I first read Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne in June 2018, and this review was originally posted on my Goodreads account then. Some minor edits have been made to this review.
I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Kill the Farm Boy, so I will not quote directly, just comment in general.
Kill the Farm Boy is an enjoyable romp through a fantasy realm, while also being a humorous yet fond critique of that genre. Dawson and Hearne clearly know what they’re doing in terms of characterization, plotting, and dialogue. The puns and jokes are gold — some totally blatant and others… well, only slightly less blatant. But all of it is funny.
The plot was full of twists and turns, each new development further poking fun at the “usual” fantasy novel storyline. Yes, the Chosen One has to go on a quest, and first has to go through a series of obstacles to get there. The idea of the Chosen One — truly the heart of this novel — was great; Dawson and Hearne turn that whole concept on its head. Basically, being Chosen is probably the worst thing that can happen to someone. If you’re Chosen, these authors remind, you’d better watch out — everything bad is going to come for you. The idea that the Chosen One’s “aura” is particularly dangerous for bystanders because of how many monsters and weird dangers it attracts is pretty brilliant and makes for some entertaining plot points.
But the best things in this book are the characters. I really grew to care about them, and was glad to be along for this strange ride. The team that accompanies the Chosen One is not your average fantasy quest team — there’s a wizard, a warrior, a rogue, a bard (it sounds typical, Dungeons-and-Dragons-esque, but trust me. These guys are way funnier and better). The wizard is a Dark Lord who only wants to live in peace eating artisanal crackers, the warrior wants a rose garden and a girlfriend, the rogue’s mortal enemies are chickens, and the bard has been turned halfway into a rabbit by a witch’s curse. Not to mention Gustave the talking goat…
Characters aside, this book parodies not only common fantasy tropes (elves’ arrogant yet graceful personalities, female warriors’ armor being ridiculously sexy and not protective, the entire Chosen One idea, wizards and witches, etc.) but also parodies and provides commentary on things like “trolls” and internet bros with fragile masculinity, gourmet foods and “foodie” culture, class divides, and more. It’s savvy and clever in the way it’s done, too. Sometimes the humor can be a bit rude, but so much of the time it’s pure, witty banter or wordplay. (They even worked in a sly “one does not simply” reference!)
Overall, this is an engaging and laugh-provoking book, and if you’re looking for a light-hearted fantasy (reminiscent of The Princess Bride or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) this is a book for you!
Overall rating: 8.5/10