Book Review: ‘Game of Gnomes: A Gnome Hope’ by M. J. Northwood

Author: M. J.  Northwood

Originally Published by Critical Tales in August 2021

Review by Miriam Atkinson

M. J. Northwood is back with his high fantasy, darkly comedic series Game of Gnomes and its second instalment: A Gnome Hope. (Seriously I can’t be the only one who hopes Northwood continues with this series purely to see how many gnome-based title puns he can come up with.)

A Gnome Hope sees the return of our favourite criminally-minded gnomes: Gassy, Borty and Turdlet. After failing to stay out of trouble yet again, the three friends find themselves caught in a rebellion to overthrow MagInc and the council. They are joined by Josi, a former kitchen maid and enjoyable side-character from the first novel, now a councilwoman and key main character, as well as her burly half-troll protector Turkey.

I liked that A Gnome Hope featured more female characters, like Josi, who interacted with the three gnomes throughout the story rather than just appearing for a just single scene then disappearing. The Game of Gnomes series is very much Gassy, Borty and Turdlet’s story but I believe this inclusion and wider range of supporting characters will help this second instalment appeal to more readers.

I was delighted to see Northwood’s distinctive narrative style continue into the second novel. The story is told by an informal 3rd person narrator who often gets distracted from the main plot and instead tells the reader the history of a creature or an event that the characters briefly come into contact with. This fun, playful style is very entertaining and it makes the story feel as though the narrator is conversing with the reader. Included in the novel were a couple of fourth wall breaks where the gnomes seemed to be aware that they were in a story. Is this just Northwood having fun or a clue that the Game of Gnomes series is being recounted by one or more of the gnomes at some point in the future?

As stated this book is darkly comedic and it wouldn’t be a Game of Gnomes novel if the gnomes were not walking away unscathed from a terrible massacre they found themselves in the middle of or accidentally yet brutally murdering an innocent creature they had just met (R.I.P Mittens).

In my previous review I was critical of The Necrognomicon’s over use of ‘dirty/crass’ humour. This still appears in A Gnome Hope but the frequency has been dialled back compared to the first novel. The Game of Gnomes series does rely heavily on humour and I was pleased to see that this time there was more of a balance between the different humour types which included: ‘dirty’, dark, absurd and light-hearted. While the novel’s humour may not appeal to every reader, I do believe that there is enough variety for all readers to find something they will enjoy.

While the first novel The Necrognomicon incorporated the idea of H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional grimoire, The Necronomicon, in A Gnome Hope science fiction fans will clearly recognise the parody elements to Star Wars: A New Hope. I’m sure many readers, like myself, will have a lot of fun trying to spot all of the linking elements Northwood included within the story. I especially enjoyed trying to guess which characters would fall into particular roles from the film.

As a sequel, A Gnome Hope manages to continue everything that made the first novel unique but is still able to tell its own individual story. The novel focuses on humour and entertaining its reader. With so many wild details included within the story, I suspect it may take a couple of read-throughs to catch all of them. Nevertheless the book is sure to thrill returning readers and capture the imaginations of new readers to the series.

An Advanced Reader Copy of ‘Game of Gnomes: A Gnome Hope’ and the images used in this review were kindly provided by the publishing company Critical Tales. For more information check out Critical Tales’ website.

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