Too Many Curses
by A. Lee Martinez
Review by Paul Haggerty
Tor Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765318350
Date: 02 September 2008 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Nessy is the caretaker for the castle of Margle the Horrendous, a truly mad and evil wizard. It's a job that Nessy takes very seriously. Sure, she's well aware that Margle is going to kill her someday. It's inevitable when you work for a great wizard. But in the mean time, it's a good job; it keeps food in her belly and a roof over her head. And she has plenty of people to talk to … far too many in fact. Margle is so absolutely full of himself that he never bothers to kill his enemies. Instead he curses them and brings them to live in the castle. Here there are mice, birds, statues, fogs, disembodied voices, and hundreds of other victims, all doomed to live, transformed, where Margle can gloat over them. Until, that is, the day when Margle makes the one miscalculation that everyone is the castle has been waiting for and is eaten by a nurgax. While everyone agrees that this should break the curses, nothing changes. And so it's now up to Nessy to learn magic, break curses, tame demons, and protect the castle from invading wizards. And she still has to find the time to dust the furniture and wash the floors.
Too Many Curses is a devilishly fun book. The cursed characters are wonderfully insane and poor Nessy, a member of a race perpetually laughed at as being fit for nothing more than being slaughtered by passing adventurers, must somehow rise up and become a hero the likes of which has rarely been seen before. Fortunately, she has common sense, and a firm grip on what is right, what is wrong, and what must simply be endured because it is whatever it is. It's quite apparent that she doesn't stand a chance. She knows this, but this castle is her's to care for, and that's exactly what she is going to do.
When it comes right down to it, Nessy is a calm, peaceful, compassionate, and caring person. And that's so incongruous with everything else within the castle, that only she stands a chance against the darkness that's soaked into the very stones. There are demons, vampires, monsters that could lay waste to entire continents, gorgon haze (a cloud that turns everything to stone), various spells that Margle left behind to protect his home, and a rival wizard that looks to be even worse than Margle.
Can one little kobold overcome all this? Well, she does have all of Margle's victims to help her, in whatever little ways they can. But then, these are the people that lost to Margle in the first place. Not exactly the cream of the crop, and certainly not at their best. But their hearts are in the right place, even if their minds aren't.
This isn't a book about great magic, or even great deeds. Yes, there is great evil here, and somebody has to stop it. But this book isn't about a great hero fighting the good fight. This is a book about a little kobold, doing what she can with what she has, and most importantly, doing what she must … such as reading to the monster under the bed. It gets lonely after all.