GOD OF GNOMES by Demi Harper (BOOK REVIEW)
The Good: I never thought I’d say this, but: gnomes. Genuinely.
The Bad: Not a bad as such, but for those who follow my usual reviews, this isn’t the typical mainstream fantasy, it’s LitRPG. There’s nothing wrong with LitRPG, but don’t come into this thinking its something that it’s not.
The Ugly Truth: God of Gnomes is a story chocked with charm and character – it’s a full-bodied fantasy constructed on a skeleton of LitRPG mechanics, but at its heart there’s a little bit of ‘Disney magic’ with something for everyone.
Review: God of Gnomes is Demi Harper’s debut LitRPG novel, published by Portal Books.
And it’s bloody awesome.
For full disclosure: Demi Harper is a pen name of Laura M. Hughes, aka @halfstrungharp. She’s the Queen Bee here at the Hive, and she’s a close friend of mine. These did not factor into my decision to give this book…
5 stars. And I genuinely fretted over this decision. Should I give it 4 stars, because I know Demi? Am I being biased?
Lol, no. We give each other enough sh*t for me to be comfortable giving her a ‘true’ rating, and I’ll be damned if I score a book based on anything other than its own merit. (Though large cash sums might persuade me otherwise.)
(Fun fact: 5 is the same number of hours it takes Demi to eat lunch. 1 is the same number of wines it takes before she’s swaying beside the buffet table, snacking on finger foods trying to level-off. Do the math. It’s a long day.)
God of Gnomes is the story of Corey (yay for rhyming) a newly formed ‘God Core,’ who must learn to master his newfound powers and protect his worshippers from those who would do them harm. Sounds easy for a god, right? If only it were that simple. Corey’s isn’t a ‘god’ but a ‘God Core’, which is essentially a lump of pretty rock (think: crystal). And as he learns of his omnipotence, so too does he discover his denizens’ incompetence. They’re gnomes. And gnomes in Corey’s world are as hopeless as they are helpless. So, when kobolds raid and kidnap the gnomes, and a band of roaming adventurers get too close to their settlement for comfort, it’s down to Corey to save not just his worshippers, but his own skin – stone? – too.
First off, let me start by saying that LitRPG isn’t my ‘usual thing’. That’s not meant as ‘genre snobbery’, it’s just that the particular sub-genre isn’t the first thing I’d go for when choosing what to read next from Mount To-Be-Read. If I wanted to read a book on ‘game mechanics’ I’d read the instructions for a game I want to play. In previous experience, some of the LitRPGs I’ve read have sacrificed worldbuilding for the sake of ‘rule building’, character development for ‘levelling up’, and the good old hack and slash of combat for ‘maths and ability modifiers’.
God of Gnomes has all of the above. And you know what? It works. Which is why when I say I enjoyed this, I really enjoyed it. It has rules, and mechanics, and level progression, and yes a little bit of maths (a teeny tiny amount), and still I enjoyed it. They are part of the story, like a magic system a la Brandon Sanderson, and while they’re very much key to how things play out, you don’t need to reference a glossary, or ‘game manual’ to follow what’s going on.
And because of how well put together the RPG side is handled, the Lit side had even more of a chance to shine.
*?Shine bright like a diamond – or a God Core ?*
God of Gnomes is filled with character and charm. The story is straightforward and simple, and it’s the missteps along the way that make this a tale about the journey and not just the destination. Its not a big, bold, badass fantasy, but nor does it pretend to be. Rather than reach for ‘epic’ it rocks out as an entertaining romp, brimming with enthusiasm enough for all. It doesn’t only appeal to either LitRPG or general fantasy fans – it has something for both, and with plenty left over to entertain readers new and old.
It’s the gnomes that steal the show. Introduced as bumbling idiots, their shallow existence has a depth which Harper plumbs throughout the tale, and by the end it’s their story which warms the heart.
Other mechanics like the God born creatures, Corey’s abilities, and constructing new buildings, make for an entertaining subplot to the main story. And dare I say it, I actually enjoyed them in God of Gnomes, where in other LitRPGs I’ve been happy to skip these bits.
But the real star here is Harper. Don’t tell her I said this (she’ll never let me forget it), but she’s a bloody brilliant writer. She perfectly captures Corey’s voice, and brings the gnomes and various creatures into life with authenticity and originality. I didn’t think I’d like a story about Gnomes – gnomes, REALLY? – and truth be told, I didn’t like it.
I loved it.
(Don’t tell her that bit either).
Even the maths bits.