- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Tor Trade (2 Sept. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765318350
- ISBN-13: 978-0765318350
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,463,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Too Many Curses Paperback – 2 Sep 2008
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.
The wizard Margle the Horrendous takes special pride in never killing his enemies. Instead, he tr....
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
He is among my favourite American fantasy and science fiction writers. He joins my elite Hall of Fame novelists (shared with only Carl Plumer, author of ZOMBIE EVER AFTER, and Christopher Moore) who I immediately read when their next book comes out.
Each author is a clear talent in this genre, but Martinez perhaps takes the edge in his range of imaginative story lines.
Too Many Curses takes us into the world of wizards, castles, maids ... and Martinez's crazy yet adorable mind.
I read Martinez's first novel, Gil's All Fright Diner, back in 2006, and it caught my attention when it was awarded an Alex Award - which is given to authors whose novels appeals to adults and teenagers. You can understand why when you laugh and snigger at some of the events in his books. The Automatic Detective is also among my favourites, and I just love it (including the book cover).
If you are a fan of Chris Moore or Carl Plumer, or just like a bit of zany humor, then this is a must for you.
With "Too Many Curses," Alex brings us the story of a lowly maid, Nessie, who works for a powerful dark wizard. We barely meet this wizard before he gets eaten when one of his spells goes awry. In the wake of that event, Nessie has to not only maintain order in a castle that is suddenly without a master, but also help the cursed denizens try and undo the terrible things that were done to them. Nessie is only a servant, but her shoulders are stronger than she thinks, and she has far more wit than she gives herself credit for.
Now, I think the real strength of this novel is in the rich cast of characters that fill out the castle. Each of them, no matter how small, has a clear and distinct voice to them, and as they accompany Nessie along her journey I enjoyed seeing them grow and evolve. Alex puts all of them to use in unique and humorous ways.
Unfortunately, these great characters also serve to highlight my one complaint about the book, and that is Nessie herself. Far too often she's a cipher, just accepting things with dogged determinism. And, while that might be what Alex intended, that doesn't make it easier to bond with her. We rarely get emotion from her, and it isn't until the end that we really see her become more than a vehicle for getting the story along. I think he could have crafted a more sympathetic, more endearing character in Nessie.
But, that said, I had a great time with the book. The world Alex has created is explained only so far as it needed to be, and it's consistent from beginning to end. Alex wastes few words, and that economy of writing gives the novel a brisk pace that many other works could benefit from. And, I'm happy to say, the ending is very well done. Not a cheat or deus ex machina in sight. Man is that refreshing.
And that's it! Alex has a great body of work for a writer still so fresh to the industry, and I highly recommend that people pick up his books. "Gil's All Fright Diner" is hysterical, and no one that I've lent it to has been disappointed. If you want a good fantasy, get "In The Company of Ogres," and if you're more a sci-fi guy like myself, you cannot go wrong with "The Automatic Detective." Alex is a bold voice in writing, and I look forward to seeing him go on to greater and greater success.
It's a puzzle piece. Our heroine is Nessy. She's a magician's housekeeper. She's a recidivist magician's domestic, actually, since Margle the Horrendous is her third employer, which means she's either very good as a housekeeper (which she is) or very good at picking bosses who are going to die before they decide to kill her in a fit of pique (which she may well be). She knows that her career is likely to kill her, but she's good at it and it gives her a sense of fulfillment.
Along about the second chapter or so, Margle dies, in a way that was probably an accident but could be construed as murder. Nessy isn't convinced that Margle is gone for good. She wants to carry on for a while. So there's our heroine's entire motivation: keep doing her job: she's good at it, she enjoys it, and no one in the world could do it to passable standards without her help. If Margle comes back, the castle will be in good shape, and if he doesn't then maybe whoever claims it will let her live. It may seem like a small goal for a heroine, but it really works for her.
There have to be complications, of course. On the one hand, they are awaiting (and fearing) the indisputable evidence that will convince Nessy that Margle isn't coming back from the dead: other wizards arriving to take his stuff. It always happens. And they won't care what happens to the staff, unless they decide Nessy's part of the "stuff" and take her. So Nessy seals the castle until they can sort things out (not that this would stop a major spellcaster). The bigger complication is the evidence that convinces everyone else that Margle is gone forever: his spells start unraveling.
The spells' collapsing is a problem because of Margle's little quirks. He was a collector. He collected... enemies. Instead of killing his enemies he transformed them, cursed them, or otherwise bottled them up in some clever way and kept them in his castle, making a sort of showroom of dangerous, insane, evil, and very, very, very angry warriors, demons, wizards, and poets. (Well, maybe just the one poet.) Some of them have been turned into creatures (a fruitbat is a major character), some wander the halls in various doomed displays, some are figures in paintings, and some are actually part of the castle itself. Over the course of the book various of Margle's enemies and conquests start to return, leaving Nessy with a castle-full of angry enemies trapped in with them. Some of the newly-uncursed refuse to believe Margle is dead, some are trying to destroy other of the formerly-cursed castle residents, and some are just happy to kill someone. Nessy and her friends are in a race but they don't know how long it is: either Margle is coming back from the dead, in which case they have one very angry, hair-trigger wizard to deal with, or he isn't, in which case they have to face whatever nasty traps and retribution he had planned for anyone who killed him.
