Lex Trent is reigning champion of The Games contested between fickle Gods using human playing pieces. He has it all. Fame. Glory. Wealth. An enormous ego. But The Games are about to begin again and the Goddess of Luck wants Lex to defend their title. A challenge he can’t resist, despite the risk of death, because the final round will take place in the Wild West, giving Lex the chance to claim the legendary Sword of Life (who wouldn’t want that?). With Lex’s mix of skill, quick-wittedness and no small amount of outright cheating, he can’t lose! Can he? Luck may usually be a lady to Lex… but in the Wild West they play by their own rules… and Lex has never been good with rules.
And that’s the back cover blurb. As you can see, this Godpunk offering is distinctly tongue- in-cheek and when I skimmed the first couple of pages, it was the humour that drew me in. And the fact that Lex was in a very tricky spot… Although that seems to be his speciality – getting into impossible positions and then having to blag/cheat/improvise himself out of them.
This is an amusing Fantasy mash-up that shamelessly borrows from all sorts of other genres and then subverts them. In addition to Lex, there is a cast of interesting and vividly drawn characters – a couple of them are nearly as slippery as Lex, who is very much the classic anti-hero. His tendency to break or bend rules according to his whim or particular needs creates a fair amount of the narrative tension. The classic Quest, where the chosen champions are set tasks and have to at least stay alive and at best win the round, is the backdrop where Lex can demonstrate his sleight of hand and greedy acquisitiveness.
The risk with an amoral anti-hero, of course, is that not only does he thoroughly annoy his fellow characters, but also ticks off the reader. I’m not a great fan of anti-heroes – but whether it was the humour, or the occasional shafts of kindness that occasionally surface – or maybe the sheer madcap exuberance of Bell’s writing – but I was alternately amused and entertained all though Lex’s adventures. And the dragon had me laughing aloud…
If you enjoy your Fantasy when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, then track down this series. As for me, I’m off to find out what else Bell has written – anyone capable of such deft writing is worth reading again.