cover image No Country for Old Gnomes (The Tales of Pell, Book 2)

No Country for Old Gnomes (The Tales of Pell, Book 2)

Kevin Hearne and Delilah Dawson. Del Rey, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5247-9777-5

In this muddled follow-up to 2017’s Kill the Farm Boy, Hearne and Dawson continue to skewer epic fantasy tropes, this time focusing on the escalating conflict between cardigan-wearing, peace-loving gnomes and a rogue, warlike faction of halflings in the land of Pell. Amid the chaos and confusion, a small, unlikely band of allies from the assorted nonhuman races of Pell emerges, intent on restoring peace. Among them are Offi, a goth gnome masquerading as his more heroic brother; Gerd, a gryphon who speaks in umlauts; Agape, an ovitaur (half-human, half-sheep) charged with protecting an ancient mechanical construct; and Båggi, a dwarf eager to purge his soul of violence. On a trek across the land, the fellowship encounters everything from hostile monsters to a king who used to be a goat. Hearne and Dawson both uphold and subvert fantasy’s classic elements, with some blatant Tolkien riffs (including Tommy Bombastic, a singing, self-aggrandizing demigod). The story is solid and the characters fully realized. However, the first volume’s element of uplifting the marginalized is absent, and the heavy-handed humor is a series of nudges and punch lines that fail to engage. As a cute quest story, it suffices, but readers hoping for parody that upends their understanding of the genre or invokes wry fondness for it will find this novel does neither. (Apr.)