Oh yes... Margle left behind some sort of final punishment for whoever killed him. No one knows what it is, but it's going to be a doozy.
So there you have the basic slapstick side. Nessy wants the castle to stay basically the same, she wants it to run on a schedule and to order, and she wants to keep her head down and avoid being important. The situation is inherently chaotic, her few friends (all former enemies bested by Margle) want to make major changes, and she is having to improvise in ways she doesn't think she's very capable.
It provides lots of humor, although some is in the "Pink Panther" vein of running as fast as possible just to stay in one place.
Martinez wisely lets the slapstick drive the book. Then he spreads two layers on top: a mystery/caper/puzzle and a coming-of-age story.
The mystery/caper/puzzle provides the "ticking clock" that pushes the character growth story. A wizard--actually the sorceress Tiama the Scarred-- does show up to look over Margle's possessions; she's also the most dangerous, most terrifying, and most powerful magician Nessy has ever heard of. She takes her time, taunts Nessy in various ways, and makes it clear that she's after something specific and Nessy had better get it for her quickly. The heroes are torn between their hatred of Margle, their fear of the newcomer, their opinions about the castle as a whole, and their complete lack of information about Margle's greater treasures. As the realization dawns on the that the sorceress' goals may involve the "Door That Must Not Be Opened"--one place in the castle Nessy has never been, the one place that scared even Margle--they realize they have to intervene in several directions at once to prevent some sort of catastrophe. The questions push Nessy to rethink a lot of what she knows about magic, Margle, herself, and the world at large.
The character story is where Martinez falls back on the theme common across his books: Am I, as an individual, bound by the circumstances of my creation? In The Automatic Detective the protag was created by a mad scientist to destroy the world. In Gil's All Fright Diner the questions revolve around creation as a supernatural being. In In the Company of Ogres the issue is thrown at the reader so often and so forcefully that I don't even want to mention it.
The philosophical question is handled very well here. The character growth is believable enough and doesn't interfere with the story. The conclusions that matter are not really stated outright, but the book lingered in my mind because of that, which enriched it.
Too Many Curses succeeds as well as it does largely because the character story is broken into at least three parallel parts:
1) Nessy is a housekeeper and happy to be one. To my American reading she appears to fit right in to the Masterpiece Theater/Merchant-Ivory role of being "in service" and she considers that role necessary and sufficient. She turns this into a flaw when she equates this focus on her world and her expertise with being constitutionally unambitious. To manage the ongoing collapse of the castle, Nessy has to step outside her role and see it in the larger contexts of the castle, its inhabitants, and her own life. In some ways this echoes the Thomas Covenant "But I'm a leper" whining, but Nessy doesn't really whine. She will try to save the castle and her friends, but she took the job fully expecting it to destroy her someday.
2) Nessy isn't human. She's a kobold (small humanoid with dog-like features and a really fast four-legged run). She's learned her whole life that she's small and insignificant; kobolds make good servants, but they have never amounted to much in history, either individually or as a race. She doesn't need to go on some sort of "kobold pride" bender, but it has been her lifelong faith that she's built for running and hiding rather than making a difference. And she needs to make a difference quickly.
3) The problems surrounding her--whether Margle will return, the curses unraveling, the sorceress searching the castle, the great, big, scary something trying to get out of Margle's special room, the demon upstairs trying to make a deal with her--are all magical in nature. Not only is she completely untrained (although she does read odd pages of books as she's re-shelving them), but kobolds are incapable of performing serious magic, which makes understanding it very difficult. She has some friends around to help her (cursed enemies of Margle, like the fruitbat and the jar containing the brain of Margle's brother), but kobolds seem to be genetically limited in their abilities.
Obviously, these three challenges intertwine. Nessy can't really deal with one unless she deals with them all. This gives us a nice take on Martinez' favorite character dilemma and lets us switch things around rather than wallowing in one pit of angst. It also helps that Nessy is too practical to stay stuck for very long.
Too Many Curses has one other, essential point in its favor. Nessy is a very, very likeable protagonist. I want a sequel just to spend some more time in her company. That could have overcome a weak plot, poorly-handled humor, or clumsy character growth. Fortunately, it didn't have to.
The resolution of the various plots won't completely surprise you, but there will probably be one or two interesting bits you didn't expect. All in all, extreme cleverness is displayed by the character (living and dead) and the author. It is certainly satisfying enough for this book and encouraging enough that I'd love a sequel, although I don't think Martinez has ever written two books in the same setting, so I don't expect to be seeing Nessy again.
To summarize: Too Many Curses is a fun read with humor, good puzzles/problems to solve, an engaging heroine, and a well-thought-out plot.
I'll have to wait longer, because "Too Many Curses" is another great book from one of the most innovative fantasy writers working.
From soldiers who can't stay dead (and we better hope he doesn't) to a good ol' boy team of a vampire and a werewolf, to a not-so-ugly witch, to a killer robot turned pin stripped gumshoe, Martinez continues to produce interesting, funny, and likable heroes.
Who else has a kobold housekeeper for a hero.
Nessie proves that decency, level-headedness, and common sense outperform evil and wizardry every day.
For some reason, you wouldn't expect fantasy like this to come from Texas, but Yippie Ki-Yay.
I always enjoy ingenius and creative stories like this one. I enjoyed that the main charactger was not a beautiful princess and the story was competely unpredictable and hiliarious at times. I would definately purchase other novels by this author.