Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt is a humorous fantasy novel based off of the Ring Cycle of Norse mythology. It’s older (published in 1990) but I like reading pulp fantasy fiction, no matter its age.
Full disclosure: I know The Lord of the Rings better than the Norse mythological stories it is based on. Holt provides a very short synopsis of the myths for folks like me and I was grateful for it. Otherwise, I would have not understood what on earth was going on.
Holt is an English fantasy-humorist and, like Pratchett’s many offerings, I enjoy his books but never have laugh out loud moments. I don’t know if the humor is lost-in-translation or what.
I expect that those who are more familiar with the Norse myths and who enjoy subtle humor might really love this rather silly tale of Malcolm and the ring.
There were some memorable lines: “Ingolf eased the plain gold ring off his finger and passed it to Malcolm, who accepted it rather as one might accept some delicacy made from the unspeakable parts of a rare amphibian at an embassy function.” pg 7 Nice.
“The next morning, Malcolm thought long and hard before waking up, for he had come to recognise over the past quarter of a century that rather less can go wrong if you are asleep.” pg 15 Absolutely true in my experience too.
Malcolm figuring out how the Tarnhelm (a hat that can change the wearer into anything) works: “Make me,” he said aloud, “as handsome as it is possible to be.”… He stood for awhile and stared… “We’ll call that one Richard” (he had always wanted to be called Richard). He resumed his own shape (which came as a bitter disappointment) then said “Richard,” firmly. At once, the Most Handsome Man reappeared in the mirror, which proved that the Tarnhelm had a memory, like a pocket calculator.” pg 20-21
The difference between smiles: “The girl looked at him and smiled. Malcolm had come to believe that he was fairly well equipped to deal with smiles, but this was a new sort; not a happy, optimistic smile but a sad, wistful smile. It didn’t say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” like the stock delivery of a Rhinemaiden, but, “It would have been nice if…” which is quite different.” pg 117
Why humans are the worst pick for ring bearing: “And so you give this irregularity in your minds a name of its own. You call it Love, which is meant to make everything all right. Rather than try to sort it out or find a vaccine, you go out of your way to glorify it. I mentioned your art and your poetry just now. What are your favourite themes? Love and War.”…”Now be fair,” he continued, “can you honestly say that a member of a species with this ancestral fallibility should be allowed to rule the universe?” pg 160 Fair question.
If you enjoyed Expecting Someone Taller, you may want to pick up The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar (a modern day fantasy with fairies) or Anansi Boys by Neal Gaiman (a fantasy about gods and their descendants).
Thanks for reading!