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The Screaming Skull (The Chronicles of Elberon Book 1) Kindle Edition
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"In this debut novel, a so-called royal hero reflects on his life as upheaval awaits on the horizon... The winning difference here is the author's tone, which would make the foulmouthed, fourth wall-smashing Marvel character Deadpool proud... a cavalcade of gonzo exploits. Readers will likely return for the sequel."
-Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2019 award
"Engagingly jam-packed with mythical and otherworldly encounters... Ferguson playfully upends fantasy and horror genre tropes to successful satirical effect... [The] protagonist is an appealingly unconventional fantasy hero, while side characters and villains offer a memorable menagerie."
From the Author
- Publication Date : October 30, 2018
- File Size : 3668 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Publisher : Phabulousity Press (October 30, 2018)
- ASIN : B07K2G4HSB
- Lending : Enabled
- Print Length : 494 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage : Unlimited
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #275,680 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This book is aimed squarely at those who have played or are currently enjoying role-playing games, although that's not required to enjoy the book. While the book is narrated by the book's protagonist hero, I could also imagine it being narrated by a devious dungeon master describing the adventures of his gaming group. Remember all those inside jokes you shared at the gaming table? The adolescent banter? It's all here, but incorporated through the lens of an adult mind. Hilarious at every turn. Sprinkled throughout are enough pop culture references to satisfy any age.
So how about the story itself? It is roaring good fun and gives plenty of reasons to keep reading and not do the adult tasks you should be doing. Its got mayhem, magic, setbacks, heroic deeds, romance, betrayal, et al. And while some of it is formulaic fantasy fiction, the author acknowledges this at times with humor and wit. The characters are well developed and interesting.
The storyline jumps around about as much as a Clancy novel, so let me give you a piece of advice I wish I had known when I read the bugger - consult the timeline in the back of the book. That's right, it is there for a reason. And that reason is to help you keep the story straight if you are an anal reader like me. If you are a "go with it" type of person, then just power through the jumps and know that you'll figure it out later in the story. It all comes together wonderfully.
As an aside, let me say something about editing. One of the reasons I rarely read self-published authors is their editing usually really sucks. I'm talking horrible and if you've read a few of these works you know what I'm talking about. I often wonder if they did any proofreading at all. This book? Quite the opposite. There is nary a typo in the whole damn book. Mr. Ferguson clearly is shooting for both professionally written and edited here, despite the lack of a big-name publisher. Bravo for that.
In addition to the kindle copy I read via Kindle-Unlimited, I also purchased a physical copy. The cover art is uber cool and the jacket and paper are high quality. These are things I usually only find with commercially published books, but Ferguson was, once again, going for the whole enchilada - a well written (and edited...) story that is hard to put down and printed in a book you will be proud to display.
Now, where the hell is Book 2?!
I can’t wait for the next one, and will be spinning up my old vinyl of Blue Oyster Cult, Yes, King Crimson and Iron Maiden as I go!
King Elberon, Lord of the Tradewind Isles, Defender of the Faith, President of the Southern Shield, High Admiral of the Seven Fleets, Protector of the Iron Coast, and Friend of the Dolphins is in despair. It is his birthday and he learns from a soothsayer that he will die at age 130 years old sitting on the toilet. Not exactly the heroic going out in a blaze- of-glory-warrior-death that any sword- wielding-Odin-worshipping King and Fighter dreams about but the next news is even worse. Lithaine, an elf and Elberon’s former friend and companion has an army and is heading straight for Elberon to kill him. With regret and remembering that he invited all of his other former companions to the party with the intent to kill them, Elberon decides to document his life.
From the moment that he stole a magical girdle which gave super strength and challenged his warlord father for his independence, Elberon's life has been one adventure after another. Along the way, he meets various allies all of which come from your standard fantasy series and are his True Companions. There is the aforementioned Lithaine, who looks like your typical handsome graceful romantic elf, but has a foul mouth and a sardonic sense of humor. Redulfo, a wizard who absorbed a dark spirit and therefore his status changed from Balanced Good to Disciplined Evil. Amabored, a warrior attached to his sword, Stormcrow and whom Elberon describes as “the most bloodthirsty son of a bitch (he) has ever met.” Malcolm, a paladin Lindar, a half elf, Androgen, a dwarf, and James, a ranger round out the team making the typical crew of humans, elves, wizards, and dwarves that can be found in these works.
