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Heloise the Bard #1

The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True

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"Evoking the dry humor of Terry Pratchett and absurdist trope subversions of Monty Python, Gibson flips the classic fantasy setup of a ragtag band of heroes on a quest to slay a fearsome dragon...Gibson’s story is clever, twisty, and bursting with sidesplittingly funny one-liners. Fantasy fans are guaranteed a laugh." Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Sure, you think you know the story of the fearsome red dragon, Dragonia. How it terrorized the village of Skendrick until a brave band of heroes answered the noble villagers' call for aid. How nothing could stop those courageous souls from facing down the dragon. How they emerged victorious and laden with treasure.

But, even in a world filled with epic adventures and tales of derring-do, where dragons, goblins, and unlicensed prestidigitators run amok, legendary heroes don't always know what they're doing. Sometimes they're clueless. Sometimes beleaguered townsfolk are more hapless than helpless. And orcs? They're not always assholes, and sometimes they don't actually want to eat your children.

Heloise the Bard, Erithea's most renowned storyteller (at least, to hear her tell it), is here to set the record straight. See, it turns out adventuring isn't easy, and true heroism is as rare as an articulate villager.

Having spent decades propagating this particular myth (which, incidentally, she wrote), she's finally able to tell the real story—for which she just so happened to have a front-row seat.

Welcome to Erithea. I hope you brought a change of undergarments—things are going to get messy.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE PART ABOUT THE DRAGON WAS (MOSTLY) TRUE

“Sean Gibson’s The Part About The Dragon Was Mostly True is the rare book that is full of action and excitement but is also a natural, effortless extension of the writer’s humor and personality. I felt like I was reading a version of Lord of the Rings, by way of Joss Whedon, only funnier, and with more Rock Giant poop jokes.” – Scott Weinstein, Author of Team of Steves and Weekend Update Co-Producer - "Saturday Night Live"

“Friends and foes alike, what we have here is a genuine ripsnorter! Come hither, lords and ladies, and revel in the hijinks-laden misadventures of the strangest band of bumbling heroes this side of a discarded Monty Python sketch. Think Pratchett and Tolkien, only with an avalanche more puns and potty humor; enter for the comic fantasy, and linger for the playful tone, winking asides, and obscure, geek-approved references. Long live Rumscrabble Tooltinker and his merry mates!” – Eric Liebetrau, Managing Editor, Kirkus Reviews

"Sean tells stories with the smirk of a mischievous child--a child that's smarter than you and somehow knows every word in the English language (and probably a few others he made up). The strange and funny fantasy world he creates in The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True is full of puns and smirks and gentle elbows in your ribs. You'll be charmed and drawn in from the first few pages." - Peter Martin, Senior Editor, The Strategist, NY Magazine

“This is a book. What? You told me to be honest—wait, why are you making air quotes when I say ‘honest’? And why are you getting out your knife?” – Rumscrabble Tooltinker, Unlicensed Prestidigitator

“Urk kunk grummh nuk kur grubble knuck.” – High Chieftain Gnurk Blurglesplick of the Orcs of the Gloom Forest (Hey, they can't all be complimentary)

“Undoubtedly one of the best books I’ll never read.” – Kenneth the Pretty Okay Sometimes Wandering But Usually Sedentary Minstrel

308 pages, Paperback

First published December 15, 2020

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About the author

Sean Gibson

6 books5,654 followers
Sean Gibson, "author" and slackonteur, is not a professional mini biography writer (if he were, this would be much more compelling). Instead, he’s a business professional by day, hangs out with his amazing wife, son, and daughter by night, and writes somewhere in between. He holds a BA in English Literature from Ohio Wesleyan University and an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, though rumors persist that he also attended mime school (he is silent on the subject). Sean is a fan of sports teams from Detroit, a distressingly large number of bands that rose to prominence in the 1980s, and writing in the third person. He currently resides in Northern Virginia, and, given how much he hates moving, and given that his house has an awesome library, is likely to remain there for some time.

Sean is the author of several stories starring Heloise the Bard, including the #1 bestseller The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True (which Publishers Weekly drunkenly gave a starred review), "You Just Can't Hide from Chriskahzaa," and The Chronicle of Heloise & Grimple. He also wrote the Victorian-set fantasy thriller The Camelot Shadow and its prequel short, "The Strange Task Before Me." Most recently, he contributed the short story "Chasing the Dragon" to the anthology Dragons of a Different Tail. He has also written extensively for Kirkus Reviews, and his book reviews have also appeared in Esquire.

You can follow him on Twitter at @Gibknight, but is that really how you want to spend your precious years of life?

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5 stars
110 (25%)
4 stars
152 (35%)
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104 (24%)
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47 (10%)
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18 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 166 reviews
Profile Image for Sean Gibson.
Author 6 books5,654 followers
January 24, 2023
The #1 Bestselling Humorous Fantasy title has been selected as a January deal of the month--to celebrate, it's on sale on all ebook platforms for $1.99. https://books2read.com/u/4ElM00

25% of author royalties will be donated to Impact Justice (impactjustice.org).

Is this the best mediocre comic fantasy about a self-styled legendary bard and four neophyte adventurers aiming to take on a very unusual dragon on behalf of a bunch of dim-witted villagers? Mos def. I’m not saying I’m a literary supernova or the voice of a generation, but if you want to, I guess I’ll allow it because I am polite and don’t like to disagree.

Now available on Audible for you ear readers--narrated by the amazing Haley Catherine; check it out!

Here’s some praise from real, actual people:

“Sean Gibson’s The Part About The Dragon Was Mostly True is the rare book that is full of action and excitement but is also a natural, effortless extension of the writer’s humor and personality. I felt like I was reading a version of Lord of the Rings, by way of Joss Whedon, only funnier, and with more Rock Giant poop jokes.” – Scott Weinstein, Author of Team of Steves and Weekend Update Co-Producer - "Saturday Night Live"

“Friends and foes alike, what we have here is a genuine ripsnorter! Come hither, lords and ladies, and revel in the hijinks-laden misadventures of the strangest band of bumbling heroes this side of a discarded Monty Python sketch. Think Pratchett and Tolkien, only with an avalanche more puns and potty humor; enter for the comic fantasy, and linger for the playful tone, winking asides, and obscure, geek-approved references. Long live Rumscrabble Tooltinker and his merry mates!” – Eric Liebetrau, Managing Editor, Kirkus Reviews

"Sean tells stories with the smirk of a mischievous child--a child that's smarter than you and somehow knows every word in the English language (and probably a few others he made up). The strange and funny fantasy world he creates in The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True is full of puns and smirks and gentle elbows in your ribs. You'll be charmed and drawn in from the first few pages." - Peter Martin, Former Editor, Esquire, and current Senior Editor, The Strategist, NY Magazine

“Seriously, this is why you got an English degree? You know you have a real job, right?” – My mom, the person who co-created me

Check out www.seangibsonauthor.com for more Heloise hijinks.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
714 reviews11.4k followers
December 31, 2021
I was really struggling with this book, and I couldn’t quite figure out why, until it hit me (the realization, not the book) — it’s full of funny bits and paragraphs and quotable lines, but I just apparently lack patience to tolerate all those in a long form. Those jokes are great by themselves, in shorter chunks, but when strung over dozens of pages they start feeling tiresome.
“Nadi’s response was strangely intense, and she gave me a look that indicated either fierce conviction or long-term constipation (though I suppose those two things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive).”

