Goblin Quest, by Jim C. Hines, is home to one of the most impressive dragons of modern fiction: Straum. If you notice similarity to another famous dragon, it’s no coincidence. Hines writes funny fantasies that skewer popular stereotypes. His debut trilogy poked lots of fun at D&D and the whole dungeon-delving, treasure-grabbing mythos that goes along with it.
The star of the show is Jig, a little blue goblin who gets captured by a group of typical adventurers. You know… the warrior prince, the mad wizard, the dwarf cleric and the elfin thief. Instead of killing him — although there’s continual debate on that point — they opt to enlist hapless Jig as their native guide. Fortunately for them, Jig is smarter than the average goblin. In fact, in some ways, he’s smarter than the other four put together.
There are laughs and thrills, and some pointed questions along the way. Could an underground labyrinth actually function as an ecosystem? What gives those adventurers the right to come in, kill the “monsters” and steal their treasure? Is it really that easy to shoot an arrow into a giant monster’s eye? I’m sure you’ll all spot favorites from your D&D days.
But the main event is Straum, a black dragon who’s been trapped underground for more than 5,000 years. The greatest wizard in history stuck him down here to guard the Rod of Creation, and only the Rod can set him free… but Straum himself cannot use it. He has to lure in the right group of adventurers if he ever wants to be free.
This is a terrific book with an obvious love for what it lampoons. The sword fights are not handled in a grisly way, making it a safe read for all ages, though younger kids will need an adult’s help with vocabulary. Goblin Quest is highly recommended.