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Goblin Quest
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
There seems to be a growing trend towards goblin stories that are written from the goblins' point of view. One can only wonder what JRR Tolkien and other past fantasy writers would think when the monsters they once painted as mindless and insignificant, apart from something evil to be killed, come alive and have personalities of their own!

Ironically, some of these make excellent stories and it is Jim Hines' talent for expressing personality in characters (goblin or otherwise) that makes this one well worth reading. The echoes of role play are apparent in the company of adventurers that encounter the goblins. A prince, a wizard, a dwarf, and an elf-thief. But unlike other stories influenced by role play personas, the story is well written and the characters come to life with feelings and flaws that make the reader feel definite emotion towards each of them, whether it is sympathy or loathing, or even fear.

Our hero is a runt of a goblin called Jig. In the course of a magical quest that he had no intention of getting involved in, we watch his personality grow and develop as circumstances challenge survival instincts he never would have encountered in himself in ordinary goblin life. His obvious affection and care for his pet fire spider adds to the sympathy we feel for him, although we see his cold and pragmatic side as well.

Hines shows us a variety of interesting characters as well as a sense of humour that can side swipe you when you least expect it and leave you in fits of giggles. The writing style is easy to read and perfectly suitable for young readers, although the grown-ups can enjoy this one too. I shall look forward to seeing what Jig does next in the sequel.
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If you believe it is hard living the life of a human, try living the life of Jig, the runtiest goblin in the caves. Jig's only true friend is his pet fire-spider, Smudge, who has accidently burnt off Jig's hair. When Jig is sent to scout the tunnels for danger, he ends up getting captured by a small group of adventures. The group is in search of the Rod of Creation which is said to be hidden deep within the mountain and protected by Straum, a dragon. They insist that Jig be their guide. But before they can confront the dragon they must battle their way through deadly traps, a necromancer, untold minions, and more. Yet while Jig is wandering around lost with a dwarf, an elven child, an arrogant prince, and a wizard teetering on the edge of madness, Jig learns much from the group. By watching them fight Jig realizes just how stupid goblinkind is. Goblins were incapable of working together or devising strategies. All goblins would do was charge into battle and get themselves killed.

Jig also learns about many gods from the dwarf, Darnak. Darnak's god is too busy to give the dwarf much help, but after witnessing Darnak heal the wounds of his team, Jig decides that a god would be handy to have around. But Jig needs a god with few worshippers, who would not be busy answering other prayers. One who could devote his full attention to people like Jig. One who might be grateful even for a goblin follower. Jig chooses to become a follower of a god who has been all but forgotten, Tymalous Shadowstar, God of the Autumn Star. And surprisingly, Tymalous agrees.

***** FIVE STARS! This author has a winner on his hands. Because Jig is the runtiest goblin, he has to use his brain in order to simply survive. I guess the motto of this story could be "brains over brawn...or magic". When Jig is given a choice on any situation, none of the choices are good. But Jig is used to choosing the lesser of the evils. The goblin seems to always end up between a rock and a hard place. (Hmm, should he try to battle the undead warrior or jump into the lake where fish are waiting to eat him?)

Jim C. Hines has created a hard-core fantasy world with lots of dangers, traps, and creatures and then turned everything topsy-turvy by making the hero a tiny, fragile, and cowardly goblin. The results are beyond outstanding. Un-freaking-believable! In fact, I cannot recommend this story highly enough. *****

Favorite Quote: I guess there's a bright side to every flaming corpse.

Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
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Orcs and goblins and trolls et al -- these are the cannon-fodder bad guys of a typical fantasy world. When people aren't on quests, coming into their mountains and killing them, though, what do they do? Well, not much, really, as Jig, "the runtiest member of an admittedly puny race", would testify. Goblins live to be killed in large numbers. Except Jig. He has hopes of living quite long, so when he stumbles upon, and is kidnapped by, some Questing Heroes (TM), he's rather miffed. It seems he's agreed to lead them on a hopeless quest where everyone is sure to die in a variety of different ways...