But most of my GR friends who read this book would disagree, so most likely I’m just the Grinch with a questionable sense of humor.

Yet I refuse to give this book anything less than 3 stars because (1) I read most if it when sick with a fever, and it reads easily, and (2) I took a GR detour and read the author’s autobiography on GR page and then a few of his hilarious reviews, and obviously Sean Gibson is a nice and fun guy who would probably be a hoot during a drinking session in a bar, and I’d be laughing at these jokes and puns pretty hard.
“So read on, brave souls…adventure awaits. And shenanigans. There will definitely be shenanigans.”

What didn’t quite click for me was a bit too much of surface-level humor, relying pretty heavily on slapstick and bodily function jokes, and not giving any breathing room between the funny bits. I see many comparisons to Pratchett in reviews (probably fueled by the byline on the book cover — “If Tina Fey and Terry Pratchett co-wrote a fantasy epic … it would be way better than this”) but those are not quite fair to this book and actually set your expectations at the level that does not help the enjoyment. What it led me to do was take a break and actually read a Pratchett book.

And yet I feel I really can’t blame this book for not aligning with my sense of humor of my current mood — or maybe I was just too sober when trying to read it. So rounding up to 3 stars it is. I rated Anna Karenina the same, so it’s in good company.
“I’m all in favor of using the people’s vernacular, but sometimes the people should get a bigger vernacular and know what words mean.”
Profile Image for Trish.
1,850 reviews3,363 followers
July 27, 2020
This is not the first work I'm reading by my friend Sean. Yup, that's right, I'm totally flashing about my I-know-the-author card. I could go on to brag about our friendship being as epic as Heloise's adventures but that might not be a good idea make you guys too jealous.


I first met Heloise along with some of her entrepid friends here on GR in a series of adventures where we readers could choose how the story would continue. I had heard of games doing that but not of books so I was intrigued. So when I heard about the half-elven bard getting her own, well-deserved book, I had to sign up for an ARC of course.

Despite the jealousy-invoking friendship between me and Sean, my opinion of this book is brutally honest (anyone knowing me knows that the adjective "brutal" basically describes everything I do) and in no way a bought opinion (Sean only now got the book deal, he wouldn't be able to afford me).

For those here, who are living under a rock somewhere behind the moon, the book is about an adventure the aforementioned half-elven bard Heloise has - and let me tell you that the ... ahem ... dragon ... is not the worst here as we also get downright stupid human village town councils and other encounters that are deliciously ridiculous. Gandalf might have famously said "Flee, you fools" but the name of the game here is "LAUGH at the fools!" :D

And laugh I did. Not only is Sean's writing here crisp and full of zingers, it also has a very nice flow to it that transports us from one mishap to the next, letting us witness certain ... people ... stumble from here to there and back again. No, it is not high fantasy. Instead, it is the kind of story you share with friends around the fire until you all suffer from APITBFLTM (acute pain in the belly from laughing too much - look it up, it's a certified ailment).

So, do I recommend this book? And if so, to whom? No. The word recommendation won't cover what I'm gonna do to anyone refusing to buy, read and praise Sean's book (and I don't even get "protection money" ... hm, my Italian side of the family must be very disappointed right now).
No, seriously, if you like humour - sometimes light, sometimes silly, sometimes wonderfully evil - as well as a wild assortment of what fantasy creatures are ACTUALLY like when there is no PR making them appear like uber-heroes, this book is for you. Read it. I know you'll love it ... or else! ;P
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
692 reviews3,242 followers
July 20, 2020
A rock giant, a Ratarian wizard, a half-elf, and a dwarf-halfing walk into a bar . . .

The Part About the Dragon was (Mostly) True is another humorous romp from Sean Gibson. I would expect nothing less from an author whose worlds are layered and whose affinity for fecal jokes knows no bounds.

Follow a ragtag team of adventurers on their semi-perilous quest to stop a red dragon from terrorizing the town (village!) of Skendrick, narrated by the vain and condescending bard, Heloise, who holds nothing back in her amusing quips.

Here there be dragons and orcs and the promise of attractive dwarf butts.
Profile Image for carol..
1,504 reviews7,568 followers
Read
January 17, 2022
Sean's an amusing guy. A deal on this book and, honestly, a case of mistaken memory led me to give it a try. Alas; I think I lasted until chapter 8 before calling it quits. Mostly, I was reminded of one of those Saturday Night Live skits that goes on about seven minutes too long, or a toddler after someone let him drink a six-pack of Mt. Dew. To illustrate:

Ultimately, our job is to entertain patrons whom the owners of the taverns in which we ply our trade would prefer to drink heavily... To do that, we obscure and ignore certain facts, particularly the mundane and boring parts of adventuring (with rare and generally perverted exceptions, no one wants to know how and where heroes pee), while taking a little creative license to jazz things up. In this instance, though, I think the boring and mundane parts are pretty entertaining, and you're still welcome to drink heavily while I tell it.

The adventuring group that would eventually answer Skendrick's call for help was undeniably brave, but they were far from legendary, or even particularly experienced. In fact, the group had only recently come together through circumstances that, in and of themselves, would make for an interesting tale, though I'll save it for another occasion. (That's right, printers--there's already a prequel ready and waiting for you; I'm the kind of woman who thinks ahead... or, behind, I guess...and maybe occasionally about behinds, but only if they're really spectacular, and generally only if they're dwarven.) I will, however, tell you about an incident that happened just before they took up the quest to slay the dragon, which will give you some idea about both the group itself and the adventuring life in general."


The narrator switches between the 'bard-epic-retelling;' a what actually happened third-person story; a fourth-wall-breaking, 'bard-telling-the-truth' narrative; followed by (eventually) the actual adventures of the adventuring party. Unfortunately, the tone is what did me in. It's Pratchett, exponential and unrelenting, and sacrifices genuine emotion for laughs. The adventuring party is the least exaggerated and most straight-forward of the styles, and I was hoping the book would settle into their story and leave the framing of the bard behind. When it continued, I didn't.

I included a second of the 'bard-truth' narrative so you can get a feeling for the style.

Many, many thanks to Nataliya who gamely came along on this book adventure.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,848 followers
July 25, 2020
You know those times when you come back from a hard night of singing for your beer, having flashed a smile to melt not just your cohort's hearts, but whole drunken villages?

Yeah, me either, but Heloise does.

At least, that's what she keeps telling us.


This book is exactly what I needed.

Funny, smart, and enough made-up words like turdkey (complete with a full etymology) to keep me roaring with barely concealed snickers and a belly-full of bad puns... not to mention a desire to go back and watch some more Monty Python. :)

LOVE these zingers. It's like MP had a baby with JRRT but without all the endless fascination with food and alcohol.

