Review: "Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest" by A. Lee Martinez

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Helen and Troy are just your ordinary, average young Americans who work together at minimum wage jobs in a fast food restaurant.

Well, except for the small detail that Helen is a minotaur and the two have been given an epic quest by a hamburger god. And while details of the quest aren't exactly forthcoming, the duo still sets out on a epic road trip/quest in A. Lee Martinez's comedic fantasy novel Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest.

Along the way, they'll meet a cyclops who will only do battle with people who have purchased a license (enacted to help keep his small town's struggling government afloat), visit a dragon preserve and face pursuit by a group of supernatural bikers who may or may not have our heroes best interests at heart. And that doesn't even take into account the quasi-governmental agency assigned to help our heroes.

If it all sounds a bit absurd and like something out of a Terry Pratchett novel, you're not wrong. Unlike a lot of authors who try (and fail) to channel the humor of Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, Martinez writes a humorous story, poking fun at the pratfalls of epic fantasy and delivering a handful of genuine laugh out loud moments along the way. (This is not a book to be read in company that will look at you oddly if you chuckle, snort or laugh out loud at a certain line, image or clever turn of phrase. Consider yourself warned).

And while Martinez gets fairly close to what Adams and Prachett do (and they make it look easy), he doesn't quite enter the same stratosphere as those two giants. But he comes a lot closer than many other authors I've seen try and spectacularly fail in the attempt.

That's not to say Helen and Troy isn't a fun, entertaining read. It's a mostly hit or miss comic fantasy that, for me, hit more than it missed. Certain threads started to weigh thin over the course of the story, but overall this is an epic road quest worth taking. This mis-matched duo of a minotaur and the popular cute guy delivers some solid laughs and witty observations over the course of the story. And Martinez wisely doesn't dwell long on each of the epic fantasy stops along the way. He allows the jokes to have their moment and not wear thin (in most cases).

In the interest of full discretion, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Orbit (July 16, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0316226432
ISBN-13: 978-0316226431