Again I face the problem that this book is actually multiple books—in this case, volumes 7 through 12 of a series of which I have already reviewed the first six (in two-book sets). The appeal was to some degree uneven, but generally good overall.
This volume was more interesting overall, though, because through the first four books it was closely tied from one to another which made it read more like a single novel.I had settled into that fairly nicely, but then at the beginning of the fifth (book eleven) I was thrown—book ten ended in a major cliffhanger, and book eleven bounced back to events of a much earlier time. Then book twelve picked up the thread, but involved a great deal of backtracking, repeating a lot of the story, albeit from a different viewpoint, before getting to the resolution of the problem.
I was particularly hit by the sheer number of typographical errors in this edition. Many of them involved missing open or close quote marks, and sometimes paragraph breaks, causing the reader to stall in trying to identify who is saying what when to whom. Some are wrong words—"my" for "by", "the" for "to"—which make the reader stop to identify what the writer intended to say. I do not believe I have seen a worse book on this count that was not a pre-publication review edition or unedited self-published book. It did not ruin my enjoyment of the stories, but it did annoy me fairly frequently.
The first book, M.Y.T.H. Inc. Link, reads more like a collection of short stories showcasing members of the team in various pairings. Bunny and Guido are assigned to uncover pilfering in a magic junk gadgets factory, in which Guido tells most of the tale which includes organizing a union among the workers while Bunny actually completes the job. In the second, Tananda is sent to another dimension on a collection job, and a worried big brother Chumley tells the story of how he follows her and tries, without much success, to keep her out of trouble. Then the flamboyant Massha tells the tale as she is teamed with the vampire Vic to turn an unfinished resort hotel into a successful business venture and create Deva's first casino hotel and nightclub. Skeeve and Ahz themselves visit Jahk to help Quigley get out of an unfavorable contract as official magician, as told by Ahz. Even the young dragon Gleep gets to tell a story about how he protected a shipment from several attempted thefts while Nunzio, given the job and asked to take Gleep along, is oblivious to the first two of the problems he prevents. All the stories have some fun unexpected twists in them, and each is individually entertaining; they are introduced by Skeeve making the assignments, and of course the wonderful misquotes for which the series is known introduce each chapter.
As the first book ends, Skeeve calls a meeting and introduces two problems. The first is that Queen Hemlock, who married Possiltum's King Roderick back in Hit or Myth, has sent a severed finger complete with the magic wedding ring Skeeve said could never be removed and would link their lives, which Skeeve interprets as an announcement and a challenge that she is going to conquer all of Klah—a situation he made possible. He feels that he should address and correct that, but he has the second problem that his mentor and partner Ahz has apparently gone home to Perv, and Skeeve feels he must at least find the green Pervect and talk to him.
That second problem becomes the subject of the second book, Myth-Nomers and Im-pervections, in which Skeeve meets the djinn Calvin (the latest thing in djinns—yes the puns are also still amply supplied) and the sleek and sexy lizard Pervect Pookie. He learns much from his adventures on Perv, and ultimately finds Ahz, the book ending with his departure, now with two Pervects in his team to catch up with the rest of the crew (except for Bunny, still in the office on Deva) trying to disrupt the advancing Possiltum armies on Klah.
The third book, M.Y.T.H. Inc. in Action, backs up the timeline to the arrival of Guido, storyteller for most of the book, with the rest of the team on Klah, and his and Nunzio's rapid advancement through the ranks of the army from trainees as everything they do to derail the army's efforts gets them promoted. We also meet several characters who matter in future stories, and the comedy of errors draws to a close with the arrival of Skeeve from Perv and the discovery that the Queen's message has been completely misunderstood.
She is not issuing a challenge, but announcing that Roderick died (of natural causes) and she is interested in marrying Skeeve—enough that she is threatening to abdicate and saddle him with the responsibility of running the kingdom, which she knows he does not want to do because he could have taken the position from Roderick years before. This, coupled with the fact that the kingdom's financial situation has become precarious due to some mismanagement of the war effort, leads Possiltum to hire M.Y.T.H. Inc. to solve their problems, and the fourth book, Sweet Myth-tery of Life, is very much about Skeeve wrestling with the question of whether he wants to get married at all, and whether marrying Hemlock is an acceptable choice. In the midst of this, General Hugh Badaxe proposes to Massha, the djinn Calvin shows up and gets in a fight with his djinni wife Daphne, bachelor Chumley and bodyguard Guido are among the many who give their thoughts on marriage, and ultimately Skeeve reaches a decision that makes him happy—just in time to be summoned to the courtyard because his dragon has been shot (by an arrow). This is our cliffhanger ending, as Skeeve demands an explanation of what is happening and the answer is delayed.
