Once again my planned spotlight for this month was thrown aside due to me being very impressed by something new. The series isn’t finished yet but I’m recommending it anyway; these books are fantastic comic fantasy, and you should read them immediately. They have a very Dark Lord of Derkholm feeling and touches of Pratchett, and really there’s no higher praise than that.
The Dark Profit saga currently comprises two books, Orconomics and Son of a Liche – the titles alone should give you some idea of what the series is like. I’m now waiting impatiently for the third and final book, Dragonfired.
The series is set in a world where DnD-style campaigns are real, essentially – there’s an official Guild of Heroes who operate under licence and the economy depends on a stock market driven by quest speculation and shares of loot tables. It gets as silly as you might expect, but it’s also thoroughly worked out and well plotted rather than just being a joke. Various firms navigating and/or manipulating this market is one of the… four, I would say? main story threads.
The primary story follows our band of protagonist-adventurers; two mages, a ranger, a bard, a cleric, a fighter and a berserker. The party interactions are deliberately reminiscent of someone’s DnD group but it’s not over the top; they’re all developed enough to be people, and we’re given just enough backstory and time in the heads of most of them to understand them without it all being vomited at us. In the first book they undertake a fairly standard quest; in the second book they try to deal with the fallout after it all goes horribly, horribly wrong.
There’s also an undead army with a very strong marketing department holding recruitment drives and forming committees.
Under all the jokes – and they are fantastic jokes; my favourite scene in the series is someone making a veiled dig at the old Lord of the Rings saw about why didn’t they just take the giant eagles to Mordor, and the response is that the giant eagles are unionised and the Heroes’ Guild can’t afford their fees – is an actual serious plot founded in Fantasyland racism. Races in this world are divided into Lightlings – humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes – and Shadowkin – goblins, ogres, orcs, trolls, kobolds, gnolls, gremlins. At the start the Shadowkin are able to apply for NPC status, letting them get jobs in Lightling settlements and giving them papers protecting them from hero attacks, but that’s affecting the money generated from the system, so various factions start doing shady things to stir up conflict. As the story develops we see a few main characters slowly understanding the racism the Shadowkin have endured that they never noticed before, and the message about class privilege is very well done.
There’s also possibly the best pun I’ve ever encountered, regarding a book called the Retconomicon. It’s been a long time since I literally laughed out loud, especially in public.
Really can’t recommend these enough. They can’t quite decide if they want to be satire or if they want to have an actual serious plot, so they do both, and they do it very well.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have Pokemon Generation 8 spoilers to scrutinise very closely.