Saturday, November 28, 2009

Book Review: Triumff-Her Majesty's Hero by Dan Abnett

Title: Triumff~Her Majesty's Hero

Author: Dan Abnett

Pages: 352

Where I got it: sent from the lovely folks at Angry Robot publishing


Sir Rupert Triumff. Adventurer. Fighter. Drinker.


Pratchett goes swashbuckling in the hotly anticipated original fiction debut of the multi-million selling Warhammer star.

Triumff is a ribald historical fantasy set in a warped clockwork-powered version of our present day ... a new Elizabethan age, not of Elizabeth II but in the style of the original Virgin Queen. Throughout its rollicking pages, Sir Rupert Triumff drinks, dines and duels his way into a new Brass Age of Exploration and Adventure.

You do not look at a book with a title such as 'Triumff' and expect anything less then pure entertainment. And, in the case of Dan Abnett's debut effort, that's exactly what you get.

Taking place in the time of Elizabeth XXX (a personal nightmare of mine, as I am quite simply retarded at the art of Roman numerals), it is quickly learned that this just happens to be "now" in the literal sense--2010, to be exact. The Queen rules the land with a mix of the perfect clockwork army and magic--just kidding, Magick (called the Arte, whom you might know to be either a creepy uncle or an old neighbor who smells like mothballs and makes you mow his lawn--or is that just me?). So you can generally expect Olde English prose and dialogue, but with something of a modern twist. Such as the presense of guns alongside swordplay, and singers such as Lady Geegaw and Diseased Rascal. I'm not sure what to call this...dystopia? Utopia? Post-apocalyptic? Perhaps just 'alternate history'. Whatever you please, this is Triumffs greatest...well...triumph. Creating a book that is so undefinable even the most accomplished of publicists will sit at their computer for hours trying to put it in a neat little category. It's like a huge "fuck you" to mainstream publishing and, let me tell you, it's way overdue.

The story itself is told through the alternating third and first person (perhaps unreliable) narration of William Beaver (aka Wllm) as he witnesses the odyssey of the titular character. When Elizabeth XXX (let's just call her Triple Ex?) is threatened, along with the entire concept of Magick, she calls upon Triumff (who discovered Australia. you guys!).

It is quite clear Triumff was never meant to be anything short of fun. Never too reflective or educational, but plenty raucous and a tad immature. It's, like, the perfect pirate movie. Except it's not a movie. And, as you'll soon find out, Abnett has a very unique touch to fight scenes.

The world weaved in Triumff is certainly an interesting one, filled with the kind of laughs that are immediately followed with a facepalm and a groan. I'm talking some of the worst puns you've ever read. I mean...okay, you know that one James Bond film with Denise Richards as Christmas Jones? And you know how she and James Bond got down, right? And how he's all like, "I thought Christmas only came once a year"? You know that one? Yeah, well, Triumff is horribly close to Chrismas Jones caliber. I still haven't decided whether this is a turn off or not, but there it is.

You know with these kind of absurdest genre novels, there's always a risk of Too Much Quirk and general inability to connect with the audience. And Triumff was very close to this line, almost too close for comfort. Abnett seems to try too hard a lot of the time with these jokes, desperately going for cheesy when it seems he should be going for deadpan (or vice-versa) and, if I wasn't so lenient with puns, this might be a more negative review. As it is, I happen to be very lenient with puns and I am sitting here, telling you how fun and different Triumff is.

On a more negative note...God, do you know how many names are in this book? I can't even remember them all, and I have my copy tightly clenched between my laptop and stomach to quickly look up any necessary titles. Mother Grundy, Unity, Doll Taresheet, Agnew...I found myself resorting to old memorization techniques I use when reading my state-mandated copy of The Odyssey--replacing character names with simpler ones with the same first letter. Triumff was Todd, Mother Grundy was Mary Gean, Agnew was Alan, Doll was...well, she stayed Doll. But you get my point.

I can't say I'm a fan of the narrative choice. It's told in Olde English format, and quite difficult to comprehend most of the time. Here's an example:

Water rattled off slopes of broken slates, streamed like horse-piss from split gutters, cascaded from the points of eaves, boiled like oxtail soup in leaf-choked drains, coursed in foamy breakers across flagged walks, and thumped down drainpipes in biblical quantities. For the same measure of time that it had taken the Good Lord God to manufacture Everything In Creation, the entire city was comprehensively rinsed. There was water, as the Poet had it (the Poet, admittedly, was wont to have it mixed with brandy), everywhere, and every drop of it was obeying Newton’s First Law of Apples.

See, maybe I'm just dense, but I did not get a word of that. At least, the first few readings. I digress.

Abnett, however, is quite a charmer. If one joke didn't sit quite well with you, there are hundreds more waiting in the next paragraph. Often quite silly, more often hitting that sensitive spot that we all like to pretend we don't have, Triumff never fails to be fun, and I most certainly look forward to more of the like from Mr. Dan Abnett.

Rating: 7 or 8 out of 10--perhaps a 7.5?

Also: I know there was a thing going around where blogs posted the first five chapters every day for, like, a week. Maybe you can Google it?


Rhiannon Hart said...

This sounds so fun! I know what you mean about too many names, though. I lose track so easily. I even forget the MC's name sometimes.

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