OK, listen up. You. I’m talking to you, you people who call yourselves fantasists; you with your wizards and zombies, with your Plucky Young Innocent Protagonist and his faithful magic talisman; your Embodiment of Evil that Threatens All That Is Good And Must Be Destroyed; your swords and arrows, armor and cloaks; your dragons, dwarfs, and demons. Put down that trilogy and back away slowly. No, on second thought, just start running. While you do, take a look over your shoulder at this: Sacré Bleu, Christopher Moore’s latest and quite possibly best novel. This, guys, is what a masterwork of fantasy looks like. It being Moore, it’s extremely funny (and frequently NSFW). It’s also got a good story, skilled use of language, and humans for characters — well, mostly — and when I say humans I do not mean merely that they aren’t elves or vampires: I mean they’re people you can identify with, not just two-legged quest-takers. Part of that is because Moore’s done his research; most of his characters are based on people who really lived — Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Seurat, and so forth, and most notably Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, brilliantly cast as our hero’s comic relief sidekick. (Though the bad guy, the Colorman, has his funny moments too.)
This, not the bad Tolkien-without-the-backstory chronicles and cycles and ologies clogging the shelves; this is the good stuff. Yes, there’s a map on the endpapers, but it’s there just for visual effect. You don’t have to keep referring to it while you read. There also are illustrations, in color, by Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Seurat, and Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, who somehow managed to depict scenes in Moore’s book nearly a century and a half before it was written. Maybe they really did have time travel.
If you’ve never read Moore, you’re lucky: You have a wonderful discovery ahead of you. If you have, and you’ve liked Lamb, and Bloodsucking Fiends, and A Dirty Job, then you don’t need me to talk you into reading this, do you? But be prepared to be even more impressed than you were expecting. Sacré Bleu is that good.