My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the never-ending warfare between Good and Evil, there needs always be-a Hero-and a Dark Lord. The problem on Evil’s side is that Dark Lord candidates seem few and far between; and when one is killed by the Hero, then Evil simply must wait until the next one is born, which could be centuries. But Evil had a clever idea: it wrote a Manual, a Handbook for the Dark Lord. Problem is, in addition to a candidate being born in the first place, it really helps if said potential Dark Lord can even read the Handbook-and then manage not to forget its stipulations.
“The Dark Lord’s Handbook” is a subtly hilarious tale penned in the mode of a medieval-style high-fantasy. The characters are delightful, caricatures come to life and given some spin to make them individuals, not stereotypes. The background description, locales, and settings are excellently done. I wouldn’t recommend this for YA or younger readers, due to some terminology and situations. However, adult readers will definitely find their fancies tickled as they follow the exploits of young Mordred, the newest Dark Lord, and his evolution into world despot. The journey will take him from the humble village inn of his birth, into an altered reality few could have imagined, as he discovers his true heritage and his purpose in life. Author Paul Dales manages to suspend our disbelief and make the story seem natural, even realistic, thus keeping reader’s interest (whilst we are laughing along the way). The novel works both as a light-hearted epic fantasy, and as a parody of the more laborious works in that sub-genre.
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