Always Have A Backup Plan

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At the beginning of every great action movie there is a fuse, a scene designed specifically to lure its audience in. It can be one of a hundred different things: a fire, a fight, the full frontal view of a giant man-eating octopus smacking its lips in anticipation. Whatever it is, it’s there to stimulate your mind and ask questions. Questions that (inevitably) must be answered. Which in turn keeps your ass firmly planted in a seat that is slightly too small, and has probably been peed on a time or two.

Fantasy novels tend to follow the same stream of logic. Start with steam, then (once there is no way the audience can jump ship for fear of lingering angst over artfully dodged answers) they launch into the bones of the story.

Patrick Weekes (who is previously known for his work on the Mass Effects series..that’s a game, just FYI) followed suit with his novel “The Palace Job.” Launching his characters into a truly enjoyable (floating) jail-break right out of the gate, and then asking the question…why? The 423 pages that follow are the answer. And believe me…it’s a slippery one.

The most powerful man in the republic framed her, threw her in prison, and stole a priceless elven manuscript from her family.

With the help of a crack team that includes an illusionist, a unicorn, a death priestess, a talking warhammer, and a lad with a prophetic birthmark, Loch must find a way into the floating fortress of Heaven’s Spire–and get past the magic-hunting golems and infernal sorcerers standing between her and the vault that holds her family’s treasure.

It’d be tricky enough without the military coup and unfolding of an ancient evil prophecy–but now the determined and honorable Justicar Pyvic has been assigned to take her in.

But hey, every plan has a few hitches.

People love different genres for different reasons. Maybe they enjoy the world building (which, I’ll admit is a HUGE draw for me.) Maybe, they like angsty characters, or sordid love triangles. Me? I read fantasy for 1 reason…it’s complexity. As with mysteries and suspense, I love to “figure out” the bigger picture. When it comes to fantasy, that picture usually involves a multitude of people (all with conflicting ideas.) The larger the cast of characters, the more complex the plot. The more complex the plot, the more detailed the world has to be (to keep up with it.) It’s ultimately one vicious circle, and “The Palace Job” is no different.

Sporting more than 8 main characters TPJ is a melting pot of fantastical staples. Ogres, unicorns, dopey sheriffs that would lose their head if it wasn’t attached, this book has it all. And they all play a VERY intricate roll. But…let’s back up.

TPJ (in short) is the equivalent to Ocean’s Eleven if Harry Potter had invaded. With magic everywhere, and a “heist” as the band of merry misfits main objective, there is no simpler way to explain it. Even the introductions are mapped out in O11 format (one at a time, while pulling off another job.) The technique is obviously not a new one (as a matter of fact I think I used the same reference when I reviewed Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg’s “The Heist” just a few months ago.) But I have to admit, it worked much better this time around. Why? Because with a book so long (ok, it’s kind of short when it comes to its genre as a whole) it’s important to establish the characters quickly, but effectively. (You don’t need years of background, but you need to “feel” that you know the person…it’s a hard scale to balance.) Weekes’ choice to introduce his characters this way allowed him to play freely with the rest of the story without having to backtrack for the sake of creating intimacy between characters.  Essentially…I felt like I knew everyone (even if I couldn’t pronounce 80% of their names and mentally filled in Bob or Chuck to keep them straight.)

But characters are only a tiny piece of the puzzle when it comes to fantasy, and regardless of how well they are executed…if the plot has holes, they will fall through them.

Which (ta da!) brings me to the plot itself.

I’ll go on record right now saying that I have read BETTER books, and I have also read WORSE books. Which basically drops this novel into the middle of the pile.

The best thing about it? The humor. If you are a Pratchett fan, you are going to love this book. I found myself laughing out loud several times at (not only) the dialogue between characters but the situations they found themselves in. Do you know those “world’s worst criminal” shows they air television every once in a while. Let’s just say Loch and her compadres had a few of those moments. There isn’t a single dumb character in the lot, but you put too many hands in candy jar and things are bound to blow up in your face.

Also notable…the way the story continually circled back to zero. Make a plan. Plan blows up. Make new plan. Normally this would drive me bat-crap crazy. This time…I simply found myself wondering what they were going to screw up next.

The only significant problem I had was the ending (cue dramatic music.) For all of the chaos that was smushed between TPJ’s pages, it all seemed to wrap up rather quickly. (*cough* kinda like a video game *cough*) It wasn’t a “bad” ending, just a brusk one. (As in…a tiny little bow wrapped around 3 paragraphs.) I wanted more drama. More gusto. Hell…I wanted to see the whole damn world burst into flames. (Ok, I’m being a little dramatic. Maybe not flames, just…campfires.) After almost 500 pages of language deciphering (and some pretty spot on mama cracks) I wanted epic. Instead I got “meh.” Which was (to be blunt) disappointing.

Overall however, not a bad book. It had laughs. It had a fairly solid plot. The characters were lovable (and horny if we are talking about the unicorn) and it was fun. That spells “middle-of-the-road” success.

Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: even acrobats are clumsy during sex.

Read Excerpt

Goodreads / Amazon

Rating Report
Overall: 3.4







About Misty

Your friendly neighborhood narcissist. I'm sarcastic, cynical and a bit cranky. I own a soap box so big that sometimes I have difficulty stepping down off of it, and I'm about 94% certain I have multiple personalities. I don't sleep enough, and I read more than any person should ever consider normal. I have anger management issues, especially when I'm stuck in traffic and I have an unhealthy obsession with my Kindle. I am a vampire lovin', zombie obsessed, book-in-hand, iPod freak. You either love me or hate me. You be the judge.

One thought on “Always Have A Backup Plan

  1. I hear this one’s quite a good light and fluffy read, and I’m looking forward to reading it myself to find out. From the reviews I’ve seen popping up, though, I’m glad I know not to take it too seriously and to just enjoy it as a piece of humourous fantasy.

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