Have you ever wanted to reach into the reality of book or movie and shake the villain? Ever since Scott Evil pointed out he had a gun in his room and it would take just a few seconds to get it so they could kill Austin Powers, we have been in dire need of a villain consultant. This book seems to have been inspired by the Evil Overlord's List and that's fairly high praise by itself. We've all wanted a smarter more savvy villain in our fantasy and that's what the protagonist of this book provides as a service.
Jackson Blackwell is a sociopathic geek from our world who, after discovering the ability to enter other realities Neverending Story style, has devoted himself to making sure the bad guys do not overlook all of the potential in being magnificent bastards. At the start of the book, he's already been at it several years and managed to acquire his own pocket-universe as well as demigod status plus all the other perks of being a miniature Sauron. Unfortunately, these only go so far and he's (despite his beliefs) a very clever small fish in a very big pond. Basically, he's Littlefinger if Littlefinger was the God of Paperclips in a universe full of Zeuses and Odins.
Well, the problem with being a consultant to Dark Lords like Voldemort and the Umbrella Corporation is the fact they're really-really used to doing things their own way. Eventually, Jackson Blackwell's inability to hold his immense contempt in gets him in trouble and stripped of all his ill-gotten gains. Worse, it seems his layabout family may have been in on the deal. Exiled back to 1st level on a Dungeons and Dragons ruled world, he is left with the best motivation a villain could have: how do I get my stuff back? The answer, of course, is to get a bunch of heroes together so you can betray them later!
The book is basically a Discworld-esque journey across a fantasy world with the heroes assembled by a would-be-Saruman instead of Gandalf. Surprisingly, after losing his consulting business, the Shadowmaster's adventures are played fairly straight. While he considers his companions little more than fictional characters brought to life, they are in a life and death struggle with evil. Even better, the Shadowmaster is there to point out some of the hypocrisies which come with the gods as well as elves of your traditional fantasy world.
The supporting cast for the book is enjoyable with a variety of stock fantasy archetypes, some of which are turned on their head as the people involved are a good deal deeper than the role they choose to try and live up. I also have an affection for the villains who feel there's no point in being an evil doer if you can't actually be EVIL about it (Shadowmaster being of the "it is better to be feared than loved but if you cannot be both, try not to be hated" school of thought). I have to say, I kind of agree with them there. Those Towers of DarknessTM aren't going to build themselves.
The humor is, of course, the primary reason you should check this book out. While taking apart the fantasy novel is nothing new, it's how you do it which matters. It's an excellent road trip from riches to rags to riches again with an ending I found quite amusing. I grew to like all of the main characters, despicable bastards some of them may be, and think you will too. There's even a hint of romance despite how much the characters involved despise the concept.
In conclusion, this is definitely a book you should check out and pick up a copy of. It's full of humor, deconstruction, reconstruction, and deconstruction all over again. It's cynical and snarky with just the right amount of snide. Kudos, MK Gibson, I want more.