Hines has a great skill for characterisation, with Jig in particular (and Smudge, his pet fire-spider, a strange, often grumpy, creature that I actually ended up feeling a lot of affection for) being the most-fleshed out. Unlike most people in adventure quests, he's actually got some sense, and really isn't that keen on dying. Death before dishonour?! Jig can handle a lot of dishonour. That said, he does his best to help his people and those on the quest that haven't tried to kill him too many times.

The other characterisations were also relatively good. Darnak, the Dwarf, was a solid dependable type (all dwarves are "solid"), but I loved his elaborations on the theology of the world and general snarky comments. Ryslind, with his similarity to Raistlin, of the DragonLance books, filled the role of Incredibly Powerful but Ultimately Insane Wizard, and his brother, the arrogant prince Barius, was a normal arrogant prince. These are fairly stock characterisations, particularly in the type of fantasy that takes place under a mountain, with caves, but they complemented Jig's originality nicely, and allowed him to poke fun at them. Riana, the outcast elf, was a bit different, and I alternate from feeling sympathy for her to being a little annoyed by her.

Story-wise, you have all the unexpected twists and turns (and giant bats, and bottomless pits, and trap-doors) of a typical "dungeons and dragons" novel, but Hines managed some very entertaining twists. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the dreaded Necromancer (standing about two feet tall, with a penchant for creating undead fish), and scenes with Jig and the forgotten god he has chosen to worship. (Actually, there are an awful lot of fish in this story; undead ones, and dead and deadly ones.)

Goblin Quest also works well, not just as a parody, but as a good tale in it's own right. I think things would have gone a bit flat very quickly if the whole book was just Hines mocking certain clichés, but instead he's created some very good characters, with a fast-paced adventure story, and lots of humour, drip-fed in through Jig's own (often none to happy) observations about the quest. Another bonus is that this trilogy is finished, so I'll look forward to reading the rest! It would be good to see these books make an appearance over in the UK (although for once, they are available, imported, on Amazon UK at an extremely cheap price).
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on 29 May 2014
Yes, it's a parody of Dungeons and Dragons and all the gaming tropes that rose from it, but it stands on its own two feet. You don't need to be a gamer to enjoy this.

Don't expect the deep and meaningful, just a fun romp. There are a few reasonable characters, well enough thought through to entertain rather than enlighten. The pet fire-spider was my personal favourite. The plot moves well and is very nicely constructed, leavened with humour that hits the mark nine times out of ten.

I love the way he actually pulls off a literal deus ex machina toward the end. Just goes to show, with enough foreshadowing, anything is possible in a good fantasy. I'd describe this as craftsmanlike rather than genius, but which would you want working on your house?

If you're looking for a pleasant way to while away a few hours, you could do far worse than buy this book. It's the first book by Hines I've read, and it certainly won't be the last. In fact I'm going to get another one right now.

Edited to add:- This the first book of a trilogy. Is it just me who finds Amazon descriptions don't give you the order of books in a series that well? It's Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero, Goblin War and Goblin Tales. Four books in a trilogy? I don't care if Asimov or Le Guin did it first; I blame Douglas Adams!
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on 8 January 2009
Well, as a fan of scifi/fantasy I was looking forward to this at it seemed different than the usual ones that take themselves way too seriously. There were some fun twists and turns in the plot which kept me engaged and I enjoyed the characterisations of the magical creatures. The protagonist of the story, Jig, is a plucky and intelligent runt of a goblin that is an underdog hero. But for me a weakness was the dialogue, in particular that of Prince Barius. Okay, he was meant to be portrayed as this stuffy, pompous jerk, but his dialogue came off forced and overdone. It bothered me each time he opened his mouth. Dialogue from Barius' brother and the dwarf that was with them was better though and more natural. Barius was also too one-dimensional - vain, pompous, arrogant. His dialogue offset with Jig's sarcasm and humour was just too much of a clash. Overall it's a fun read, but not highest quality writing. Sorry, but that's what i thought.
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