Published: July 17, 2018
Publisher: Drew Hayes
Pages: 356 (Kindle)
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
When your fairy godmother threatens to enslave you with a curse – when a malevolent piper solves your rat problem but steals your children – when you seek revenge on the prince who turned you into a frog – who can you turn to in your hour of need? The band of scoundrels known far and wide as the Bastard Champions – the swashbuckling trio who travel a world of legend, seeking adventure and righting wrongs – as long as there’s enough gold to be earned. They are Jack, the seemingly unkillable leader whose ever-present grin belies a dark past; Marie, who fights with fury but battles more fiercely to control the beast within; and Frank, the master of logistics, whose cloak hides horrific scars that are far more than skin-deep. As they slash and scheme through kingdom and village alike, the Bastard Champions uncover tantalizing clues to their ultimate quarry: the powerful Blue Fairy, who has made each of their lives a living hell.
Second Hand Curses adds a dash of sly wit and a heaping portion of action to the fairy tales you thought you knew.
This book was so weird and so fun! I admit, I was a little underwhelmed right at the start, but as each chapter (which is set up as its own short story) came and went I found myself enjoying it more and more. Second Hand Curses is cheesy for sure, but it really leans into the cheesiness and it ended up feeling fun rather than awful.
The story is about our three main characters who make up a group of fixers called the Bastard Champions. That in itself is cheesy enough to make me shake my head a bit, but anyway. Jack is the charming roguish leader who’s quick wit and quicker rapier can cut down any foe. Marie is a princess in hiding due to a curse that turns her into a beast, though her massive strength is certainly a benefit on many jobs. Lastly, Frank is a patchwork man from a distant land with a brilliant mind, though many can’t see past his unsettling appearance.
When you begin the story, it quickly becomes apparent which fairytale or other fictional work each character is pulled from. In their land, they reference the Narrative, which is sort of a fourth wall-breaking reference to how fairytales traditionally play out. It was rather fun to watch them either play to or defy the Narrative without breaking too many rules that might ultimately cause them to fail in their mission. Toward the end of the book we get a chapter that explains each character’s background and I enjoyed each of them for their own reasons. Frank’s in particular was quite sad because (as in Frankenstein) he was a mere creation that desired the love of his creator.
Second Hand Curses was a barrel of laughs counterbalanced with just enough seriousness to prevent it from derailing into pure ridiculousness. The characters were great and only improved with each additional adventure they embarked upon. This was my first experience with Drew Hayes’s writing and I can already say it won’t be my last, and I’m hoping it won’t be the last chance we get to read about these characters since there are so many distant lands for them to explore. I’m planning to check out his book Forging Hephaestus next since I love a good superhero/villain style story.