With a title like that this book should have been divine. But was it a demon to read? Jobby reviews The Quest for the Holy Ale by Gene Rowe & Andrew Schofield (ISBN: 978-1-906050-96-2 Melrose Books)
Bit of a long one…
The Quest for the Holy Ale is a fantasy comedy very much moulded in the style of Terry Pratchett. However, unlike Mr Pratchett’s reads which are never overly long and are often a quick read, this is a good 512 pages of itty-bitty print. It really should have been a 700-odd page book. This, I suspect lies in its origins of being printed by a vanity publisher (I know, I used to work for Melrose Books!*) so it was squeezed into this extent to save on printing costs.
A Tale of Two Pubs
Basically this is the tale of the rivalry of two village pubs. The Bear (from whence our heroes hail) and The Pilgram (watering hole of the evil Hull’s Angels). After the rivalry gets out of hand The Bear is left with nearly no customers or premises. The heroes go off on a quest to find the recipe for the Holy Ale so they can bring it back and win back all their customers. Of course, they are pursued by the Hull’s Angels from the rival pub who are intent on stopping them.
It takes the authors over 145 pages so it does take quite some time for the action to get going. However, the reading is easy enough I just wish they’d split that initial part of the story into more chapters rather than one enormous one.
On the Road
So the characters trundle off around a comic fantasy world travelling through various lands and generally annoying all the natives as they look for clues to the mythical Holy Ale. These indigenous people include skinny vegetarians, warrior nudists, Zulu-like tribes and librarians. After the heroes have descended upon them, each indignant people set off after the naive heroes like some incredibly long Benny Hill chase scene. A shame books can’t play music!
The characters are good and the plots are enjoyable. The authors have done a good job of intertwining several concurrent plots whilst keeping the reading easy-enough. Terry Pratchett is still far better at this kind of humorous fantasy but then he has had an awful lot more practice.
Unfortunately the book puts me off somewhat because of it’s toilet humour. There is far to much pooh, flatulence and vomit for my normal reading tastes and you get the impression that the authors were behaving like a couple of naughty schoolboys when they wrote this. Truly, a good editor to bring them in line would have done this book the power of good. But then poor editing is a symptom of vanity publishing. Here’s hoping they are found by a real publisher.
* Or take a look at melrosebooks.com for a list of their <cough> bestselling </cough> titles.