Trench by Ethan Childress

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Steve Thomas, the author of Klondaeg, does a comedy club type thing where he reviews comedies he’s read both on Reddit and on his co-blog https://www.sfffoolsguild.com. We usually have similar taste in humor so when this one was reviewed favorably I added it to my TBR.

Months later I finally had a chance to read it. This one is fun, you guys.

The prologue had me hooked, it’s a dry humor that was somewhat reminiscent of Adams, but less British and a little less absurd. The prologue is technically an info dump, but I was so god damned entertained I didn’t care at all. I’ll post a picture of the first 4 pages down below as a preview for you guys.

This is a world where the Gods have decided to be “unknowable” and don’t muck about in the lives of the mortals. They mostly watch since gives them more free time and involves less work. Down below on the planet’s surface, the races are struggling to coexist. The dragons came first, and they were both intelligent and wise, and they “discovered” the first few races – humans, elves, and dwarves. Things went horribly awry and all the dragons ended up dead leaving behind the first races to figure things out on their own. Fast forward to the present and there are a plethora of races running around in a murderous rampage including goblins, orcs, and trolls. They generally despise each other for ‘reasons’ and kill each other with abandon.

This is a story of the front lines, deep in the trenches where it’s Dwarf/Elf/Human pitted against the goblins/trolls/orcs. A team of new recruits just arrived at the “Grinder” and are being led by two very hard-to-frazzle and laid back Seargents named Jeremy Miller (human) and Doug Treesinger (an elf whose parents hated him and gave him a shitty name). The new team is quickly introduced to the death trap they’ve found themselves in when Miller brings them to the frontlines and immediately someone is eaten by a ward-dragon. The mission that these soldiers don’t have any choice but to accept is to survive and kill as many of the enemies as possible.

I found the characters to be engaging, they may not be the most in depth mind blowing characters out there – but they were entertaining and endearing. I liked them and wished the best for them and hoped that they wouldn’t end up dead. Miller, in particular, was a favorite of mine, his attitude to being assigned to the Grinder (which has exceptionally high mortality rates) has made him belligerent and frequently makes smart-assed towards his superiors. He treats his company of soldiers as friends instead of subordinates – but that doesn’t mean he won’t make bets on if you’re going to live or not. Brenda Kettleblack was another one that stood out to me, she’s a military engineer, dwarf, and one of the most competent of the new recruits. The old mage who is continuously unimpressed with everything was amusing as well.

The deaths in this book are meant to be pretty funny, and the whole thing is extremely droll. There are a few places where the humor didn’t quite land for me, but I’m not one for dick jokes – I was much more attracted to the almost unintentional humor scattered throughout the book. When a book isn’t trying too hard to be funny, that’s when it’s at its best.

The writing has its own unique style which is hard to do as a debut author. Many of the books I read have a similar style with straightforward prose that although they speed a story along, it also doesn’t resonate with me to the point where I could pick out what author I’m reading based on a sample. I feel like he has a very identifiable style that worked well with me most of the time. Unfortunately, there were a bunch of spelling and misused words, things that spellcheck wouldn’t catch but a copy editor would. It’s the reason this won’t be a 5 star book, there were just too many and it dragged down the score for writing. (-0.25pts/error is how I grade the editing portion of the writing score).

The pacing was pretty on point, things moved along very quickly and it wasn’t exactly a long book, it’s something you could read in one sitting if you had an hour or two. There was always something interesting going on, and even when it wasn’t action the writing was amusing enough to get me to keep turning pages.

Overall, this was a solid comedy read and I’d recommend it to people who can look past some spelling issues. If this gets a copy edit I’ll be revising my score and recommend it to a wider audience. I really enjoyed reading this one and it was a great break from some of the more serious stuff I’ve been reading recently. I’ve been alternating dark and light books and it’s upping my enjoyment of both styles of writing – 10/10 highly recommend.

Audience:

  • military fantasy
  • flintlock fantasy
  • comedy
  • multi pov
  • high fantasy
  • lots of non human races
  • lighter reads
  • quick reads

Ratings:

  • Plot: 12.5/15
  • Characters: 12/15
  • World Building: 13/15
  • Writing: 9/15
  • Pacing: 12/15
  • Originality: 12.5/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 9/10

Final Score: 80/100 – 4/5 GR stars – recommended!

 

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One comment

  1. This opening passage reminds me of Steve Thomas’ “Smite Me Oh Dark One” short story, with the different gods and history of Creation as one big comedy of errors. I enjoyed this style of humor quite a bit so I’ll likely check out Ethan’s book. Nice review!

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