As I lie here on the precipice of death thanks to the dreaded cold and flu season, I have the time to indulge in some of my favorite things. Things that I grew up with, things that shaped my current warped little mind. Truthfully, things that actually stand a chance of cheering me up at the moment. Let me tell you, when it comes to books that happily transcend their target audience the Tales of the Dark Forest series are right up there with the best, though not necessarily for the reasons you might automatically assume. If you’re looking for complexity and drama and intelligence, well, you aren’t going to find it in Goodknyght, what you will find is hilarity; hilarity abound, fun, total lunatic characters and one sarcastic talking harp that has gotten me on a spiritual level all the way from my pre-teen years.
The story follows Willum the swineherd and resident whipping boy as he embarks on a quest to become a knyght of the city of Dun Indewood. Or at least, that’s how the story starts off anyway. What quickly follows is a series of very unfortunate events involving the roughing up of a runemaster, the theft of a mysterious artifact and the gathering of the most unlikely group imaginable to track it down. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series it takes place in a city in total isolation from the rest of the world due to the surrounding terrors of the centuries overgrown dark forest and the beasts lurking inside it. Even knowing that they’re cut off, the people of Dun Indewood have absolutely no desire to venture outside and are more than content to hide behind their walls and bicker over the little pieces of their tiny little world; sounding all too familiar.
Willum is the sort of accidental hero you can’t help but love. His heart is sort of in the right place but he’s ultimately just a small town kid with grand dreams and like most of the residents of Dun Indewood absolutely no idea what the hell awaits them in the world outside the city. As the whipping boy to Symon, the son of the city’s ruling Lord, it’s Willum’s job to take the physical punishment for the all little Lords misdeeds. And lets just say that Symon is the sort of guy who’d purposefully get into trouble just to see you get a thrashing. Becoming a knight is Willum’s way of escaping his present life and making something of himself. All in all, something every single person can relate to. His life well and truly blows.
I’m going to be honest with you. There are far smarter books out there; I say that in the most loving of ways. But in all my years of reading, the innocent humor in Goodknyght always appealed to me the most. Unlike most stories targeted at the younger generations, the writers Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore are super conscious of tropes and clichés but instead of including them and pretending otherwise; steaming ahead regardless, they wear them like glorious badges and ultimately make parodies of them all. In some cases using them simply to draw the reader along a certain train of thought before up turning everything. For crying out loud there’s a restaurateur called Luigi who’s a Pastafarian. I shit you not, people. For a comparably short story it’s got a lot going for it and reading it again makes me realize how little comedy I find in my fantasy nowadays and how much enjoyment can be had from a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
On his not so merry quest Will is being aided by an amnesiac, sarcastic talking Harp with a sense of humor blacker than a pair of priests socks, a private investigator called Humphry the Boggart (again, not shitting you) and the not so red Riding Hood, Rose, who happens to be a crossbow wielding badass that has the creeper wolf utterly terrified and is singly the only reason any of them ever live passed the first five minutes of the the quest. It’s a great little read that you wouldn’t have to think twice about giving to any youngster of any age. Clean, joyous, good fun.