Too Many Curses
by A. Lee Martinez
Nessy is the kobold in charge of the castle of Margle the Horrendous, the latest in a series of wizards she has served. This means that she spends a lot of time dusting gargoyles (some of whom have heroes magically trapped in them), mopping the floor beneath Walter the Wall (who talks in letters made of blood), and feeding Margle's menagerie of monsters such as the Thing that Devours and the Beast that Should Not Be (mostly the results of the wizard's ghastly experiments). It's a lot of work for a tiny, doglike person, but Nessy does it cheerfully and she does it well. At times Margle actually seems almost grateful. Nevertheless, when Margle brings home the seed of a nurgax—a one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple creature that devours the first person it sees after hatching, then imprints on the secondit is Nessy whom the wizard decides to sacrifice. But even great wizards slip up, and when Margle does he becomes the nurgax's first meal and Nessy becomes its mummy.
This book is mainly about what happens after the wizard's demise. Nessy finds herself the mistress of a castle full of the wizard's former enemies, who remain transformed by an imaginative variety of curses. Some have been changed into animals, such as Sir Thedeus the fruit-bat, and one loving couple who exist in the form of an owl and a mouse. Others have been banished to less substantial forms, such as Echo (a disembodied voice), Yazpib (a wizard whose brain, eyes, teeth, and tongue are preserved in a jar of spirits), and Demented Dan (the skull of a psychopath, whose headless skeleton lives a completely separate life as the silent but friendly Mr. Bones). Plus the castle is loaded with non-human and non-living residents, such as the Hanged Man, the Drowned Girl, the Vampire King, the monster under the bed, and a wailing banshee who can only appear to warn of imminent castrophe (such as "saaaaltyyyy soouuuup!").
While many of these folks hope to be released from their curses somehow—if only Nessy can learn enough magic to manage it before another wizard comes to loot Margle's treasuresat the same time they form a quirky kind of family. So when a wizardess named Tiama shows up, demanding to see Margle, it becomes Nessy's mission to defend her family. There's only so much help they can give against a fiend who can kill with a touch of her finger, and who is hell-bent on opening the Door at the End of the Hall which Margle himself feared more than anything else. To save the castle and its colorful cast of curse victims, ghouls, fiends, and living armor, will require Nessy and her friends to confront the power of a demon, a hell-hound who hungers for the souls of the undead, and a power so chaotic that it could destroy the world. Heroism will be found in small packages. And besides dread, suspense, and contests of power between good and evil, their adventure will include a bit of romance and a lot of laughs.
This appears to be the most kid-friendly novel, to date, by an up-and-coming sci-fi/fantasy/horror writer whose other titles include Gil's All Fright Diner, In the Company of Ogres, A Nameless Witch, The Automatic Detective, Divine Misfortune, and Chasing the Moon.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 13+
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