I read this book at the recommendation of my sister, who has read every one of Martinez’s books. The novel follows the tribulations of “Never Dead Ned,” a man who begins the novel as an average guy with a desk job who is called upon to lead Ogre Company. This is a rag-tag company of ogres, goblins, seers, sirens, and all types of fantastical creatures. Their commanders have a talent for dying quickly. Luckily, Never Dead Ned can’t stay dead for long. Each time he dies (which he does frequently), a woman appears to revive him.
I can’t give away too much of the plot. Throughout most of it, Ned is trying to figure out what exactly is going on: Why has he been put in charge of Ogre Company? Why does a woman in red keep appearing to revive him every time he dies? Why can’t he just stay dead? Why does he feel lost? He finds his answer; you’ll just have to read the book to find out what it is!
My favorite element of the novel was its humor. I love how everything—even what seems to be simple jokes or pointless banter among the characters—ties together at the end. Sometimes the jokes are subtle; other times, they are obvious, but they’re always funny. I found myself having to explain to people in the room just why I was laughing out loud while reading a book. I enjoyed how Martinez took the typical fantasy stereotypes (which I don’t particularly enjoy) and played off of the clichés to create humor. For instance, a siren and an Amazon at one point are vying for the attention of Ned, who is so oblivious that he can’t tell they’re fighting over him. At another time, Ned removes all blunt and sharp objects from his office and hides, hoping to prevent himself from dying for the umpteenth time. Possibly my favorite instance of humor is when the budget of Ogre Company, which Ned has been tasked with balancing, is literally personified as an undulating monster he must subdue.
If you enjoy humor and fiction, you’ll enjoy this book. I look forward to reading more of Martinez’s work.