Review of Strange Camp Fellows by Joshua Calkins-Treworgy
BooksForABuck.com, June 2017
Digby, a fox-man thief for the Freelance Adventurers Guild of Tamalaria has been putting off the quest to steal the ‘Last Shield,’ for months, claiming he simply can’t find the right companions for his party. When Biff, a brain-challenged barbarian, wanders into the guildhall, the guildmaster decides it’s time for Digby to do the job… taking with him the guildmaster’s other trouble cases… a female mage with body image issues and a sulky dwarf-priest who was deserted by his congregation and speaks primarily in quotations from his holy scripture. It’s an unlikely group… made more so because each is busy keeping secrets from the others. Still, they’ve all signed the contract and it’s up to them to track down the Last Shield and return it to the lawful owner… or perhaps the highest bidder.
The four adventurers set off across the dangerous lands of Tamalaria with only vague clues to the shield’s location. Shared adventures as they confront bandits, renegades greenskins, and assorted monsters gives them a degree of confidence in the skills each brings to the battle (in the case of Digby, lack of skills), but will the secrets each carries ultimately doom the partnership?
Author Joshua Calkins-Treworgy (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of fantasy by Calkins-Treworgy) combines lots of action with intriguing characters to deliver a compelling fantasy. Digby, always glad-handing, always cheerful, always ready to back up his friends, guards a secret past and desperate feelings of inadequacy when it comes to stand-up fighting. Sirock, the dwarf-priest deserted by his flock tries to project the air of a loner, yet finds he needs others. Memnock, the mage-woman, enjoys being treated as an equal companion but finds everyone thinks of her as a mother figure… not exactly what she had in mind. Then there’s Biff, the Barbarian. Calkins-Treworgy takes the classic ‘simple barbarian’ fantasy concept and turns it inside out. Yes, Biff is simple-minded with poor short term memory and a lack of deep understanding of the human mind. Yet he isn’t a classic ‘bash first and ask questions later’ figure. Instead, he’s willing to believe the best of everyone (even ugly-looking greenskins, dangerous monsters and thieving fox-men), only seeming to resort to bashing when forced to by others. Thrown out by his family and mocked by those more clever than he, Biff nevertheless manages to become the story’s central character.
In Strange Camp Fellows, Calkins-Treworgy creates a fresh take on the fantasy quest story, with characters that will stick in your memory, plenty of sword-slashing/magic-tossing adventure, and just enough humor to bring a smile.
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