

Review: This book is similar in tone to the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede – a tongue-in-cheek inversion of standard fairy-tale conventions. However, this book doesn’t quite master the tone, lacking some of the charm and some of the humor, and trying to substitute in some overly earnest moral lessons and some “hip” humor in their place. Unfortunately, the elements don’t sit quite happily together – with this kind of book, you have to go all way to plant your tongue firmly in cheek for it to be really successful, and Anderson doesn’t quite commit. However, Wrede’s work is a high bar to be held to, and just because this one doesn’t quite reach it does not mean that it was unenjoyable. It’s a fun little quest adventure story, with some very amusing elements, and while anyone familiar with this type of book can smell the moral of “what it means to be a hero” coming from a mile off, the process of getting there still makes a good read. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Not the best of its genre, but overall it was a fun, light fantasy read, and not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

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Vocab:

  • p. 10: “The books were part of his father’s collection, scribed by skalds and troubadours who did it the old-fashioned way: trailing behind real heroes, quill in one hand and sword in the other, ready to take a swipe with either, depending on what the occasion called for.” – one of the ancient Scandinavian poets.
  • p. 75: “How about this one: ‘You are battling a horde of marauders who have overrun your castle, killed all of your guards, cut off one of your arms, and outnumber you ten to one. Do you A) plead for mercy, hoping in your pitiful state the marauders will simply take all of your gold and leave? B) dive out of the nearest window, hoping to land in the moat and swim to safety before you blead to death? Or C) Brandish your own severed arm as a weapon, say, ‘You’ll have to do better than that, you scummy ragabouts,’ and charge your enemy, fighting to the death?’” – ???
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