Kill the Farm Boy is the literary love child of Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, who partnered up to create a fantastical, trope-skewering romp of a Pratchett-esque novel. That was a lot of words, but I promise they’re all accurate. Within the pages of Kill the Farm Boy, readers will find plenty of laughter and an abundance of interesting fairy tale problems, ranging from botched adventures to a nice-guy troll to a sand witch whose wand is the prettiest thing on the beach. Even when you think you’ve finally grasped their mischievous style, Dawson and Hearne surprise you again and again with unique villains and intense violence. A tale of the hero’s journey it may be, but the journey itself is not typical in the slightest. This book almost feels like a D&D campaign with a ridiculously imaginative DM and a fantastic group of players, and that’s the opposite of a bad thing.
In the magical land of Pell, Worstley the Farm Boy is marked as the Chosen One by Staph the pixie; his life goes from bad to…interesting. He sets off to fulfill his epic destiny and save a princess, accompanied by Gus, a goat to whom Staph gave the ability of human speech. When he reaches the castle where the princess sleeps, his journey goes awry with exceptional comedic timing. Leaving him behind, an unlikely group sets out to track down Staph the pixie, comprising Gustave, that talking goat with a taste for delicious leather, Poltro, a rogue who is very bad at stealthing and is also deathly afraid of chickens, Tolby, her Dark Lord master who loves cheese, Argabella, a reluctant bard who has been cursed to look like a giant rabbit, Fia, a warrior whose armor is much too skimpy and who just wants to find the perfect flower to start her own garden, and Grinda, a Sand Witch whose age is the last thing you should ask about.
I know that was a lot of characters, but bear with me. Each one of them is well-developed, and it never felt like there was too much going on, or too many people to keep up with. The premise of fantastical fairy tale novels is renewed within these pages and the characters that romp across them. Despite magical mishaps and Deadful circumstances, there is never a dull moment. There’s a very positive and successful f/f relationship that develops throughout the book, some touching found-family centric scenes, and a cross-country journey that takes the characters through their paces (and a haunted crypt, and a gorge with a carnivorous beastie, and to an actual Dark Lord, and…well, you get the point).
And while there are tons of jokes and laughs throughout, it’s nice to see that the f/f relationship is never made one. It’s tender and full of promise, the kind of read that makes you squeal and kick your feet as you try to guess who will confess first and when they’ll have their first kiss.
Kill the Farm Boy reads like a love letter to Terry Pratchett. There are constant twists and turns that upset genre norms that create wonderful and confusing bouts of laughter and joy (there were a few times where I was laughing so hard I had to stop reading to come to terms with it). Thankfully, it doesn’t lay it on too thick, and there are plenty of twists and facets that are unfamiliar, adding a depth that would be lacking in a parody. While it took a little bit to really fall into the style of the work, it is still easy enough to be enjoyable. In their fantasy world, Dawson and Hearne capitalize some interesting concepts, use a staggering amount of interesting names, and throw readers in with unique chapter titles that seemingly describe their contents, but at the same time leave you unprepared for what follows.
But a friendly note of caution: maybe don’t read this while you’re hungry? There are wonderful descriptions of feasts, pleasant smells, and plenty of well-cooked vegetables. But there are also elaborate descriptions of the more unpleasant odors and a hearty amount of pungent cheeses. Take care of your stomach!
The first in a continuing series, Kill the Farm Boy is a delight for any lover of puns and fairy tales. We get the barest tasting of Dawson and Hearne’s written lovechild, and this series is full of promise. With a fabulous and unexpected ending, and magic enough to delight even the grumpiest of Dark Lords, Kill the Farm Boy brings together two authors and their creative vision in the pages of a simply delicious novel (if you like leather, that is).
Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Published July 17, 2018