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The Elfin Ship

(The Balumnia Trilogy #1)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  550 ratings  ·  60 reviews
This is a whimsical story of a cheesemaker, Jonathan Bing, who sets out on a quest to discover why trade to his river town has halted inconveniently right before the Winter holiday season. He and his friend, the Professor Wurzle, seek answers to the mystery, and they transport cheeses themselves to use in trade for dwarven cakes and children’s toys to take back to their vi ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 1st, 337 pages
Published July 12th 1982 by Del Rey
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David Katzman I recently discovered he had a third in the series! I'm reading it right now. The Stone Giant. I was thrown off a bit at first because it's a prequel …moreI recently discovered he had a third in the series! I'm reading it right now. The Stone Giant. I was thrown off a bit at first because it's a prequel told from the perspective of Escargot. It's a bit darker than the others, but I'm enjoying it.(less)

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Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  550 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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David Katzman
I decided to revisit a series that I read in childhood when I discovered randomly that there is a third book in this series, and I had only read the first two. I recall it to be one of the most likable charming stories I had ever read, so we'll see if it holds up.
After re-reading, I have confirmed my opinion that this was one of the most charming, lighthearted fantasy reads ever. There is no better word than “charming” for the style here. It’s rich with very dry, silly Brit
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
From the first time I read it at 10 years old (in a tent, on a camping trip) until the last time I read it at 41 and 1/2 (on my Kindle, last month)I have adored this book (yikes! 30+years!). I've read the criticisms, too cute, too Tolkien-ish, but I don't care and I don't agree.

Blaylock has crafted a wonderful tale full of humour and good will. The characters are as well-rounded as this type of tale can allow. They each have their own flaws but retain their humour and wit throughout. His world b
This is an old favorite which I read first when I was nine or ten. When trouble downriver from Twombly Town seems set to prevent holiday trading, Master Cheeser Jonathan Bing sets out on a raft, accompanied by the learned Professor Wurzle, the simple Dooly, and his faithful dog Ahab, to take his cheeses to the elves. Jonathan finds far more trouble than he bargained for, though, getting mixed up with trolls, goblins, skeletons, and a mysterious dwarf with a magical watch.

Blaylock is very good at
Oct 31, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book was very odd. I kept feeling like something was going to break loose and happen all the way through the story, and didn't. There were no women in this story anywhere, not even mentioned. I suppose all the people in this world are hatched in a lab somewhere. And the men all bumbled around doing very stupid things, except for one Elf named Twickenham. He needs to break lose from these losers.

For the first 4 chapters of this book, the most interesting character was the dog. And
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There are no words for how happy this books makes me. My life is better because this book exists and I have read it -- that's not something I can say about many books, and I don't give praise like this lightly.
Rich U
Aug 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
I liked this book mainly for it's ability to make the imagery of a single troll on the shore line seem scary. That and making plans to storm a castle always go better after lunch. It's a good natured story that builds to a suspenseful conclusion then goes on its merry way.
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book in a second-hand bookstore in Hope, British Columbia, mainly because I am a sucker for cute cartoonish book covers. I have never heard of the author before and decided to give it a try. The biggest part of the book I read on a train journey between Toronto and Vancouver. I want to say that it was a pleasant read for a pleasant jouney, although that might make it sound like a mild story.

Perhaps the first thing that made me so fond of this tale is how much I could relate to the
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Delightful. A very British sort of fantasy world and something of a fairy-tale story, with large stakes which never become quite clear to the protagonist. LoTR without any of the angst or proto-religion.
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Read this book a long time ago (lost my copy now). All I remember is it was fun to read and that reading about all the special cheeses they made (studded with dates and raisins and stuff) made my mouth water.
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Blaylock's fantasy is about as far as you can get from the typical elves, dwarves and dragons fare. Quirky and original.
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is not the greatest book ever. The writing is uneven and even awkward at times. But it obviously appeals to me enough to drag it off the shelf every few years to reread it.

2019 reread: Listened to the audiobook narrated by Malk Williams.

I have changed my rating from three stars to four stars. I'm not sure if it's the marvelous audiobook performance (such a pleasure to listen to a *good* performance by someone who doesn't butcher the language) or just that hearing the words rather than readi
Nev Percy
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
Blaylock offers a very whimsical and domestic approach to fantasy, with a regular guy central character accompanied by a pretentious but mostly clueless professor, an excitable village idiot, and a dog whose eating and sleeping Blaylock finds endlessly interesting. Goblins and trolls are horrific but can actually be vanquished with a blow from a stout tree limb. There's some original inventive thought here, but the tone is as unheroic as it could be; it's like all Pratchett's silliness without a ...more
Ted M
I never really understood why the Elfin Ship trilogy didn't get as big as, say, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter- it has all the qualities one could want in a fantasy/steampunk series, great descriptions of places and people, a lot of humor (sometimes dark humor) and some insane and often unbelievable adventures.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
review of
James P. Blaylock's The Elfin Ship
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 20, 2017

Blaylock's name was vaguely familiar when I picked up this bk & its successor. As it turns out, I've read one other bk by him, The Last Coin, 9 yrs ago. People often comment on how-time-flies when you get older but it's forever weird to me that in the 9 yrs from 1977, when I published my 1st bk, & 1986, when I went on the "6 Fingers Crossed Country T.Ore/Tour" my life changed dramatically but in the 9
Kat  Hooper
May 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature:

Audible has recently put several of James P. Blaylock’s novels in audio format, so I’m giving a few of them a try. The Elfin Ship, first published in 1982, is the first book in Blaylock’s BALUMNIA trilogy about a whimsical fantasy world filled with elves, goblins, dwarves, wizards, and (because it’s Blaylock), a few steampunk elements such as submarines and airships.

