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Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: The Legend of Greg by Chris Rylander

The Legend of Greg 
(An Epic Series of Failures #1) 
By Chris Rylander 
June 12, 2018 
Penguin Kids 
Source: from pub for review 

A boy discovers his destiny could totally stink in this riotously funny fantasy-adventure  

Risk-averse Greg Belmont is content with being ordinary. He's got a friend--that's right, just one--at his fancy prep school, and a pretty cool dad (even if he is obsessed with organic soaps that smell like a mix of salted pork and Icelandic bog). The problem is, Greg isn't ordinary . . . he's actually an honest-to-goodness, fantastical Dwarf! 

He discovers the truth the day his dad brings home a gross new tea--one that awakens bizarre abilities in Greg. Then a murderous Bro-Troll kidnaps his dad and Greg is whisked away to the Underground, where Dwarves have lived for centuries right beneath the subways of Chicago. 

With the help of some awesome new friends and a talking ax, Greg learns all about the history of the Dwarves, which has been marked with tales of epic failure since the dawn of time. However, the return of the magic they once wielded means big changes are afoot, escalating tensions with the Dwarves' sworn enemy: the Elves. 

Brimming with humor and action, Chris Rylander's The Legend of Greg turns dwarf lore on its head, delivering an adventure readers won't be able to resist. 


Greg Belmont discovers that he's a Dwarf and there's a whole world of Dwarves, Elves, and magic that he never knew existed. When his father is kidnapped by Trolls and his own magical abilities are triggered, Greg is whisked away to the world of Dwarves located underneath Chicago. There he makes a few Dwarf friends (and befriends an annoying talking axe) and learns of the tense history between Dwarves and Elves and finds himself training for a war that is expected to arrive with the reemergence of magic. 

Middle-grade fantasy is probably my most favorite genre to read, so I was very excited when The Legend of Greg arrived...unfortunately, I found it to be disappointing. 

The Legend of Greg certainly has a few positive things to offer. The world-building is actually good and captivating. Rylander builds his Dwarf world from the bottom (of Chicago) up and infuses this world with fresh and imaginative fantasy elements, well thought-out history, and cool settings. Most of the humor throughout the story, whether punny and cheesy on purpose or acerbic, is chuckle inducing. The brisk pace and constant action certainly make this a page-turner. And Greg makes for an interesting and likable enough narrator and hero.  

However, I found the negatives overshadowed these positives. While I enjoyed many of the laugh-out-loud moments, the dialogue is often cringe-worthy, over the top, stilted, or, in much of the latter parts of the book, feels out of character. Other than Greg and his friend Edwin, most of the characters feel flat, uninteresting, and their personalities kind of just meld into one typical background character. Then there are characters like Glam (one of Greg's new Dwarf friends) and Buck (his revered Dwarf instructor) whose behaviors and actions are meant to come across as amusing in an "oh that's just them being them" kind of way, but really make them bullies who seem to lack empathy. Buck's harsh teaching style toward Greg, that includes verbal abuse, is explained by Buck simply expecting great things from Greg and pushing him extra hard to "help" him be prepared for anything...this behavior is actually pretty alarming, especially since it's so easily excused away. And there seems to be a lack of diversity (racial and cultural) amongst the characters, which is always so disappointing in kids lit. 

Dwarves are big eaters, especially meat, which is fine on its own, but their views on animals and animal rights is pretty appalling and treated in such a lighthearted way. Then there's a recurring motto throughout the book that Belmonts don't cry (not that they physically can't, they just don't), which sends such an awful and dangerous message about machismo and bottling up one's emotions. There are some heavy and important topics that are either alluded to or outright discussed in The Legend of Greg- racism, feminism, body image, bullying, healthy/unhealthy relationships, politics- and many of the issues the Dwarves and Elves have faced and do face, mirror many Real Life issues that are prevalent today. I am ALL for topics like these being discussed and explored in middle-grade books and, while I think the inclusion of these issues/topics/themes in The Legend of Greg and the messages trying to be conveyed are well intentioned, the approach and execution is lackluster, ineffective, and at times send mixed messages. Overall, when it comes to these issues/topics/themes, the story seems to be all snarky preachiness with no substance or true depth. 

Honestly, while reading The Legend of Greg, so much of the story just didn't sit well with me. Middle-grade readers are smart and insightful and I have no doubt that they could not only handle any of the negative issues I've mentioned, but form their own thoughtful opinions and reactions to them...but, bottom-line, there are SO many other, better middle-grade fantasies that I would recommend before this one. 

2/5 Cupcakes

Chris Rylander is the author of the Fourth Stall saga and the Codename Conspiracy series. A fan of chocolate, chips, and chocolate chips, he lives in Chicago. 

1 comment:

Jill the OWL said...

OH I'm sorry to read this about this book! I just got a copy and thought it sounded cute. Hmmmmmmm. I guess I'll have to read and decide for myself. Thanks for your thoughts!