OH. Wait. It IS endlessly fascinated with food and alcohol. And pronouns. Giants are sensitive, you know.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,306 reviews20 followers
July 22, 2022
Writing a review of a book can sometimes be as daunting as heading out on a quest to slay a dragon so I’m going to approach this one like the 38-year-veteran gamer I am and write it with the assistance of my trusty gaming dice and a pre-prepared set of reviewing statements!

Right, let’s do this.

This book is a... >rolls dice<... deeply affectionate parody of the sword and sorcery fantasy genre. While it’s... >rolls dice<... not quite in the same league as Terry Pratchett, I would... >rolls dice<... definitely place it head and shoulders above any other works of comedic fantasy I’ve read.

The author is a... >rolls dice<... master wordsmith with a... >rolls dice<... hilarious turn of phrase that will leave you... >rolls dice<... chuckling mirthfully into your small beer.

The characters are... >rolls dice<... instantly recognisable to any fantasy lover and you will... >rolls dice<... definitely enjoy spending a few days in their company.

My favourite character was... >rolls dice<... Rummy the half-dwarf/half-halfling and master prestidi... presgit... pretisdi... amateur magician. He’s like... >rolls dice<... everybody’s favourite, slightly tiresome uncle.

The plot... >rolls dice<... moves along at a cracking pace without ever feeling rushed.

The dialogue is... >rolls dice<... no, Paul, that’s too mean, even for you... >rolls dice again<... sparkling with a sly, worldly-wise wit.

I would... >rolls dice<... wholeheartedly recommend this book to any fan of fantasy and/or humour and give it an overall rating of... >rolls dice<... 5 stars! (Note to self: don’t tell anyone you’re rolling D20s...)

I would say that author Sean Gibson is a... >rolls dice<... oh, dear... >rolls dice again but gets the same result<... a sexual deviant who definitely shouldn’t be left alone with small children. Sorry, Sean, but you know you have to go with what the dice say!
January 25, 2021
Flipping loved this fun and sarcastically witty story!

Hear, hear, the tale of unfathomable bravery!

First off, Sean Gibson wrote an immensely funny story for us and I think he did a grandiose job with it, and secondly, from my perspective as a reader, I just ate it up laughing and loving it to bits! It is my semi sound notion to tell you that this book is flipping hilarious and amazing!

The Part about the Dragon Was Mostly True tells the story of a town or village (it is a debatable term hashed out numerable times in this book) that is pestered by a dragon destroying fields and the likelihood of Skendrick. What the townsfolk or villagers need is a solution and there are two choices for debate:

Option 1:

Assemble a band of hearty villagers to confront the dragon, or

Option2:

Hire brave adventurers to seek the dragon’s lair and defeat him cold-heartedly.



Without giving away too much of this fantastic tale, this is how it went down.

↓↓↓↓↓↓↓

There are two versions of this funny nonsensical adventure. One is told by the renowned storyteller and brave Heloise the Bard in italic format, in which the heroes and actions are depicted as such:


“The noble and humble bard recognized that the group before her was formidable indeed, and so she raised them up their prostrate positions, comforted the suffering Nadinta with a gentle touch on her shoulder, and told them that she would lead them to Skendrick, and that she felt deep in her bones that worthy adventurers would prove mighty enough to slay the dragon.”

And then there is the side of the parts of the reality of it all, as the town has chosen option 2 and sent Goodman Drunkman and Goodman Youngman to sell the deal to Heloise in search of the brave!

“The two men looked at each other. The younger one, clearly deferential, nodded to his older companion. “Well, said the older man, draining the rest of his ale, “I’m Goodman Drunkamn, and this is Goodman Youngman. We’re from Skendrick.”
“Seriously?”
“Skendrick is a fine town, a fine town!” bristled the younger man.
“Skendrick is mildly less boring than Borden, which is one of the five most boring places I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to a lot of places,” I replied. “Though it’s a perfectly valid place to be from. I wasn’t seriously-ing your place of origin; I was seriously-ing your ridiculous names.”
“Well, now, Ms. Heloise,” replied Goodman Drunkman, “it may not be so in other areas you frequent, but ‘Goodman’ is a pretty common form of address in many towns around .“
“Oh, come on! You can’t possibly be this thick.”
The two men looked at each other. Youngman’s eyes were wide, and Drunkman just shrugged.
“Or maybe you are.” I sighed, but Drunkman’s attention was on the barmaid, attempting to get her to bring more ale, and Youngman was looking down as he fiddled with a button on his tunic.”


Oh, the reality of it all!

A song is to tell the story of the aid needed in Skendrick and convince adventurers of the greatest opportunity the lands have ever heard of. And so, Heloise the Bard took it upon her to write a jaunty and catchy melody to convince!

(on my blog there is the song listed here.)

And so, a rag-tag team of wanna-be heroes with brave hearts who run into Heloise at an Inn is hired for the heroic deed.

(on my blog there are character cards listed for the heroes here.)

As all wanna-be heroes are in need of coin and fame and possess a natural thirst for adventure, Heloise entertains the notion of taking on this gullible team of misfits and joins them on the way to slaughter the dragon.

Their adventure takes them through swamps and poses mindblowing riddles to get to the dragon, on to encounters with orcs, minataurs, chitinoids, and apelike gormalons (cave dwellers) among the long and treacherous path. And all the while Heloise is beginning to chime in less and less. With every new segment in the adventure, the novel takes on a sense of real fantasy. Left aside most of the initial and hilarious silliness, the characters are beginning to actually work together! They may not be the wiser and keep their silly personalities, but the actions they perform start to resemble that of teamwork. The question is, is that all it takes to save the citizens of Skendrick?


***

I really don’t want to give away much more. This story simply was fantastic. From the cover to the content, I loved everything about it. The premise of Heloise telling the story in italic with chapters that follow about the real deal and the crazy catastrophes was such a neat concept and it perfectly came together. I loved reading about the story once so heroic as in classic tales told, and then wind my way through parables of Monty Python style moments. Simply hilarious.

There are so many funny characters to love and read about. I had such a laugh at the Drunkman’s and enjoyed Gibson’s overall witty and sarcastic humor he brought to this novel. Farmer Benton and Widow Gershon of the town of Skendrick were the first to set the tone of what was to come in this novel during the first town’s meeting and from there it just continued.

From the first moment I feasted my eyes on that awesome cover of that book on Instagram to now, it has become one of my favorite reads this year. If I can tell everyone how funny this book is and make them read it, I will be a happy person. Who doesn’t need a bit of silliness and humor in their life?

So, highly recommended reading by me. 😊

ENJOY

All opinions are my own. Thank you!

More of my reviews here:
Through Novel Time & Distance
Profile Image for Nisha Menon.
67 reviews127 followers
August 2, 2020
My main issue with this genre of fantasy-comedy is that, more often than not, all the promised wit shines at you from the very first line. I know, wow, look who's here to bitch about too much of a good thing. But this can't just be me, can it? I'm going to try a bad analogy here, stay with me. It feels like staring at your cell screen at max brightness, lying in the bed at night, with the lights switched off. It takes a while to adjust. The comedy here kicks in well before the plot and you have no breather between all that humor. I prefer medium humor and more fantasy/plot.

