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Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest

Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest - A. Lee Martinez Welcome to the modern world! Here, we have the United States as we know it now, complete with kitschy roadside attractions, cell phones, the National Questing Bureau, and Enchanted Americans like Helen, a seven-foot tall Minotaur. So, yeah. "The modern world."

In Helen & Troy's Epic Road Quest, Martinez takes us on a zany road story along something similar to Route 66. Both have been conscripted by an ancient god who took his form from a pile of old hamburger to complete a quest. Neither of them know what the quest is about, but Troy's wholesome, perfect attitude toward the whole thing convinces Helen, who is more cautious, to come along with him. Aside from the fact that if they don't go on the quest, they'll die, she's reluctant to do a petty god's bidding.

As usual, Martinez creates a fun, engaging story, and populates them with a cast of characters who are silly and serious at the same time. The orcs, for example, are no longer the bloodthirsty killing machines; they're accountants and real estate agents and computer programmers, but they spend their weekends in a motorcycle club in an effort to capture their roots. But once their own gods tell them to pursue and eliminate Helen and Troy, they're not too hesitant to get a little violent (sorta). The threat of real death looms over the cast of characters.

I'm also impressed with how well Martinez adds gravity to his stories by touching on real issues. Helen struggles with her enchantedness and how other people perceive it, and Martinez takes that opportunity to examine stereotypes and expected behavior. Like Terry Pratchett, Martinez isn't satisfied with just writing a silly story; he wants to write a serious story about silly things and maybe get you to think about something along the way.

As I've said before, Martinez writes goofy novels that are just fun to read. Anyone going in looking for the next To Kill a Mockingbird might be disappointed, but anyone looking for a fun, light read is in for a real treat with his books. This novel is a great blend of a 1950s road movie, Looney Tunes, and The Odyssey.