Of course Our Heroes have to take on magical quests and face villains that are found in these works everything from dark wizards, to corrupt kings and warlords, to more dragons and monsters than you can wave Wun Wun, the Game of Thrones giant at.
Naturally, the adventurers also find love and with many of his journeys, Elberon recalls the many mistresses and lovers that he had along the way. Two are the most important. Melinda, a thief who later becomes head of the Thieve's Guild assists Elberon a number of times before the two become lovers. Another woman in Elberon's adventurous past is Cassiopeia, a nubile warrior cleric priestess who becomes one of Elberon's True Companions as well as his lover. Among Elberon's many many regrets is stringing the two women along at the same time and jeopardizing their lives as well as his love for them and vice versa.
This book is a treat for any Fantasy lovers. It is littered with references that even the newest of fans of the genre will get. Elberon and co. Are constantly worried about gaining or losing Strength, Magic, Healing, or Luck points like players of a certain well known RPG game from the ‘80’s. To further add to the joke, there is a character called Gygax named in honor of Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax. Minor and supporting characters are rich with names like Sir Michael of Moorcock and Sir Jethro of Tull.
One of the more hilarious moments comes when during a dream, Elberon encounters a wise character called Joseph Ki-Rin who informs Elberon that he is taking The Hero's Journey as defined by Joseph Campbell's book, Hero with a Thousand Faces. He calls the various steps that Elberon like meeting the wise mentor-Joseph Ki-Rin-, descend into the underworld, confront his anima, and encountering his feminine side. When Elberon is confused, Joseph Ki-Rin tells him that he is following the step of Refusing the Call.
Ferguson clearly knows his fantasy works by allowing his characters to follow the various fantasy tropes while commenting on them. Elberon asks the Reader point blank if his adventures sound too much like Tolkien. Well he points out Tolkien was the translator of the Red Book of West March and not the author so how could you rip off history and Tolkien mostly cribbed his work from Celtic and Norse mythology anyway.
As for how Elberon, a fantasy character in a Medieval-esque land knows so much about Tolkien and how he can throw phrases like “pre-industrial” around and make references to Star Wars. Well, there is a reason for that and it is one of the cleverest running gags in the book. His world, Woerth is actually one of several alternate universes. He and the other people of Woerth are familiar with the various Earths and have borrowed facets of their history and culture including worshipping various deities. Characters have even been found in the various Earths. One of their dark wizards actually can be found by different familiar names in the other Earths-Voldemort, Saruman, Vladimir Putin-you know all the evil dark wizards.
Despite the humor, there is a sense of melancholy throughout the book that keeps The Chronicles of Elberon from being a series that is just joke after joke. Elberon is a character who knows his better days are behind him. He is like the former-hero-turned-outcast who looks on his glory days once hard as the best days of his life. He also looks back with deep sadness with the mistakes he made particularly with Melinda and Cassiopeia and in despair over the things that he learned and wished that he hadn't like many of his quests were orchestrated by a deeper conspiracy.
Even though he is king with untold wealth and power, and is married and has heirs, Elberon cannot connect with his present life because he is living in the past.
The first book in the Chronicles of Elberon is a brilliant book when it deconstructs the various fantasy elements, but sometimes it runs away with itself. There is no straight linear passage of time. Instead Elberon jumps from one adventure and goes to another one and then back to the present, then to a third adventure before going back to the first one. Several plots mix together so it's hard to tell when any of them take place. Elberon for example may casually mention a character died. Then after several quests involving the character only remember several chapters later to tell us how they died. The Reader has to really pay attention to the timeline (which thankfully Ferguson supplies us with one at the end of the book.)
In a way, the choice in narration makes sense. The book is written as though Elberon is chronicling his adventures to a scribe. So he is telling his story the way most people would when they talk about something that happened in their lives, then back track to an earlier event remembering some important detail that they left out. It could also be mocking the whole en media res storytelling device found in epic tales in which adventures often began in the middle of the action rather than at the chronological beginning. Either way it doesn't make it easy to read and if I were Elberon's scribe, I would throw down my quill in despair wondering how many pages that I have to blot out and redo.
The Chronicles of Elberon is a fun series that makes fun of Fantasy but it is clearly that it is also an homage abs tribute. Rick Ferguson wrote a love letter to the genre, a very silly, satiric and at times confusing love letter, but a love letter nonetheless.
Top reviews from other countries
The plot goes very which way and introduces busts of Elvis Presley or mentions Vladimir putin or Voldemort as great enemies of history in a multiverse. Sorry, not my cup of tea.