Review of A Noble’s Quest
by Ryan Toxopeus
If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons, chances are you and your group of fellow adventurers sometimes waded into combat without asking a lot of questions first. Or justified a slaughter when diplomacy fell through. Or found it easier to kill the King’s guards and hide the bodies than face up to some perhaps well-deserved justice.
You did all this in the name of fun and because, as the main characters in your own story, you were obviously the heroes. You saved the world, or at least the town, and if you left a lot of bodies behind along the way, well, that’s the life of an adventurer.
Maybe someone in your group jokingly brought up how your actions must appear to everyone else in the game world. “We’re murder hobos!” But it’s just a game and everyone’s having fun, so who cares, right?
But when those adventures are the basis for a book, as they are here, those ruthless antics are not as simple. As a reader, I expect the main characters to act heroic, work toward becoming a hero, or at least recognize that they’re not heroes at all, but they’re doing what they think is right.
If I had one huge disconnect with the book, it is that while the main characters are proclaimed to be heroic, the book never really addresses that they often act like murderers and thieves, without having any sense that their actions are justified. They’re doing it because they’ve been sent on a series of quests to achieve a secret goal, and they repeatedly talk about these quests in a way that seemed a little too meta for the characters, as if they were aware they were an adventuring party in a game.
One of the main characters repeatedly worries about the group’s seemingly unjustified murders, but eventually has an epiphany in which he realizes they were all justified after all because he was defending himself and his friends. I didn’t buy the logic and I never really felt the characters were heroic.
That being said, the book is well-written and it kept me reading. There’s a good sense of humor throughout and, even though a lot of the world-building is stock Player’s Handbook in many parts, the original touches are clever and engaging. I especially enjoyed a scene of some dwarves dealing with an interesting type of alarm, and any scene that had to do with the Dwarven religion, which seems like a clever, Dwarven take on Christianity.
I think if you approach this book as the account of a role-playing group acting out the lives of Player Characters, you’ll be more likely to enjoy it for what it is. And when all is said and done, I want to know what happens next in this world. Good thing then that the second book, A Wizard’s Gambit, is in the works.