The Wormlord, ruler of Wen Endex, is stepping down without an heir, offering his throne to anyone who can retrieve the saga swords. Alfric Danbrog, grandson of the Wormlord and son of Grendel Danbrog, the Wormlord's estranged son who's been accused of being a lycanthrope, is dragooned into the suicidal quest. Too bad he's a near-sighted banker...The Short Review:
Dan, why is this so awesome? One word: Werehamster!The Longer Review:
Much like in The Wordsmiths and the Warguild, Hugh Cook takes the traditional fantasy quest story and turns it on its ear. Alfric Danbrog, banker third class and possible werewolf, is far from the conventional hero. He's a coward, has a domineering wife, and lives in the shadow of his grandfather, the Wormlord. At the behest of his employer, The Bank, he goes on the quest for the three saga swords in an effort to be crowned king. But a lot of people don't want him finishing his quest...
So what? It'll probably become a coming of age story where the nebbish steps up and becomes the hero, right? Wrong! This is Hugh Cook we're talking about. How many quest stories have you read featuring a sea dragon poet, a brain damaged swamp giant, and vampires that want to open a bank account?
As I've mentioned before, Cook's fantasy word has a healthy quantity of advanced technology lying around that the people barely understand. Well, Alfric's employer, The Bank, understands one piece of technology all too well. The Bank is a multinational organization that takes advantage of Doors, wormholes that link various continents and empires, and rules the financial world of the Chronicles of an Age of Darkness with an iron fist, manipulating events as they see fit. How cool is that?
As always, the Cookster did a great job balancing British humor, violence, and general weirdness. As always, Cook brings back a few old characters for brief appearances, like Justina Thrug of books 6 and 7, as well as mentions of others, like Aldarch III.
The Werewolf and the Wormlord feels like a Monty Python sketch at times, from the ridiculous business-speak at The Bank, to the vampires, to Alfric's interactions with the various monsters on his quest, to the cowardly Yudonic Knights who are afraid of the Hag that terrorizes the night, to Nappy the happy assassin. And the werehamster, of course. As in some of the previous books, the political machinations are insanely complex.
That's pretty much all I can say without spoiling too much. Conclusion:
Hugh Cook is the man. The Werewolf and the Wormlord is an easy five and my second favorite book in the Chronicles of an Age of Darkness so far.