I prefer to be somewhat invested in the story before the humor kicks in, especially in fantasy. I've laughed far more watching "Pirates of the Caribbean" than "Guardians of the Galaxy." I'm not sure everybody will get the difference but that's the best example I can give. Another review of the book mentions that it displays a very Brookly 99 humor, and I agree. It does. Now, this is a very popular sitcom, so I'm certain this book will appeal to the vast majority, sadly I've not quite managed to develop a strong enough taste for this.

Having said that, about 30% into the book, I really started enjoying the ride. I laughed enough to wake up my roommate in the middle of the night reading the swamp bits. And Whiska and Borg are a MOOD. I can so imagine some of these scenes play out on the big screen and it would be legit funny. It's a mad group but you might have to give them some time to grow on you if you belong to my corner of this reading world. But if you're in it for the plot, you're gonna find it thin.

P.S. Also, I'm quite certain we all know a Farmer Benton. And we say we put up with him for the same reasons the townfolks do, he's old and inappropriate and nobody else will. But deep down we know it's because he's a riot.

Thank you, Sean and The Parliament House Press for this ARC.
Profile Image for Blaine.
712 reviews573 followers
August 16, 2022
Every once in a while, though, the truth turns out to be far more interesting than the tales bards tell in taverns; it’s just rare that bards actually know the truth behind the songs they sing, and so the ale-swilling public misses out on some truly epic—or, at least, epically weird—stories.

So read on, brave souls… adventure awaits. And shenanigans. There will definitely be shenanigans.
A reading challenge to read a book connected to the phrase “Here (There) Be Dragons” inspired me to finally read The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True, written by Goodreads reviewer extraordinaire, Sean Gibson. Seriously, check out his review for Ice Planet Barbarians. If I ever write a review that great, I’ll drop the mic and retire from the reviewing game.

The village of Skendrick (or maybe it’s a town—it’s a running joke throughout the book) is under constant attack from a dragon. The villagers/townspeople put out a desperate plea for help from adventurers willing to take up the quest. What they get are a group of wannabes: an elf named Nadi; Whiska, the rude, aggressive Ratarian wizard; Borg, a rock giant reminiscent of Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy; Rummy, the half-dwarf, half-halfling, all-charming street performer and thief; and Heloise, the half-elf Bard and legend in her own mind, who recruits them and then joins them to witness and later tell their story of triumph.

As you would guess from the title, The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True is much more comedy than drama. The narrative is driven by the word play and often sarcastic banter between the characters. The storyline hits beats you’d expect in a fantasy quest novel—wizards and orcs, swamps and bog men (bog people?), impossible riddles and labyrinths, and of course, the dragon. But the novel works better than most similar stories for two reasons. First, it’s constructed so that there are occasional italicized chapters that tell the romanticized, exaggerated, heroic version of the story, while the rest of the novel tells the unromanticized that actually happened. It is a cleverly subversive reminder that much of our “history” has been similarly made over. Second, and probably more importantly, this book is very, very funny, with jokes on literally every page. Recommended.
Profile Image for Alexander Peterhans.
Author 2 books155 followers
April 28, 2021
Mr. Gibson is a very funny man - funny ha ha, not funny peculiar (maybe he's both, if you know him more personally, I can't say). I'm just not sure this book showcases his funniness properly.

Of course there are lots of comparisons with Terry Pratchett, and although the book is quite enjoyable, Pratchett it isn't. The characters aren't as intricate, the humour isn't as layered. It is, of course, an unfair comparison to begin with. A much better comparison is with young Pratchett, his first two books. There Pratchett was more enamoured with the trappings of fantasy fiction, more satirical with them but without the wit that would later become emblematic of his writing. And I think that's where we are with The Part About The Dragon Was (Mostly) True.

It's satire on a surface level, with quick little sidesteps into more layered ideas. It's fun to read, but isn't gripping or interesting enough to entirely hold my attention for the length of a novel. And that comes down to characters that tend to be quite flat, a plot I'm not really invested in, and jokes that aren't strong enough.

Heloise is a perfectly fine narrator, although the joke that we get two versions of the same event (the edited and then the real version) quickly gets repetitive, as does the joke where she big ups herself. Heloise tends to shift focus a lot, which does weird things to the novel's pacing (I hate to keep going on about Pratchett, but he basically hid those sidesteps in footnotes, which for some reason works much better), and becomes actively annoying.

I'm sounding quite negative, and that doesn't feel right - the writing itself flows beautifully, and I am looking forward to mr. Gibson's next book.

(Picked up a copy through NetGalley)
Profile Image for Chad.
7,309 reviews851 followers
February 4, 2021
If you like your fantasy with a heavy dose of humor, this is the book for you. Heloise the Bard has been set with the task of finding a party of adventurers to slay a dragon plaguing a village. Her problem, the town that hired her has no money. So the adventurers she finds aren't very seasoned. She tags along as our party of adventurers stumbles into victory and defeat.

Sean channels some Monty Python along with a dash of Terry Pratchett and a little Robert Lynn Asprin as he brings this story to life. This book is smartly funny as Heloise first tells each chapter with the Bard's tale version followed by what actually happened. I love how Gibson steeps the story in people's (along with orcs' and other mythological creatures) misconceptions turning them on their ear to hilarious effect. I'm very much looking forward to hearing Heloise's next tale.
Profile Image for Jennifer (bunnyreads).
449 reviews65 followers
January 25, 2021
I read this as part of Storytellers on Tour. Thank you to the author and the tour planners for the ecopy!

***

This was a different kind of story for me. I actually don’t read a lot of comedy but I decided to give this one a go because well, for one, I had read The Camelot Shadow by this author and enjoyed it a lot. It’s a great book everyone should check it out (but don’t expect a comedy). And secondly, I follow Sean Gibson’s reviews on goodreads. He is a bit of a nut and they make me laugh a lot.

Like Sean’s reviews this story was fun, sometimes silly, but always entertaining.

Heloise the Bard aims to set the record straight in a humorously verbose tale of one of her past adventures, where the villagers of Skendrick looked to hire on anyone willing to slay a dragon-with prestige as their reward, as the town coffers were on the light-side.

The adventuring party is made up of a diverse (but ridiculously named) collection of fantasy races-Rumscabble Tooltinker- the half dwarf/half halfling prestidigitator. Nandinta Ghettinwood- I actually can’t remember what race she was. Borgunder Gunderbor-the rock giant was my favourite. I got a kick out of how three conversations later he would comment on something they were previously talking about, and everyone just rolled with his slowness. And lastly Whiska Tailiesen- the insult throwing rat-person wizard. Luckily, they all have easy to remember suitable nicknames. And of course, there is Heloise who joined the party as the equivalent of a fox news ‘reporter on the scene’. She is there because she to bring first-hand account knowledge to add that bit of realism to her tale.