That is when the book makes the jarring leap back in time, before M.Y.T.H. Inc. is officially founded to a time when Skeeve was serving as Royal Magician in the Court of Possiltum, after the adventures with Tanda in Myth Directions but before moving to Deva at the end of Hit or Myth. It seems that while shopping with Tanda for Ahz' birthday present, Skeeve bought a treasure map—and as he reveals this to them at the beginning of Myth-ion Improbable they begin an effort to follow it to find the dimension in which there is a cow that gives golden milk. About half the book is focused on getting to the dimension, and then the other half describes their efforts to travel through an American West world of cowboys who eat only vegetables and drink carrot juice, to be imprisoned by a posse after they have determined that the world is ruled by vampire cows and the humans are enspelled and enslaved. In the end, the story has changed half a dozen times, no one has been who we thought they were, and there is no gold (there was, but their escape attempt turned it all to lead)—but Skeeve manages to turn a profit before they leave. It was not a bad story, but it was the weakest in the set, and its misplacement in the chronology made it more awkward.
Finally, in Something M.Y.T.H. Inc., we resume the story—but not where it was suspended. Rather, Guido backs us up to sometime earlier, repeating parts about how he and Pookie are going to take his old army buddy Spyder out to oversee tax collections, but this time introducing the hitherto unrevealed aspect that there are rumors someone is intending to kill Skeeve and the team has decided not to tell him this but to investigate it separately. Some of this is foolish, as we meet three groups who pose trouble. One is a farcical version of the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest, who have annual parties in the Royal Game Preserve and live in the Sherwood Arms suburban housing development, Will the lawyer, Robb owner of the hunting supplies store, John currently trying to market port-a-pots, and Al a small time local entertainer. They decide to waylay tax collectors as part of a plan to prevent the sale of the game preserve to developers and cover some of their expenses in back taxes.The second is a young son of a wealthy protective father, the son having failed at most things but having a bodyguard hired by his father. This duo—son and bodyguard—have the look of Zorro, as the boy dons an all-black costume and takes the name El Burro, so he can rob tax collectors for spending money to support his extravagant lifestyle after his father cuts off his allowance. The third group is a batch of Dungeons & Dragons players who try to recruit a few friends from the army to form a Fellowship and destroy the magic ring that was stolen (by a castle maid named Marion, tying the groups together) to destroy the power of the evil wizard who, according to reports, has the queen enthralled and is bleeding the kingdom dry for his own advantage.
It is again a comedy of errors as Guido, Pookie, and Spyder attempt to unravel all of this. They ultimately succeed with the thieves, without any arrests and only one accidental injury, but when they bring Robb's group to the castle to introduce them to Skeeve as the "Sherwood Arms Grievance Committee" the sudden appearances of toothy green-scaled Ahz and dragon Gleep causes them to panic, and a stray arrow becomes the long-awaited explanation of the cliffhanger. Gleep survives, Skeeve discovers that Gleep can now talk but that he wants to keep it secret, Robb's group tells the Fellowship that Skeeve is really a good guy, and we climax with Massha's wedding and reception as told by Skeeve. A significant part of this is retold by Ahz in an appendix that contains another adventure that seems to be a separate short story set during the wedding reception.
The book ends with a planning meeting of M.Y.T.H. Inc. Pookie has already announced that she is leaving to mentor Spyder, and Massha is staying in Possiltum as Badaxe's wife and the new court magician. Now Skeeve announces that he is resigning his position as president of the corporation to take of residence at the old inn I once said would have been a good base for adventures (Skeeve and Ahz acquired it at the end of the second book and abandoned it at the beginning of the third), to study magic more seriously with Ahz, probably by correspondence from Ahz' old school on Perv, with Bunny continuing as his personal assistant. Don Bruce has given permission for Guido and Nunzio to decide whether to stay with M.Y.T.H. Inc. on Deva or leave and be replaced by someone else, and Tanda and Chumley form the rest of the group. The book leaves us wondering what happens to everyone involved, but then, that's what cliffhangers are for.
I have never seen the thirteenth book in the series; if it somehow becomes available to me, I'll be sure to pick it up.
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