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4.5 out of 5 stars22
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 6 February 2005
People who have been following the career of Paul Carpenter ("The Portable Door" and "In Your Dreams") will think they have some idea of what is going on in this, the third book of the sequence. The hints dropped in the first two books (especially the whole "living sword" business that is over-emphasized at the end of In Your Dreams) tend to suggest that this will be more of the same. To some extent it is: yet more rogue partners at JW Wells, insight into Goblin society, new twists on the magic ideas and the usual insane inanity (or is that inane insanity?) that Holt specialises in.
And then the stakes suddenly pick up. Everything you thought you knew turns out to be almost, but not completely, wrong. Some brilliant retro-continuity makes you look at incidents in the first two books in a different way. Even the relationship between Paul and Sophie, which had been the thread of "normality" that ran through the books, is picked up, twisted around to breaking point and generally messed around with to a delightfully masochistic extent.
But... for me it was all a bit too much. The "hero" motif that Holt has explored before becomes a too convenient get-out, and by the end the plot has got so complicated that he even abandons any explanations to avoid a JK Rowling-like hundred page exposition (although I confess that the whole "not you again!" death sequences are very funny even at the end.)
Not the best of the three, but certainly a worthy conclusion to a fine sequence that is a step up from his previous work.
I don't know if Holt plans to revisit Paul in the future (I almost hope not) but for the moment this will do fine.
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on 24 November 2005
Well the frankly bizarrely named Earth, Air, Fire and Custard is the third in the series involving Paul Carpenter at J.W. Wells & Co. Paul is in a quandary, his git of a boss Dennis Tanner has only gone and done the one thing that after all he has been through could shock Paul – offered him a promotion. I mean this promotion even ups his holiday allowance from zero to a whole seven days off a year – what more can he ask for??
Well to be left in peace for a start.
The first 100 pages or so off Paul's continuing adventures reinforce what we already know. Yes Paul is a cretin with the social skills of a rapid pit-bull. He’s basically a loser – we get it, no need to keep going on about it because believe me, Tom Holt does… The hero notion is pushed hard again during this outing and this can grate sometimes as well. That said we do finally get to see clearly what is meant by Paul being a hero, which is something.
This book is long and twisty. I mean there are more turns in this tale than at the Nuremberg Ring, although I occasionally was looking at the pages thinking this makes bugger all sense, on the whole this book does wrap up a lot of lose ends that have appeared through the previous two novels but also leaves a few of its own to remain untold but all in all a reasonable effort to clear things up.
Unfortunately that's the crux of it, this book is a reasonable effort – it’s not great but it’s not poor, the shame of it is that I finished it and didn't feel the series itself had lived up to my expectations and that annoyed me. If it had been an average series throughout I wouldn’t have minded but it wasn't, so I did.
Oh and before I forget Quixotic means “caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals; idealistic without regard to practicality” for when you get there.
I find it difficult to put my finger on why I wasn't enamoured with this outing but I guess it is in no small part to the overriding thought we have been going in circles for 3 books and essentially we are running over the same material time and again, it just gets a bit dull after a while. I would recommend people to read this to finish the series, and overall I would recommend the whole series to people but just bear in mind that it isn't as good as it should have been.
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on 5 May 2013
I've enjoyed the three books in the set, delving into the machinations of that most sober and yet frightening of firms, JWW. Having spent a few years in the circle of Hell that is law firms, I thought that nothing could be more bizarre, heartless or coldly cruel, but JWW manages to beat it by a country mile. Actually, it manages to beat law firms with a blunt stick with a rusty nail sticking through one end. There are some things that even senior partners won't do that are routine practice in JWW. Pity the hapless fool that is Paul Carpenter, as he's the epitome of every feckless, hapless and impressionable office flunky.

Custard, you say? Yes. Custard. It's what holds the universe together, not that stupid duct tape everyone's always going on about. Get it in YOUR eye and you'll understand. Never make friends with your car, ok? This is just a small hint which you will be grateful for, someday. No good will ever come of it, I can assure you.

Tom Holt's work is unrelentingly entertaining, it's not always funny but then not all entertainment is. If you don't agree, I suggest going to your next movie and laugh at inappropriate times. That will teach you the value of non-funny entertainment. When you read anything by Holt, you will also find that you're laughing at inappropriate times, something in one of his books made me laugh at the wrong time at the British Museum. See? They didn't make me leave, fortunately, as I'd not seen all the mummies yet.

If you like your fantasy a bit lighter, read Pratchett. If you like your world a bit darker, with odd creatures and a danger that any everyday object could be a weapon, then Holt's for you.
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on 3 October 2013
I enjoyed all three of the Paul Carpenter books and enjoy Tom Holt as an author. I've just finished reading this in the order of the stories but read it once before as a stand alone story. I actually enjoyed it more the first time round. I think, although it was still a thoroughly enjoyable book, it just isn't as good as the other two. Holt tries to tie together everything from the series in this book and sometimes perhaps gets lost in his own cleverness and makes for quite a difficult story to follow.
Having said all that, I would have no hesitations recommending the whole Paul Carpenter series, just make sure you are wearing your thinking cap!
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on 16 February 2013
Love Tom Holt. Loved this book, bloody great!. Sophie is a pain in the arse, but aside from that, brilliant!
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on 22 October 2014
Enjoyed reading but think you would be better to first read
Tom Holts 'The Portable Door' as this is where main characters first met.
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on 1 March 2014
Bought by my sister when she borrowed my kindle. I already have it in paperback but the ebook quality is as good as paperback.
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on 11 November 2015
I read this one first (although I now realise there are three in the series. Must say I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 14 October 2010
I do not know how Tom Holt manages to think these novels up.... but so glad that he does!
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on 30 June 2014
fantastic book. everything I expect from a Tom Holt book. Really funny.
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