There was something about Heloise I liked. Not sure if was the very modest view of herself (said with all sarcasm- I don’t think I have met a prouder character) combined with a little of that dry humour, or what, but she was just different enough from the usual charming sarcastic lead, to enjoy her wit.And I also enjoyed her kind of rambly narrative. It felt a little like the conversations I have with my girlfriend, in the way the non-stop chatter gets easily sidetracked filling in other details while telling the story (I now know how my husband feels listening to us).

We get Heloise’s story in two versions. First the chapter with the jazzed-up bard version, and then the chapter with the what really happened, hilarious version. And these just get more outrageous as the story progresses.



The humour in this book is not always subtle but it is layered. Pay attention because in between the mischievous stabs at fantasy tropes, the word play, and the down-right absurd, you may miss that occasional deeper joke in among the liberal use of bathroom humour that fills in the gaps.

It’s a style that did take me a little while to settle into in the long-form, and not all of it landed with me but others parts- I’m still rolling my eyes and chuckling about days later. Especially, the silly things like that fight with the dragon…which the joke (past the obvious) took me a few pages to sink in but I see what you did there with that deux a machina and I am still snickering over it.

TLDR: Goofy fun. Sit back and let yourself be entertained, as our little adventuring group bickers their way through some very messy situations in their quest to make a name for themselves.



Profile Image for Andrew✌️.
245 reviews24 followers
August 11, 2020
I couldn’t wait to read this book, a new adventure from a character, Heloise, who I really enjoyed in the book The Chronicle of Heloise & Grimple. I have been waiting for a long time to read a story about her and I finally received this ARC from the author.

Let’s come to the story.
The villagers (no, maybe citizens!!) of Skendrick, tired of the attacks of a mighty dragon, decide to hire a handful of heroes to solve the situation, relying on the charming bard Heloise to spread their story in the inns of the region. It won’t be easy to find the desired help, but in the end a handful of heroes answer the call.

Let's talk about the main characters: you know the classic heroes engaged in a noble quest, a common element of classic fantasy? Well, forget them.
The braves who answer the call are a new group of recent formation: an elf, of great skill and courage, a rock giant, a little slow but present when it counts, a wizard with a bad temper and an unbridled imagination for the epithets and, in the end, a half-dwarf / half-halfling, master of prestidigitation.

Before reaching the goal, they will experience a series of hilarious situations, told with verve and in an elegant style, worthy of the bard storyteller. Not everything will go according to plan, but there will be an opportunity to meet strange and original characters, often with unexpected consequences.

The dialogues are also very funny, made even more crazy by the squabbles between the members of the group, which often lead to discussions close to the absurd. The author, through Heloise's scratchy pen, manages to snatch a smile from every chapter, whether it is the description of the citizens of Skendrick or the encounter with an outpost of Orcs.

It’s a story that I really liked, both for the plot, funny, original and told with a light style, and for the characters, each with its strengths and weaknesses, in which everyone will find their favorite.
Profile Image for Vigasia.
386 reviews20 followers
November 10, 2020
The quote on the cover says "if Tina Fey and Terry Pratchett co-wrote a fantasy epic... IT would be a way better than this". Well I am not going to argue because for me Terry Pratchett was a master of literature. However I enjoyed this novel and had a great time reading it. This is a perfect parody of sword and sorcery with a band of diverse characters. What makes it unique is the fact that we could read a perfect bard story and then find out what really happened.

If there is something I'd like to see more is a backstory of every character. They are really interesting and I would like to know what made them choose a life of adventurers, if they have relatives or who they love.

It's good position to fans of Kings of the Wyld and similiar novels.
Profile Image for Mike.
1,101 reviews151 followers
August 18, 2020
I received this book from the author is the expectation of a fair, unbiased review. Which is what follows as I don’t wish to be turned into a glorphid.

Heloise is just as beautiful, smart and courageous as ever, just ask her. Oh yeah, she has joined a few brave companions of interesting heritages in the quest to save Skendrick, a town/village/hamlet/parish/settlement/community from the depredations of a ferocious dragon with unusual eating preferences. Along the way of the standard quest, we have the usual, mostly terrible battles with armies of chitinoids, minotaurs, orcs, tunnel goblins, ogres, etc – well you’ll just have to get the book to see how the battles turn out and who survives….

My favorite was Whiska, who I would like to visit me sometime so I can have her turn some special people into glorphids. I did enjoy the book and we have something to look forward to…what is going to happen to the Doctor?

Oh yeah, don’t be surprised when you see “Mike’s Shish Roundabobs” restaurants appear nationwide. I’m stealing this brilliant culinary invention. Gonna be rich!
Profile Image for Celia.
Author 6 books470 followers
February 4, 2021
This was the most fun I've had reading a book in a long time. I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to read this. I loved the humor, I loved the writing. The pacing was good, characters were ones to root for. If you're into humor, and a book that basically makes fun of itself, this is the one for you.
Profile Image for Shannon.
469 reviews56 followers
January 26, 2021
I loved this so much! So much fun, and I love the mix of fantasy and humor. This one had me laughing out loud, and I can't wait for more adventures with Heloise! :)
Profile Image for Cindy Newton.
600 reviews127 followers
December 30, 2020
I feel like I'm late to the party because I actually received this book during the summer. After I realized that it had been languishing in my inbox, overlooked, for a month and a half, I began this hilarious romp of a tale. It was abruptly interrupted by Life in the form of the last semester of grad school and teaching in a pandemic. Halfway through at that point, I was forced to put it aside, regretfully. Finished with grad school, on a break from teaching the germ-ridden children, I was able to finish it.

This is my second experience (and journey) with Heloise, and both have been rambunctious rides, indeed! Heloise's smart mouth routinely produces snarky gems and gets her into trouble from time to time, as well. Her companions, a diverse bunch, all with their own special talents, provide endless opportunities for Sean's rapier wit to shine. The tone of the entire quest is, as has been observed, very much in the style of Monty Python. I also see it compared to Terry Pratchett but I have to confess: I have never read Terry Pratchett (please don't judge!!). He's high on my list for 2021. However, I do know enough to know that such a comparison is definitely a good thing.

I have extolled the magnificence of Sean's writing for years now. His vocabulary is incomparable and his prose flows like the smoothest of silk. The humor is sharp and on-point, never missing a beat. It is effortless and permeates every interaction.

So if you are looking for a story with magic, fantastical creatures, battles, swamps, dragons, caves, friendship, REALLY bad smells, loyalty, and above all, humor, you have just achieved your dream! Kick back and enjoy! Hats off, Sean, to another comedic masterpiece!!
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
650 reviews90 followers
December 18, 2020
Thank you to the Parliament House for having me on the book tour for The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True! All opinions are my own!

This is a comedic fantasy, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail in book form, with a few more talking rocks. So Heloise the Bard is telling the epic tale of a band of adventurers that slayed the terrible Dragonia, who terrorizes the village of Skendrick…

.. Well, kind of.  This book is her account of what *actually* happened.  It is a look at the less glamorous parts of adventuring including vegetable eating dragons, pooping in swamps, rock giant rectums, orc hookups, idiotic peasants … Yeah you get the point hahahah.

