This is a little younger than what I normally read or listen to, kind of middle grade or younger YA, but it was available on Audible Premium and sounded fun, so I tried it. And it was fun! And silly and funny. It had a very casual, humorous style. It made me laugh. I imagine it would be enjoyable for a variety of ages.
But it also had some serious, heavy stuff that makes me hesitant to just call it a fun book. Things like the main character being put into solitary confinement in the pitch black and silence for hours repeatedly as punishment, and he and Lance listening to prisoners being tortured all night. So yeah, there’s fun, but there’s also darker elements. The author took these things seriously, without getting too detailed or bogged down in them, instead of just brushing over them. I think this is why a lot of reviews have said this is more YA than MG, but I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I read harsher stuff when I was in late elementary and middle school (10-13 years old). I think it depends on the person.
Also, both Nigel and Lance had terrible parents. Lance had to flee his home when people found out he was gay, and his parents sicced a bounty hunter on him (so warning that there is homophobia, though not from the main three characters), and Nigel’s mom wasn’t even happy to find out he was alive when he showed up after being banished, just wanted to get him away from her again as quickly as possible. *SPOILER* I didn’t understand the ending with him just going back home and his mother hugging him like it was all good. Was that some sort of alternate timeline? Or was it just supposed to be ok that she treated him like garbage and didn’t care what happened to him earlier in the book? *END SPOILER*
But the friendships were really cute. Nigel and Lance really had each others’ backs, and they were the truest friends either had ever had, especially Lance. It meant a lot to him when Nigel stood up for him. (In my head, I started thinking of this book as, “The Adventures of Nibel and Glance” 😁) And once they realized Eldrak was being unjustly punished, they had her back too, and she theirs.
I liked all three main characters. Nigel was a troublemaker for sure, but ultimately he had a good heart and was a good friend and usually didn’t mean to cause so much trouble. I like that he wasn’t overly perfect, because what 14-year-old is? Lance was a sweetheart, not pompous as he first seemed, just alone in the world and trying to get by, forgiving and loyal to his friends. And Eldrak was a teen who had to grow up fast, which gave her a tough outer shell (well, that and being a gork) and quick-thinking skills, but she really just wanted to help the other two do what was right and get home. Nigel’s little bird friend was pretty great too!
There’s not really any romance, though Nigel is all about the girls and maybe develops some feelings for Eldrak.
The plot involved this trio going on a quest to find a magical relic and then making a long trek to destroy it. There was magic and dragons and monsters. There was even a bit of *SPOILER* time travel, which was really neat and clever for a while (when it turned out certain things that had already happened were because of things they were going to do in the future), but then it kind of lost me and seemed to make less sense at the end. *END SPOILER* And although this is the first in a series, the main plot was resolved. But I’d love to see what these teens get up to next!
I don’t remember much about LotR (I saw the movies when they came out, that’s the extent of my knowledge), but I do know this story parodied that one in a lot of ways, which was fun.
The audio narration by Adam Fuller was great! Very entertaining and enjoyable to listen to. Different voices for all the characters. A British accent. My only small complaint is that he made Lance sound older, but it didn’t actually bother me. I really do recommend the audiobook. (I used the audio cover for my review because I also really like the art!)
Overall, this had some darker moments but was silly and fun with sweet friendships, lots of LotR references, an entertaining story, and engaging audio narration, and I liked it!
Anyone who likes fun MG/YA high fantasy, quests, a somewhat silly style of humor, a touch of heavier/darker elements, Lord of the Rings parody, a bit of magic, and sweet friendship.