Riddle in Stone (The Riddle in Stone, #1)Riddle in Stone by Robert Evert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So here it is…another tale where a hero fights off goblin orc hordes ruled by an all-powerful Lord King. Or not. Okay, I’ll admit that it reminds me just a smidgen, in a vague sort of way, of LOTR. A tiny smidgen. But this is also an entirely different story. And an entirely different sort of hero…well maybe “hero” is a bit of a stretch. Heroes are good-looking, strong, tortured, and have fantastic moral fiber. They practically bleed goodness and virtue. Our man Edmund is not so much bleeding virtue as just bleeding…and crying.

But I digress. It is time to talk about the book. Riddle in Stone is about an overweight, stuttering, naive, and all too average pseudo a librarian deciding that he wants more respect and adventure in his life. When he discovers that the King is looking for an ancient trinket, Edmund, our librarian, believes that his time reading books has prepared him for what is out there and sets off to gain glory and self-respect by finding what no one has been able to. Unfortunately for our unprepared friend, he soon comes to discover that books don’t always tell the whole story and fairy tales are in fact darker and grittier in the light of day.

None of this is making any sense. Iliandor defeated the Undead King. He drove him into Ice Fields and defeated him in hand-to-hand combat.

And all princesses are pretty . . .

Edmund shook his head again, unable to do anything else.

And remember the troll’s den? Remember all of those shields? They shouldn’t have been there. None of those knights died in this region, at least not according to the histories you have read.

I wonder how much of what I know is actually true.

Father always used to say histories and faerie tales were the same thing.

I thought that he was just trying to get me to stop reading my books and dedicate more time to my magic studies.

Edmund ends up captured by goblins not long after he leaves home. From there the story takes off and you meet the central characters, namely his pit mate named Pond Scum (oh yes the goblins have charming names for humans). Unfortunately for Edmund, the King takes an interest in him when the King discovers his belongings and learns that Edmund is an educated man. Now comes the ultimate test for our, uh, hero: who and what will Edmund sell out for his own freedom and comfort. And let me tell you that goblins can be real nasty.

(view spoiler)

Yes,real nasty indeed. Fortunately for our librarian friend, the couple of friends he does make, a dog named Thorax and the aforementioned Pond Scum, are true to the core.

I did not always like Edmund. At times I found him exasperating and whiny. And the crying…love of gods man I couldn’t stand all the crying. But you know, I found myself drawn into Edmund’s tale none the less. Why? Hmmm…well because Edmund was REAL. Oh yes. He could be annoying and talked a lot to himself; but he also grew as a character. He tries and fails. He wants to be honorable but falls short. He makes hard decisions that are even harder to live with. He believes his story books and becomes disillusioned. Poor Edmund is forced to grow into a man in the darkest pit in his world while being tortured by a sadistic (or is he) King. I did so enjoy reading about Edmund, because there is not doubt that this is his story.

My favorite characters of the book were not the heroes of the tale. Rather it was two of the villains: Mr. Kavel and Mr. Gurding. They are the two who captured Edmund initially and tormented him continuously. Mr. Kavel in particular had wit and charm, as well as a penchant for gambling.

“You really like the fat bastard, don’t you?”

“Filth? Of course! He makes me laugh. Besides, he’s no longer fat. In fact, he’s gotten quite muscular. Hard work in the mines and all. Why, for a moment there, his charging nearly unnerved me. He can be a ferocious one, that Filth.”

“I believe you are pulling my leg again, Mr. Kravel.”

“Quite possibly, Mr. Gurding. But time will tell.”

All in all it was quite refreshing to have a hero who wasn’t quite a hero and villains who are more than fodder to the ends of swords or political machinations. In fact, the King himself seems to have more than enough reason to hate humans…oops! But you’ll have to read about it yourself and decide!