The characters were a mixed group. There is an overly-foul mouthed rat wizard, a rock giant, a half elf, a half halfling-half dwarf, and a full elf.  They are each pretty touchy and incompetent at times.  I liked the rock giant the most, and found Heloise super annoying! She just was not funny to me.  The rest were!

Some parts were really quite hilarious, others not so much.  The only other thing I have read like it is Kevin Hearne’s Kill the Farm Boy series, which was a bit more clever and had more puns.  Heloise uses a lot more toilet humor than dry wit.  It is definitely not a boring book though, regardless.  I would recommend for fantasy fans looking for a laugh, or those searching along the lines of Monty Python.
Profile Image for Allie.
137 reviews126 followers
December 9, 2020
Sean Gibson is one of my favorite book reviewers on Goodreads, so I was thrilled and grateful to get an ARC of his comedic fantasy caper, The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True.

With nods to Monty Python, Terry Pratchett, and Piers Anthony, the story follows a band of inexperienced adventurers who endearingly bumble their way through one fight after another in search of glory (and a paycheck). After fleeing a double-crossing wizard, the dysfunctional band is recruited by Heloise the Bard to take on their biggest challenge to date: a dragon.

The story is narrated in the first-person by the lovely and unerringly modest Heloise, who shares the heroic “official” version of the group’s adventures with the reader and then breaks down the actual events as they happened. As she pointedly says:

“I don’t just break hearts, people—I break fourth walls.”

Personally, I’m convinced that Heloise is Sean’s alter-ego. (If you don’t believe me, check out the photo of him in red stiletto boots on his GR profile. Heloise would totally wear those boots when performing on-stage. Also, both he and Heloise frequently reference their own asses.)

The group is a mixed bunch: there is Nadi, the brave eleven leader; Borg, a slow-moving but riddle-solving rock giant; Whiska, a cantankerous rat (Ratarian) wizard; and Rummy, a dwarf-halfing who conjures coins from people's ears. Characterizations were amusing, although my favorite was sassy seven-year-old Betty Sue/Etty Loo, who only plays a minor role in the book. There isn't a ton of character development, and I had trouble at times visualizing the group, but that's probably my fault. (I think Whiska would look a bit like the rats of Nimh, but less well-groomed, and Nadi was definitely a Liv Tyler type.)

The group takes on a series of foes en route to the dragon—orcs, bog people, goblins, a flatulent minotaur—as they learn to work together as a team. (If I’m being honest, they generally don’t have much success in any of these encounters, but any fight you can walk away from is a win, right?)

Along the way, there is plenty of snarky dialogue, lots (and lots) of puns, some death-defying battles, a fair amount of drinking, and some mild flirtation between Heloise and...well, everyone. In the end, their solution to dealing with the dragon is inspired AND non-violent. It's a win-win! And we all need more of those right now.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys light fantasy and Sean’s reviews.
____________________________________________________________

As a side note, my favorite bit of dialogue was a clever twist on the fake news narrative, as thoughtfully discussed by Etty and the team:

Etty nodded vigorously. “I learned it in my Certainties class. Certainties is where we learn about things that are factually true. Factually means they’re real.”

"Yes, as opposed to unfactually true,”
I replied, sarcasm present in, though hopefully not dripping from, my voice.

“Right,” replied Etty, missing the subtext entirely. “You don’t always have to have facts to say true things. The President of our tribe says so, and that everyone who says anything different is just saying fake things.”

“But how do you distinguish fake from truth without facts?”
asked Nadi.

“Truth is just stuff you know is right. Facts are little bits of information you can use if they fit the truth you want to say is not fake.”
Profile Image for Cyndi.
2,310 reviews95 followers
October 9, 2020
Okay my fellow readers of the fantastic, the fantasy and the fun, don’t miss this epically epic! We have a band of adventurers led by the glorious Heloise. (Well, maybe not led so much as went along with) She is the magnificent Bard who relates the whole story truthfully, (well, maybe not completely true. It’s hard to find words that rhyme, you know) They set out to slay the dragon no matter what kind of dangers (?) they may face.
This is a tremendously fun book that will take you on a trip with a fun group of misfits. This book would make an excellent tv show! “Hello, Netflix?” If only I knew important people.
Profile Image for John McGinnes.
134 reviews
April 2, 2021
My first impression after about six pages was "Damn it! I'm going to have to find and read everything this guy has ever written! AND I'll have to read everything he writes in the future! Why has he given me this insurmountable task? How dare he! I have things to do!"

Continued reading brought me to thoughts like "There's no way it's going to be this compelling and funny all the way through, right? What about those 'things to do' I was worried about earlier? I'll never get to those if I can't put this book down! (And not for the usual reasons of accidental Super Glue exposure).

By the end, I had come to terms with...BEING MORE MAD THAN BEFORE! "It WAS funny all the way through! Some of the end bits were even funnier than the beginning bits! It even had funny pantomime humor! And funny name humor! And funny description-of-smells humor! It had all the different types of humor! Now I'll have to read everything Sean Gibson has written and will write for the remainder of time. That's all there is to it! Sorry 'Free Time' you have been traded for chuckles."

The serious review-This was a fantastic story with lots of funny moments and exciting adventure! My mother recommended this to me (and even secured a signed copy) proving once again that she knows all the best books. I'm very glad that I read this and will definitely (happily) be reading more in the future by Sean Gibson!
Profile Image for Simoné Eloff.
176 reviews25 followers
January 16, 2021
ARC received via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

I had quite a tough time rating and formulating a review for this one for various reasons, but chief among them would be the fact that I don't generally go in for humorous novels all that often, and when I do, I'm extremely discerning about whether or not it works for me. The answer to that in this case is: on the whole, it does.

I've seen Sean Gibson's reviews on Goodreads many a time before, and I always marvel at how seemingly effortlessly he manages to weave together sentences that capture a moment or feeling or idea through a deliciously witty lens. Thus, when I saw this ARC on Netgalley and recognised his name, I was intrigued, and even more so when I read the summary.

Very often, humour writers fall prey to "trying too hard", and I was pretty much convinced that Gibson would too. Me being a pessimist. But, here it is again: on the whole, he didn't. I genuinely snorted out loud more times than I could count, and I have a connoisseur's appreciation for his double entendres and punny character names. The characters were all also really well-rounded and distinct, and I found myself visualising the band of adventurers in the finest detail, down to being familiar with the way they would act in different situations, which I loved. I absolutely see the comparison to Terry Pratchett (who, aside from Douglas Adams, is the only humourist I rank anywhere near my list of favourite authors), and I think with some more books and a few more years' seasoning and wisdom-gathering, Gibson can really be counted up there too.

In the case of this book (honestly, the title is way too long to type out), the thing that kept me from rating it higher was what I felt to be a disproportionate emphasis on jokes of an excremental or sexual nature. I need to make it clear here: in the same way I like my food, I myself can get quite salty. I am often crude and below the belt in my humour, and I love a good bawdy character. But again, like with food, too much saltiness, or saltiness in the wrong place, can ruin a thing. There were moments where I thought that the highly intelligent wit that permeates the rest of the book was diluted by someone's bowels doing something icky for the umpteenth time. Had this toilet humour been spread out throughout the book and used in choice moments, it would have worked perfectly - and it really did in some instances - but it just ended up being too much.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the crap out of this, and I can really say I haven't read anything similar in recent years, so I'm definitely excited for the next installment.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
10 reviews30 followers
March 12, 2022
Note: The profane version of this review is here.

