So often the second book in a series is a let-down and you realize the author didn’t have more than one idea to explore. Other times the second book picks up where the first one left off and is even better. This book is one of the latter.
Instead of endless conversations between two barely formed characters about how to grow the perfect dungeon, we actually have living, breathing characters who interact in fun and interesting ways. Dale has grown into a really likeable guy and his relationship with Hans and Tom is especially good. Cal has developed a sense of self and a sense of humor in equal measure and the entire book is funnier.
This time around the dungeon and its adventurers are plagued by magical zombies and have to join forces to survive. It was fun seeing Dale and Cal working together instead of against each other and the action was a lot more compelling than in the first book.
There is one glaring problem with this book and that is its treatment of women, or lack thereof. There are basically three women in the book – the mage in charge of portals, the grandmother who runs The Pleasure House eating establishment, and Rose – the half-elf ranger in Dale’s party. Rose gets no character development. She’s defined solely by her race, her gender, and her annoyance with male behavior. We know who Hans is and how he sees the world. Tom, the barbarian, is clearly drawn if a little flat. Who is Rose? Who cares, she’s the girl – that’s the message we get clear as day. She is there for Hans to flirt with and annoy and that’s it. She is so generic as to be invisible. I am so sick of the token female character. If authors spent half the time thinking about a female’s background, wants, and needs as they do about their wardrobe and hair color, maybe we would have women characters that were more than cardboard cutouts.
To be fair, in the audio version at least, the wisp is presented as female and so that brings the named females in the book to a solid four. However, in a book this size, with this many characters, that’s a pitiful showing. Why, for instance did Dale only recruit one female for his hunting party? One out of five is terrible odds.
The last half of this book was engrossing and the action was exciting. I had a hard time putting it down and ultimately stayed up late to finish it. When the author finally gets tired of world building and moves into action, he does a great job. I do wonder if he is a fan of the Bobiverse books, by the way. I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
I enjoyed this book and I’m happy to recommend it, but the author really needs to remember that a well-rounded female character needs more than a shapely figure. 4 stars