Review: The Goblin Corps

Posted: August 29, 2011 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Ari Marmell, Fantasy

If you enjoyed THE CONQUEROR’S SHADOW (EBR Review) by Ari Marmell, then THE GOBLIN CORPS (Amazon) is more of the same. Only sillier. I know, I didn’t believe it was possible, either, but just read the cover blurb: “The few. The proud. The obscene.” Yes, yes he went there.

The source of said hilarity are the main characters, an “elite” group of goblinesque creatures formed by the evil Charnel King for a special mission: there’s a troll, a kobold, an orc, a gremlin, a shapeshifter, an ogre, and a bugbear. Put them all together in their various levels of stupidity and prejudices, mix up a few stereotypes, drop them in the middle of a fabricated training mission with no defined leadership, and out pops a big, crazy mess. But then that’s the point. They’re supposed to be an elite military squad, but it’s really just a bunch of bumbling around. It’s funny. It’s goofy. Eventually everything gets straightened out and they surpass all expectations. Yadda yadda. Until, at last, they learn the real mission they were assembled for.

THE GOBLIN CORPS has some of the same problems that CONQUEROR’S did, the least of which being the unnecessary adjectives cluttering the narrative. There’s also the inconsistent PoV switching, which is usually the result of Marmell attempting to cram as many gags as he can into one scene. The characters of the demon squad sound a lot like humans with few cultural and physical details thrown in to differentiate them. The setting is your usual sword & sorcery world, the magic standard fare. The plot could have been pared down, the middle drags on, and the conclusion lacks real punch. As a result, this book bordered on a mediocre rating. However, despite these flaws, either Marmell is growing as a writer, or his new publisher (Pyr) provided him a good editor to help smooth out his storytelling. Whatever the reason, the result is a marked improvement.

Unlike the inconsistent characterization in CONQUEROR’S, THE GOBLIN CORPS has some characters you’ll enjoy rooting for, whose motivations make sense. Sure they’re the bad guys, and not only do they work for the Charnel King, they aren’t very nice people, either. And yet, Marmell’s characterization is consistent for most of them, and they progress over the course of novel with his signature campy style. It’s kinda hard not to like someone who makes you laugh. Even if said goblin is a jerk.

THE GOBLIN CORPS at first seems like your average dungeon crawl adventure, but Marmell is clever and makes it funny, twisty, and fresh.

By the time I got to the climax I looked back over the book and realized something. It feels like one, long dungeon crawl—and a really exhausting one at that. It includes quests for our adventurers to pick up and deliver magical items. Big, bad bosses who seem impossible to kill, who often require unconventional solutions. The group itself consists of a thief, a mage, an idiot with a club… you get the picture. And, of course, no dungeon crawl would be complete without mocking everyone in typical RPG fashion.

All of this could be stuff you’ve seen before, and therefore THE GOBLIN CORPS may sound like more of the same. And in some ways it is. Except Marmell really is clever. He comes up with some ingenious situations, locations, and some downright sinister bad guys. Of course, don’t forget the twist: our “heroes” are not handsome elves, noble humans, or punt-worthy gnomes. So, maybe, this twisted version is another dungeon worth crawling through.

  • Recommended Age: 16+ for content
  • Language: Unlike his first book, which was pretty clean, this one has ubiquitous profanity, including many anatomically impossible threats
  • Violence: From simple knocking each other around, to a wizard's gruesome magical experiments, to battles with blood and gore, and lots of mean bugs
  • Sex: Referenced a couple of times


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