The Legend of Greg: An Epic Series of Failures by Chris Rylander, 352 pp, RL 4
In 2012 I reviewed amazing The Fourth Stall by hilarious newcomer Chris Rylander. The first in a trilogy, I was deeply impressed with the narrative voice and skill with which Rylander crafted a work of real-life fiction filled excitement and suspense while also telling the story of a powerful friendship between two boys. And, of course, the humor. Rylander has a gift for deadpan mixed with a touch of the absurd that makes his books unforgettable. With his newest trilogy (the Codename Conspiracy Trilogy came between) The Legend of Greg: An Epic Series of Failures, Rylander ventures into a world of Dwarves, Elves, and magic that coexists (in the cleverly named Separate Earth) alongside the human world, but, possibly, not for much longer...
The first thing you may notice about The Legend of Greg (after an ominous warning about reading this book on a Thursday) are the cryptically humorous chapter titles. When we first meet eighth grader and Chicagoan Greg Belmont, it is a Thursday during which he almost gets his face clawed off during a field trip to the zoo. A brief rundown of the Belmont lineage reveals several other unfortunate mishaps that occurred on Thursdays. Greg's father runs the Earthen Goods and Organic Harmony Shop (abbreviated to Eghos - Greg loves acronyms) and travels the world collecting rare ingredients for his artisanally crafted soaps and teas, the sampling of which usually leave Greg smelling strange, if not foul. This doesn't help at I-PEE, Isaacson Preparatory Empowerment Establishment, the exclusive private school where Greg is a scholarship student and bullied accordingly. Fortunately, Greg's best friend and chess partner is the fabulously wealthy but very down to earth Edwin. Greg's worst Thursday leads to an even worse Friday the leaves him without a father and a best friend.
After Greg's father is kidnapped by a duo of humans who morph trolls, he finds himself in a world underneath the streets of Chicago he never knew existed, welcomed, for the most part, by a society of Dwarves preparing for the greatest battle ever seen. Greg learns his dwarf name and also that his mother was a legendary weapons maker and that his missing father, a respected dwarf leader, has discovered Galdervatn - the lost essence of magic, the "one missing element that could restore Dwarves to [their] true history and heritage," and bring balance back to the world. Finding a new peer group, training for battle, plotting to rescue his father and deciding whether or not he can truly trust his former best friend, averting an all-out war between Dwarves and Elves and uncovering the real forces the kidnapping of Greg's father play out over the rest of the novel.
The climactic ending of The Legend of Greg is breathtaking, with a few landmarks of Chicago being destroyed here and there. Greg discovers a legendary weapon, the Bloodletter, and an ax that speaks to Greg telepathically and, curiously, knows when Dostoevsky is being quoted, among other things. Greg and Edwin have a few conversations about which famous humans are Dwarves and which are Elves (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson = Dwarf, Tom Brady = Elf, Kanye West . . . = human). Amidst the chaos of battles and the resurgence of magic comes possibly the most chilling aspect of Rylander's novel - the end of the Technological Age. The Legend of Greg is perfect for fans of Rick Riordan, especially if they are looking for writing that is smarter, funnier and characters that are a bit more complex.
Source: Review Copy