Castle Perilous by John DeChancie
As I mentioned in my last post the Kavita project I did over the last Christmas holiday break has allowed me to see and parse a lot of my ebook library that had previously just been a 50GB mess of files. While sorting through the library the book Castle Perilous by John DeChancie caught my eye, so I picked that as my next book to read. Castle Perilous is the first in the nine book Castle Perilous series. First published in 1988, the lastest book in the series, The Pirates of Perilous, was published in 2015!
While this book isn’t ‘unpopular’, it’s also not really mainstream. Published in 1988, at the time of this writing the book has 71 reviews on goodreads. I don’t use goodreads and didn’t leave a review, but honestly I really enjoyed the book. It is definitely pretty “standard fantasy” in that it follows a lot of fantasy tropes and doesn’t really break a ton of new ground in terms of character development. The setting however is very fun and I’m excited to see how the next few books in the series expand on that setting.
The namesake of the book is the books primary setting, an unimaginably massive castle known as Castle Perilous. Castle Perilous exists in a world outside of Earth and is full of magic. The castle itself was created by magic, and is so expansive and confusing that one could spend weeks lost inside of it. Doors appear and disappear, rooms move, the floor sometimes becomes the ceiling, etc. Anyone that enters the castle will gradually develop magical abilities of some kind. The particular skills are varied (teleportation, conjuration of matter, mind control, levitation, etc), but everyone develops some kind of ability. The most notable thing about the castle though is that it contains countless “portals” to other worlds. These portals appear, move, and disappear seemingly at random. Some are very stable and seem to hang around permantently, but most are only active for minutes or even seconds at a time.
The main characters, a human male named Gene, a human female named Linda, and a towering alien covered in white fur named Snowclaw, all enter the castle on accident via portals from their home worlds. Once in the castle they must learn the intricacies of the castle, what their powers are and how to use them, if they can go back to their own worlds and whether or not they even want to. Within the world of the castle the ex-fiance of the castle’s keeper and top sorceror has banded multiple local armies together to attempt to destroy the castle and release the magic being that was captured to create it. In their travels our main cast of humans and aliens find themselves caught in the middle of this siege.
Is this Lord of the Rings level fantasy? No. Is it the next Game of Thrones? No. Neither the plot nor the characters are terribly complicated (though there are a couple of good reveals that kept me interested). This is a fun book though and a great setting. I’m glad I happened upon it and I’m excited to read the next couple of books in the series.
One parting thought just to keep the review honest. The book (and the whole series) touts itself as “the hilarious Castle Series”. While I think the book was great and it certainly wasn’t too heavy hitting emotionally, I definitely did not think it was “hilarious”. Honestly I’m not sure the author even intended to be hilarious, I think this may be a marketing line that the publisher threw on the book. Or, perhaps, my standards for hilarious books are too high, since when I think funny I normally think of anything written by Douglas Adams. In any case while the hilarious tagline may be misleading, this was a good start to a series.