In The Elfin Ship we meet Jonathan Bing, a cheesem
Jul 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
Jonathan Bing (a cheesemaker), Professor Wurzle, a boy named Dooley, and a dog named Ahab set off down river on a raft to "save Christmas".
Their goal is to trade cheeses for Christmas bread, and pick up gifts for the children of their town, since their usual traders are missing.

This book has it's gems, but it is really slow moving. James Baylock tends to phrase things akwardly, making his book difficult to read. The book finally picks up in the last 90 to 100 pages, but there are a lot of unnece
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wallace and Gromit meet Swallows and Amazons, or maybe Enid Blyton. A cheesemaker and his dog go on an adventure - a rafting trip down the river to get Christmas presents for the children turns into an outrageous romp with rather silly goblins, a (mostly) safe elven town and a wicked dwarf. What is the wicked dwarf in the spooky woods up to now? The intrepid crew are forced to investigate. Well OK, there is also a fair bit of Lord of the Rings and a good splash of Scooby Doo in there too.

I liste
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review of the audiobook format:

What is better than "reading" this book? Listening to the audiobook! Malk Williams narration brings this to a whole new level of fun, increasing my star rating from 4 stars for the eBook to 5 stars for the audiobook format.

What a hoot! I love hobbit like characters (but that is where the similarities end)! Bing is a character after my own heart. He is the master cheeser and is sent on a mission to save the town from what could be a disastrous Christmas. Mind you, t
Mar 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: children-fantasy fans
Entertaining book.
I would've finished the book much-much earlier, if only the font is not too small to my liking and if there had been not so much work to do in the office. :)

I would categorize this book as a children fantasy book. With the main theme of the story is good winning over evil, the book gave me the feeling of The Two Towers (LOTR) adopted for children, added with humourous scenes all over the story. I know it's not an adoption of Two Towers, no questions about that, it was just a fe
Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-fantasy
What a hoot! I love hobbit like characters (but that is where the similarities end)! Bing is a character after my own heart. He is the master cheeser and is sent on a mission to save the town from what could be a disastrous Christmas. Mind you, this is NOT a Christmas story. It just happens to be at that time of year when all chaos breaks out for Twombly Town. There is a river rafting adventure with goblins, dwarfs, elves, a magician, and more. Buffoonery chaos is how I can best describe this fu ...more
Matthew Reads Junk
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Simple and charming. If there wasn't a bio, I would have sworn the author was English. This really isn't high, dark, or epic fantasy and would probably even be considered a YA book. Regardless, it tells a basic story with ease, and is actually a refreshing turn of pace.
Feb 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
really fun fantasy book about a cheesemaker, a scientific quack, a dunce, and a dog, who takes a river voyage and their adventures
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Blaylock's debut is delightfully quirky and funny, though some might find it slight. The fantasy adventures of a master cheeser and an Elfin ship. What fun!
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another interesting tale from James P Blaylock. Colorful characters
Millie Taylor
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Oh, goodness. This book. Where do I start?

First, it was pretty obvious that this was a first novel. It wasn't a bad book, but it took me forever to finish it. I enjoyed the characters, but this book felt like listening to a hyper toddler tell a story. It was all over the place with the dialogue and the author couldn't seem to decide on a voice for anyone except Dooly. The author went from making the main character (the Cheeser, Johnathan Bing) sound fairly educated to a backwoods hick in the nex
In this story, a master cheeser, Johnathan Bing, his dog Angus, a professor of something and a local bloke set off down the river to save Christmas, or the world, or both from nasty Goblins and an evil Dwarf. This is just the sort of fun read that you'd want on a cold day, in front of a fire, with a plate of cheese on your lap. I ate a lot of cheese whilst reading this story.

I enjoyed the imaginative places and things in the story, which were easily identifiable with real things and places, but
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
A cheese-maker sails down the river to trade his wares and inadvertently finds himself in the middle of an adventure involving a sinister dwarf and a magic watch.

The Elfin Ship deals with three men on a boat (to say nothing of the dog) going on a reluctant quest in which good food and creature comforts are elaborately described, all written in the folksy style of the 19th-century American West. Which is to say that the book reads like a mélange of Jerome K. Jerome, J. R. R. Tolkien (circa The H
Ben Simpkins
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wish I read this before I read Blaylock's later works. I certainly got a lot of the Blaylock charm and a bit of the magic, but I was expecting a bit more from the characters, especially with concern to the typical Blaylock charming wit and nuttiness, which he delivered later to a tee.

This is a great book, nonetheless. The setting is wonderful (late fall on a river with surrounding fantastical lands and folks), and the charming, humble tone of things is refreshing. Blaylock blatantly calls out
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. There is, at least what seems to me, a huge influence from Tolkien, but there are worse places to draw inspiration from. A riveting adventure that takes place from the point of view of a more 'everyday' person rather than the typical fantasy staple of a powerful hero. I really enjoyed the descriptions of food and relaxation - it really made me want to take it easy. I have no qualms about recommending this book to anyone regardless of age or normal book preference.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book has some elements to make it a charming fantasy Huck Finn style rafting adventure. The goblin appearences are always enjoyable. Skeletons walking around made for fun old school fantasy.

However, it gets slowed down by prose that is a slog to get through. I found the couple characters that were literally dumb annoying. It's also odd that there isn't one female in the entire book, and the Elf Ship only makes a very brief appearance.
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James Paul Blaylock is an American fantasy author. He is noted for his distinctive style. He writes in a humorous way: His characters never walk, they clump along, or when someone complains (in a flying machine) that flight is impossible, the other characters agree and show him why he's right.

He was born in Long Beach, California; studied English at California State University, Fullerton, receivin

Other books in the series

The Balumnia Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Disappearing Dwarf (Balumnia, #2)
  • The Stone Giant (Balumnia, #3)

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