Thank you very much to the publisher for offering me a free copy of this book to review. This awesome sci-fi comedy gets 4 stars from me, so keep reading if you want to find out why.
So the basic premise is simple: The two biggest villains in the world fall in love. They both have evil plans, so imagine a sort of partnership. What can go wrong? (Or better yet, what can go right?)
Overall, this book combines a refreshing simplicity that you can find in a cartoon (think villains that want to take over the world) and a complexity of a well-developed satire. Many aspects of our society are satirized, and typical cartoonish roles are stereotyped: The hero, the villain, etc.
You’ll get loads of action and many hilarious scenes. It does feel a bit ‘episodic’ at times, until the major plot is revealed. But in the end, you’ll feel as if everything made sense (somehow). The whole thing does feel a bit like a parody with its few “weird” moments – But I do like weird, and I liked this.
Characters & Points of View
How likable can villains be? You definitely have to read this book if you want to find out. Our main protagonists are mostly selfish and self-centered, so why would you like them? Simple, because they are human. And why do they feel human? Because they feel love. It’s as simple as this. Surely, Otto and Esmerelda cannot be that bad, if they care about each other. . . can they? And the fact that they remain villains, never abandoning their same evil plans and schemes, only makes them more fun. At some point, you find yourself rooting for the villains (no kidding). But please, do not interpret this as they are immutable or don’t change: These characters are well developed and will grow with the narrative.
Oh, but there’s also our almost-typical hero: Jake Indestructible. You will like him too. And there’s the villainess’s best friend! And the scientist’s best robot friend that you will want as your personal pet. Oh, and . . . Ok, I will stop. I just really wanted to make clear how awesome the characters are.
In this third person narrative, we have an overall omniscient narrator who is strategically placed in different settings, and reveals the characters’ thoughts as he sees fit – This only becomes obvious at a certain point because in the beginning I thought the author was going to provide us with different POVs. Well, even without the use of limited POV, the characterization was very well done, each character very well defined by actions, mannerisms, and voice.
The author does tend to be matter-of-factly in a few instances, and this includes the occasional ‘bookisms’, ‘emotions in the eyes’, and ‘dialogue attribution’. Despite this, the hilarious storyline still seemed to flow nicely and grab my attention. A few transitions in time / action passages are very rhythmic by using a very characteristic structure which adds a bit of a comic vibe. Example: “After sliding, kicking, dodging, maneuvering, parkouring, leaping, squeezing, sabotaging, nearly exploding, …”
The creative use of acronyms was rather amusing and smart too. Even if the writing style isn’t what I’d rate higher, is appropriate enough for the narrative.
About the author
Jesse Baruffi was born in a West Virginia college and quickly became the adorable dorm mascot of his parents’ alma mater. While other little boys dreamed of being astronauts and firemen, Jesse dreamed of creating stories, a curse which failed to subside, even in adulthood. He has been a teacher, tutor, caseworker, cat rescuer, filmmaker, and accidental kite-flying champion. He currently resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee with two demanding feline overlords. Otto Von Trapezoid and the Empress of Thieves is his first novel.
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