I'll admit I had my doubts. It's hard not to doubt a book described thus:

Is this the best mediocre comic fantasy about a self-styled legendary bard and four neophyte adventurers aiming to take on a very unusual dragon on behalf of a bunch of dim-witted villagers?


Books that describe themselves the way The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True describes itself can go a couple of ways: they can be amazing, or they can be total disasters written by the barely literate. However, I've never been able to pass up a free book, so I jumped at the chance to win a digital ARC for The Part About the Dragon. I'm glad I did, because the book is hilarious, self-aware, and definitely not above skewering the men who usually inhabit high fantasy. If Brooklyn Nine-Nine suddenly got plopped into a fantasy world, this would most likely be the result. My love for this book is probably at least partially fueled by my overwhelming need to read something that is not Dune, but who cares? The book is great either way. It even managed to get in a Harry Potter reference, to which I said TEN POINTS TO GRYFFINDOR.

The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True relates the story of Heloise the Bard, a mind-blowingly vain half-elf who finds herself inextricably linked to a group of inexperienced adventurers attempting to slay a dragon. The group comprises Nadinta Ghettinwood, an elf; Rumscrabble Tooltinker, a middle-aged half-dwarf half-halfling with a thing for magic tricks; Borgunder Gunderbor, an incontinent rock giant; and Whiska Tailiesen, a giant talking rat with magical powers and no manners. (This probably goes without saying, but Whiska was my favorite character.) Though she tries to extricate herself from their company, Heloise ends up tagging along with the group, and accompanies them while they rethink some orc-related stereotypes, slog through fertilizer-scented swamps, burn all their clothes after trekking through said swamps, turn their brains inside out trying to answer impossible riddles (spoiler alert: there is no answer), fight a minotaur with IBS, and confront Melvin, the dragon who inadvertently kick-started their quest. Through it all, Heloise – in her official capacity as bard – tells the two stories that make up the book. One is the glorious, non-socially-conscious high(ish) fantasy version of events, in which everything goes smoothly and orcs are Bad and elves are Good. The second story tells a different version of the first, a.k.a. What Actually Happened.

Probably the best thing about the book, aside from its humor, is the glee with which it shoots down men who need to get with the times. Misogyny and racism are called out repeatedly. Chauvinism is rewarded with ridicule. The one man who tries to blame his village/town's problems on the woman who refused to sleep with him is promptly shut down. This exchange may mark the exact moment I sold my soul to this book:

"While we appreciate your opinion, as always, Farmer Benton," replied the Alderman smoothly, "I'm quite sure that it's not the Widow Gershon's unwillingness to, ah, lay [sic] with you that's causing the dragon to attack. As such, burning her at the stake is unlikely to resolve our situation."

"Ach! How much do ye ken fer suren? Might culd be her monthly bleed!"

"I haven't had a monthly bleed in fifteen years, you tiny-todgered pig lover!"


LAAAAAAAAWL. I need to be friends with Widow Gershon, though I'm pretty sure she'd call me a harlot. Then there was this:

"[Heloise] had a real nice can, too, if it's not improper to say," continued the man.

"It actually is," replied the Alderman. "Exceedingly improper, in fact."


And this, which comes very very close to being the best dang line in the book:

"Ah, yes, well, no one means to suggest that the racial heritage of our good heroes would be in any way an impediment. After all, we here in Skendrick draw great strength from our, ah, diversity of, ah, um, well, our diversity of points of view, I suppose." He surveyed the all-white, all-human, mostly male, universally stupid assemblage.


Of course, none of this is to say that the book is perfect. It was sprinkled quite liberally with typos, which I noted and will attempt to force onto the appropriate authorities. I liked Heloise overall, but there were a couple of points where she was just a liiiiiittle too questionable, such as her attempt to create humor by telling the rest of the group they were going to die. It's true that their odds of defeating both a minotaur and a dragon weren't amazing, but they'd just won a battle, and that seems like a pretty crappy thing to say in the aftermath. Nadi does call her out for it and she does somewhat recant her statement, but her "apology" doesn't actually include the words "I'm sorry," and I'm not sure I would've accepted it in their place. And, as much as I love the last line I quoted, it does make me wonder: How diverse is this world? The main cast represents many different species and is diverse in that respect, but the humanoid characters all seem to be white. Will there be humanoid characters from other parts of the world in future books? I sure hope so, because otherwise that "all-white" line is going to fall flat on its face.

Overall, however, I didn't have any major issues with the book, and I can't wait to get my hands on a physical copy. This series and this world have a lot of potential, and I'm excited to see what Gibson does with them.
Profile Image for Paula W.
336 reviews70 followers
March 14, 2021
I just realized I never properly reviewed this, because my 2020 sucked like nobody’s business. I seriously thought I had already done this. Better late than never. I’m so sorry, Sean Gibson.

Either you love Heloise or you don’t. Either you get Sean Gibson’s humor or you don’t. It’s as simple as that. It’s a fantasy that is a parody of fantasy books with a lot of Monty Python humor and sexual innuendos on top of a vocabulary lesson and semantics about the difference between a town and a village. There are super long sentences, with commas and semicolons and dashes and hyphens and parentheses because that’s what he does. It’s nerdy, it’s geeky, and it’s amazing.

I love Heloise. I also love elf butts because of her (who knew?). And I will read every single thing this author writes and gives me the opportunity to read.

It’s good. Pick it up and have a laugh or two. We all need it right about now.
Profile Image for Annerlee.
237 reviews46 followers
January 30, 2021
Definitely worth picking up. Quirky and funny with some attractive (and not so attractive) characters, many a bad but smirkworthy joke and some memorable scrapes to get in and out of. Enjoyable if you just go along for the ride and don't take it (and yourself) too seriously.
Profile Image for Hobart.
2,271 reviews55 followers
March 15, 2022
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
---
I am, if not the most well-known bard in Erithea (yet), arguably the most talented, and unarguably the cleverest. I also wouldn’t quibble if you suggested that I’m the most beautiful, but that’s just because I’m very agreeable (and beautiful)...

Decades ago, I was sworn to secrecy regarding the true story of the great and terrible “Dragonia,” but recent developments have released me from that promise, and so I can finally tell the tale.


WHAT'S THE PART ABOUT THE DRAGON WAS (MOSTLY) TRUE ABOUT?
This is that true story about Dragonia, told alongside the "official" account so the reader can see how the details were adjusted and tweaked to create the story everyone knows.

The town (or village, depending on who you ask) of Skendrick is being terrorized by a dragon—crops are being ruined, trade is disrupted, and the town is about to fall apart. Desperate, they put out a call for adventurers to come and kill the dragon. But they get no takers—so they go to Plan B. The villagers (or townspeople) pool their meager resources to hire a bard. This bard is to compose a song to make the attempt to kill the dragon sound appealing enough—and its treasure (which may or may not actually exist) enticing enough—to get a band of adventurers to come.

