Gilbred Guteater

"If Harry Potter bores you, if you thought The Lord of the Rings had too many slow parts, Gilbred Guteater will rock your world."

This quote appears on the back cover of Gilbred Guteater, by David S. Watkins. It shouldn't. Watkins really shouldn't remind the readers that they could spend their time reading something else.

The thirty second sum up of Gilbred Guteater: Ten year old Gilbred Goodeater (yes, Goodeater) flees his clan after killing another child for laughing at him. He accidently sets the evil wizard Lord Elkengarth free from his magical imprisonment. Gilbred goes on to find a mentor and learn magic and fighting. A mercenery, working for Elves, finds Gilbred. Gilbred and the Elves make a last stand against Elkengarth and his orcs (I swear to God.) to keep the wizard from coming to full power. He has sex with an elf warrior. The End. Or is it?

In this novel, Watkins intended to write the literary equivalent of a shoot-em-up video game. Constant action, fast pace, ultra-violent battles. Watkins pushes this as a main selling point of the novel, but it is ultimately what makes Gilbred Guteater a bad book.

God, I don't even know where to begin, so I'll just briefly go over the writing itself. The book has the basic first novel feel, i.e. too much narrative, not enough scenes, not enough dialogue, and not enough detail. All in all, Amateur Hour. But the problems go beyond that.

At its core, a story entails a character that has a goal, which he either does or does not accomplish. Frodo discovers that he has the One Ring, so he sets off to Mount Doom to destroy it. Harry believes that Professor Snape will steal the Sorcerer's Stone, so Harry sets out to stop him.

But in this novel, things just happen to Gilbred, and he goes along for the ride. He's walking along a pond, and just happens to find a magic elven sword, and then just happens to find a cave imprisoning an evil wizard. He accidentally sets the wizard free using the magic sword he just happened to find. Later, he just happens to find someone who can train him in just about everything, and the guy takes Gilbred in, no reason given as to why he would. And on and on. Maddening. This type of moving from one scene to another works in a video game: you walk into a room full of monsters, you kill them all; you drop down into the basement, face more monsters, kill them all; you inch your way into the wine cellar, face more monsters... It doesn't work in a novel.

And Watkins misses the point on what makes successful fantasy, or any successful story. Why do millions of people love Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings? Because people care about Harry and Frodo. They care about Gandalf and Hermione. You cannot write an engaging story without writing engaging characters, and Gilbred Guteater doesn't have one interesting character. Hell, Watkins doesn't even bother to give many of his characters names. The only character with any backstory is Gilbred, and it is barely there.

How can we pull for these characters when we know next to nothing about them? Why does Sierra know so many different things about different lands? Did he travel as a soldier? A mercenary? A tradesman? The reader never finds out. Why do some call Sierra the Silent One? Why does the evil Lord Elkengarth want him captured? Why does Kelly become a mercenary? Why, why, why? These questions need answering. Why should I care one drop about these people? Since Watkins gives me no reasons to, I don't.

Epic battles and heroic men and sexy women and cool magic in and of themselves will not make a story good. You gotta give the reader someone to root for.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Gilbred Guteater by David S. Watkins
Published by: 1stBooks Library; December 2002
ISBN: 140338567X
Genre: Fantasy
Author's Webpage:

About Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy succumbed to leiomyosarcoma on April 1, 2007. The irony of this is not lost on any who knew him and laughed with him. He was the first “official” book reviewer for The Dragon Page Radio Talk Show, and after moving to Arizona, he became a frequent contributor to Cover to Cover, Wingin’ It, Slice of SciFi and co-host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas.

He will be missed.

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