Alex Martinez is a writer that I've enjoy for well over a year now, and in the interest of full disclosure I should say that I know him personally. He was the first person I interviewed after creating my podcast, The Dead Robots' Society, and we've stayed in touch ever since. I discovered him with his first novel, a funny horror story entitled "Gil's All Fright Diner." Since then he's written several other books, dabbling in both the fantasy and sci-fi genres, but all of his work has a comedic heart at the center of it, and I never fail to laugh.
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.