This is where Heloise comes in. She takes the gig and soon gets a new and yet unaccomplished band of adventurers to take up the call to action. I don't want to get into describing the group, you want to meet them in the book.

They encounter difficulties from without and within; nasty, malodorous geography; orcs and other creatures; and, well, the dragon.

HELOISE THE BARD
“You’re not half as funny as you think you are, as I suspect you have a very high opinion of yourself.”

“My opinion of myself is in direct proportion to my amazingness,” I said sweetly.

The half-elf, Heloise the Bard is our narrator—as you can tell from the quotations above, she has a fairly high opinion of herself and her abilities. She's also rather impressed with her hair and certain other physical attributes. Probably her greatest skill is self-promotion.

She decides to accompany the adventurers, to chronicle their journey and the outcome of their clash with the dragon. Her wit and quick thinking prove valuable to their effort and her particular set of skills make all the difference.

She is a hoot. It'd be easy for Heloise to be an annoying, over-the-top character, but somehow Gibson keeps her as an entertaining, over-the-top character. I've been trying to come up with a character to compare her to, and I'm failing. Maybe she's the Fantasy version of Evanovich's Lula, except Heloise has the skills that Lula thinks she has. Maybe she's the equivalent of High Fidelity's Barry. Somewhere in the Venn Diagram featuring Fantasy, Lula, and Barry, I guess.

She appears in a couple of other books by Gibson, and I'm eager to spend some more time with her.

THE HUMOR
The section could easily be merged with the previous one because the humor displayed in the book is primarily Heloise's. The jokes are pretty much non-stop—even in the middle of fight scenes, or when death is nigh. The danger is still present, and the combat (and so on) is as deadly as it would be in another book—it's just surrounded by laughs.

It didn't take me long before I'd highlighted too many lines to quote—not that it stopped me from going on. My notes on this one are ridiculous. I kept chuckling throughout the reading. I probably would've finished the book in 2/3 the time, if reacting to the jokes didn't make me stop reading for a moment.

If you've read The Tales of Pell , you've got a good idea for the pace of the jokes—and tone of the book, too.

There's slapstick, there's scatological humor, a great Meatloaf (the singer) line, some fantastic bursts of alliteration for the sake of a laugh, some general silliness, clever dialogue, and...honestly, I'm having a hard time thinking of a kind of humor that's not in there. There's a running gag (that I've alluded to) throughout about whether Skendrick is a town or a village—I can't tell you how often it's brought up. And the joke works every time—I should've gotten sick of it, and I never did. I don't know how Gibson pulled that off, but that alone is the mark of a fantastic humor writer.

In addition to The Tales of Pell, if you've enjoyed Christopher Healy, Dave Barry, K.R.R. Lockhaven, Peter David, Scott Meyer, Joe Zieja, Jim C. Hines' Jig the Goblin series, or John Scalzi—you're going to dig the humor here. And if you dig the humor, you're going to really enjoy the book. It's that simple.

SO, WHAT DID I THINK ABOUT THE PART ABOUT THE DRAGON WAS (MOSTLY) TRUE?
You know by this point that one of my main goals in telling this story is to show that the adventuring life isn’t all it’s thought to be. It’s mostly boring, frustrating, dangerous (though not excitingly dangerous), smelly (dear gods, so smelly), and not particularly lucrative. Occasionally, however, it’s exactly how the songs make it sound, and in those moments, it’s easy to see why people—even smart, capable people like Nadi—would devote their lives to doing something so irrational. Let the record show that entering a dragon’s lair for the first time is one of those moments, and it’s fair to say that each member of our intrepid band experienced more than a frisson of excitement as we crept across that threshold.

I think it's pretty clear that I had a blast with this book, but I should probably make that explicit. I had a blast reading this book.

I think I should not that this is not a book to read if you're in a "find out what happened and get to the end of the story" frame of mind. This is a "enjoy the trip, not the destination"/"stop and smell the roses" kind of book. The destination/what happens is fully satisfying, but the getting-there is so much better.

In addition to the jokes and the dragon, there is a running commentary on what "the adventuring life" is like outside of the glamorous or exciting bits. A lot of fantasy novels will show bits of it, but not enough of them do—and most don't do it this way. For example, The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True contains more description of various odors than every 99% of the fantasy novels I've read by a significant factor. If this were a scratch and sniff book...well, I can't imagine anyone would stock it—you just don't want that in your warehouse/store. Sure, it's silly talking about realism in a book featuring orcs, halflings, elves, etc.—but this factor does ground the book and give it a seriousness (for lack of a better term) that makes this more than a collection of jokes.

This is the funniest book I've read in 2022, and I can't imagine it'll face much competition. It's got it all, go get your hands on it.
Profile Image for S. Bavey.
Author 5 books26 followers
January 16, 2022
Rumscrabble Tooltinker, (half dwarf half halfling), Nadinta Ghettinwood (an elven woman), Borgunder Gunderbor (rock giant) and Whiska Tailiesin, (a Ratarian wizard) are the unusual group of companions who take centre stage in this novel when they decide to take on the task of ridding Skendrick of its red dragon nuisance. This occurs after they are persuaded to take on the dangerous quest by Heloise the Bard, who they meet in a pub. The tale is narrated by the self-obsessed, half-elven Heloise who spares no opportunity to emphasize her own beauty, assets and talents.

The tale is highly entertaining and caused me to laugh out loud on many occasions. Gibson has a wonderful way with humour and his digressions about shish kabobs and the Emperor’s ‘Newt’ Clothes are hilarious, as are the frequent throwaway comments:

“They say that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but I find that “they” say a lot of things, and I kind of think “they” are smug, know-it-all assholes.”

The tale is told in two ways simultaneously – first Heloise recounts her “official” polished, bardic version of events and then we learn from her the more realistic, haphazard and often hilarious version of what actually transpired complete with all its colourful language:

“What in the name of flaming cockroach anuses was that?!” yelled Whiska, leaping to her feet. “Flaming cockroach anuses?” I silently mouthed to Rummy, who shrugged.

The motley band of brave adventurers take on a multitude of creatures including orcs, bog men and a Minotaur on their way to the mountain on which the dragon lives. They answer riddles, display careless stupidity and occasional cleverness but never lose sight of their quest. Borg the stone giant was my favourite character. His slow wit and talent for dressmaking were incomparable. Heloise became a little too much for me after a while with her incessant insistence on how wonderful she was. Nadi and Rummy were both likeable heroes, and Whiska was gross in a rattish kind of way.

If you like Dad jokes, poop jokes, riddles, snarky creatures and a whole boat load of irreverence then this light-hearted tale of mismatched adventurers might just be what you are looking for!

Equally if you are a fan of DnD type adventures you will love this book. The popular tropes are all here – found family, unlikely heroes, a quest to kill a dragon – add to those a self-obsessed unreliable narrator who is also a talented spin doctor and you have the basis for this story’s plot in a nutshell.

This book was just what I needed to help combat the January blues.
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