cover image The Good, the Bad and the Smug

The Good, the Bad and the Smug

Tom Holt. Orbit, $15 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-36881-0

Holt (The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice) achieves near-perfection in his new comic fantasy. The complicated multiverse setting requires some nimble reading, but the three central narratives unfold and combine into a cerebral yet slapstick comedy. Mordak, king of the social media–loving goblins, undertakes a hero’s journey with a condescending elf at his side to learn how the human princes of a fantasy realm are getting so rich, and to find out whether an arms race is in the works. A peculiar little man from another universe is spinning straw into gold for the princes, while attempting to teach them strategic thinking and prevent the mess he made in his own dimension. The goblin Ozork transforms into a puny human named Archie when he aims for the Realms of Transcendent Bliss, misses, and lands on a film set in modern New Zealand. Holt keeps track of every thread from beginning to end and cleverly ties them all together in unexpected ways. This is a must-read for those who grew up in awe of The Phantom Tollbooth. (Aug.)