Esmes Indie Highlights/SPFBO: Chaos Trims My Beard by Brett Herman

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This book is part of Fantasy Factions grouping, and so far doesn’t have official feedback yet, but on Goodreads Laura Hughes said:

This book was way more entertaining than it had any right to be. Lots of spelling and grammatical errors that would have been fixed with a basic copy edit, but plenty of laugh out loud moments that more than made up for the rough edges. Full SPFBO review to come on Fantasy-Faction!”

This will appeal to people who like non-human protags, fantasy noir, and are looking for something wildly different. I’ve never read anything quite like it before and it was such a nice breath of fresh air.



The book starts out with the Ratman interviewing Edwayn (main character) about a series of events that happened recently that lead up until that moment. Edwayn is speaking in front of a recorder and starts to tell his story. He was working as a caterer when some asshole ends up lighting himself on fire – but not just a normal fire – it looks like this was murder and that’s the last thing Edwayn feels like dealing with.

He has to chase this fire guy all over the manor he was catering for until finally the guy dies.  He ends up getting blamed for what happened and lands in a lot of trouble with his employer.

After he loses his job he finds a ghostly looking girl who wants to hire him to kill her. Elana is totally serious that she’s tired and wants to die, but can’t figure out anyone who can do it. Since Edwayn recently helped dispatch the guy on fire, she thought maybe he could help her.

As it turns out, when a person is consumed by elemental magic it’s called being “overrun”, and the Ratman wants Edwayns help during his investigation of why there’s a sudden increase in “overruns”. They are usually rare events but there have been 11 in the past week, all “fire-overruns”, and 10/11 are police officers – and so the meat of the story begins.

Final Score: 8.5/10


  • Edwayn – the main character and a dwarf. His beard is almost a character in and of itself it gets referenced and used so often, and Edwayn is also rather protective of his beard – really pisses him off when someone tries to light it on fire. He’s a caterer when the book starts out, and from the sound of it has been job hopping and getting fired frequently. He has an awesome self-deprecating sense of humor that landed for me rather than feeling angsty. He’s a fan of pockets and magicless culture and lifestyle – he reads a lot of books on the way things were before the “elves infected everything with magic”. Since he’s only a half-dwarf he doesn’t really fit in anywhere, dwarves will usually greet each other, even strangers, with open arms and go get a drink with each other, but not with Edwayn because he’s clearly half human.
  • The Ratman, or “This One” or Venrick the Unabashed. Since he is one of 1600 siblings in his family, he refers to himself simply as “This One”. He’s very odd, but it seems like most rat people are. He wears a bowler hat and carries a gun, and seems to be a rather no-nonsense kind of character.
  • Elara – Ghost girl that needs help, Edwayn tries really hard to just nope out of it, but she convinces him to help her. She’s actually a suicidal ghost-like entity and wants to hire Edwayn to kill her.

Final Score: 10/10

World Building:

  • Elves are almost all tall, lithe, and gorgeous – and if there enough of them in one room the rest of the crowd sort of gets mesmerized. They have long lifespans
  •  There are other typical fantasy races like Ogres, Orcs, Trolls and Dwarves
  • Magerock is a popular decorative stone that people use because it absorbs magic. It serves a few purposes, one being security – no one covered in an illusion could enter an archway made of magestone and have their illusion stay in tact.
  • Magic is everywhere in this book, it integrates with the every day mundane things, like going places in a building. There’s a magical air current in most buildings that whisks you away to where you want to go just by thinking about it
  • New Sketlin is the city where most of the story takes place, and it was well realized. It was described as a city of bridges where all of the bridges that connect the buildings are just as much a part of the cityscape as the buildings


Final Score: 8.5/10


I blew through this book fairly quickly. It took me a little while to adjust to the main character since he was so different from anything I’ve read this year – but once I did this was a page turner for me.

I think with a solid editor this would have been a 5 star book, but because there were a bunch of spelling and editing errors it ended up being a 4 for me. That said though, I loved this book – it didn’t detract from my enjoyment, but I couldn’t give it 5 stars.

The tone was light, funny and adventurous – all of my favorite things. The self-deprecating sense of humor really hit home for me, the language was modernized but it worked well because it was a more modern setting with fantasy races in it.

Pacing Final Score: 8/10

Writing Final Score: 6/10 


This is one of the most original books I’ve read in a long time. The world building was unique, the character was totally unique, and I can’t say I’ve ever picked up a fantasy noir.

Final Score: 10/10


  • For people who like single POV
  • For people who like non human POV
  • For people who like traditional fantasy races
  • For people who like comedy in their fantasy
  • For people who like noir
  • For people who like lots of magic
  • For people who like books with a lighter tone


Final Total Score: 51/60 or 8.5/10 or 5 stars on goodreads

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