Monday, June 1, 2015


We've all played those fantasy games. The ones where we loot every corpse in sight (because why not, it's not like we can smell them, or feel the slimy grossness), break into every provisions barrel, crack open every chest, perform every quest in the promise of loot, glorious loot, as much as we can carry, LOOOOOOOOOOT.

But then we get overburdened. We start having to pass up some loot, or to get rid of loot to pick up better loot. And we don't have any place to store our loot because we're still saving up for a house. A house we must buy for gold.

So what we need to do is, we need to turn that loot into gold. And for that we need to visit the Store.

Ah, the Store, whereat arcane algorithmic calculations of varying complexity (depending on the game) and fairness calculate how many pieces of gold each piece of loot is worth. And we sell and trade and unencumber ourselves. Maybe we improve our equipment a bit. Maybe we get rid of a weapon or piece of armor or object that we can't use because we're the wrong class or don't have high enough stats or whatever.

Ever thought about what happens to the stuff we sell and trade after that? Ever wonder what the NPC behind the counter does when we're not haggling with him?

Patrick McLean did, and he decided he'd find out, and thus we have The Merchant Adventurer, a novel that celebrates all of the silly approximations we play through in fantasy games but sends out a fat old man with a Bag of Holding full of all of the best stuff from his store, on a quest of his very own!

Boltec, our titular hero, reminds me more than a little bit of another fat old man hero whom I loved a lot, Adoulla from Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon. In his youth, he was as starry-eyed and keen to be a hero as Relan, the eager young farmboy he has sort of backed into befriending; now he is tired and cynical and keen on nothing but his wealth -- or almost nothing.

Turns out, and he's as surprised as anyone, he also loves one Asarah, the supremely confident, competent, and beautiful in that "mature" way owner and operator of the tavern across the street from his shop.*

The tavern that gets burned down when an evil wizard and his orc army sack the village and make of with Asarah, not for prurient purposes, but because the wizard needs somebody on staff who can make 
a decent sandwich.

Don't worry, it gets addressed.

But lest you think this is going to be a story involving a lot of training and work to recover lost fighting skills, or to train up a new generation... Nah! Boltac knows his skill set. Boltac is going to use his skill set. Boltac is going to make a deal.

Along the way we encounter lots of other amusing archetypes from the fantasy game world, including a shifty thief and the aforementioned wizard (who has really had it with all of these adventurers interrupting his studies to try and steal his stuff), but there is also, of all things, a sympathetic orc character, Samga.

I kind of love Samga almost as much as I love Boltac, you guys.

The resulting novel is a fun little romp (though yes, it could maybe have used one more whack from the Claymore of Copy-Editing) , one that was obviously even more fun for MacLean to write than for us to read. Fun for everybody!

Except maybe that poor troll trapped under the Mace of Encumbrance. Poor fella. So confused when his dinner offered him a big shiny toy to hold for a moment.

Hee hee!

*So, yes, cast Alex Kingston as Asarah and be done with it. Maybe Ian MacNiece as Boltac while you're at it.

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