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The Princess Beard
Tales of Pell #3
by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Del Rey, $27.00, 359pp
Published: October 2019

Well…this was just ten kinds of fun! This is the result of two punsters in a no-holds-barred free-for-all.  This is their third in the Tales of Pell series, and, so unfortunately – the last.  It does stand alone quite well and you absolutely do not need to read the first two to enjoy this one.  But you really do absolutely need to read the first two…sooner or later.  Each one is better than the one before it.

The authors do delight in bringing in characters from previous stories so this one starts with the sleeping princess from the first book, “Kill the Farm Boy” (oh, and before I forget, we finally find out what happened to the farm boy).  The princess has been asleep for so long, she has acquired an impressive and silky amount of beard, not to mention the hair braid dangling out the tower window and some truly gross fingernails. Having ditched the horrible long fingernails and used the braid to descend undetected from the tower, she decides the beard makes for a nice disguise.  She has no desire to draw the attention of her sire, the King, and give him another excuse to lock her in a tower or marry her off.  She is sure her destiny lies elsewhere, maybe the sea.  On the road, she meets a soon-to-be good friend, Morvin, and adopts a new name:  Morgan, a suitably ambiguous name.

Next up, we’re introduced to Vic, a centaur.  Vic is a very buff and swaggering centaur whose only goal in life is to be swole (see previous adjectives).  But Vic has a dire secret; one that caused him to leave his family and is sure to make him a laughing-stock once it’s known.  He’s never been able to imagine a manly use for his particular brand of magic and his other goal is to be rid of it, forever.  But he’ll need a ship to get to the magical temple where he’ll be able to finally become the swole centaur he knows he can be – and shut his father up once and for all.

From the second book, comes Tempest, a dryad who had been a slave to a demi-god.  Freed on a legal technicality, she now desires nothing more than to be a lawyer and do the same goodness to others.  But as a dryad, she is in high demand as a healer – which comes at a great cost to her.  Every time she uses her healing ability, she comes a step closer to the next stage of her life cycle – as a carnivorous tree. 

And the last member of our troupe is Alobartalus, a very unelfly elf.  Alobartalus was exiled from the elven homeland of Morningwood to sell tourist gimcracks to help support the king.  He hates the tourist trade but has absolutely no desire to return to Morningwood where he was a figure of ridicule.  Somewhere, out there, is a place for an elf who doesn’t delight in pranking and hates glitter – which has its place in a fight, make no mistake.  Alobartalus has a goal in life – he dreams of meeting his hero, the Sn’archivist, mouthpiece of the god, Pellanus.

Along the way, Morgan, out of her tower for the first time in her very long life, discovers the joys of greasy spoons when she and Moravin step into her first Dinny’s.  But the mystery meat EATUM served with every meal causes her lawyerly-like brain to ask the hard question:  what exactly is the meat?  All such questions to the waitstaff are deflected which infuses Morgan with an even stronger need to know the answer.  But they happen to meet a pirate captain who is recruiting for a treasure voyage and the most amazing thing happens to Morgan – she finds herself employed by a pirate captain.  Now all she needs is some striped pants and black eyeliner.  The pirate captain happens to be…wait for it…a parrot.  A parrot looking for a new shoulder…er, perch.  His last perch aka First Mate proved disappointing and a strong set of shoulders are hard to come by. 

Tempest walked into the same Dinny’s and ran into the swole centaur, Vic, who immediately alienated her with his misogynistic attitude.  In an effort to escape his attentions, she found a new friend in Morgan.  During their conversation, she discovered that joining a pirate crew just might be the way to achieve her new life’s goal – passage to the Bogwarts School of Law and Order.  Unfortunately, the centaur is also part of the new crew, Captain Filthy Lucre desiring any magical advantage he can get, willing or not.

So now most of the crew has assembled and the journey is ready to begin.  Along the way, Captain Luc picks up Alobartalus who wishes only to sail down the coast to the Sn’archipelago to meet the Sn’archivist.  But it isn’t until they come upon a ship in distress – their cargo got loose and went crazy – that Morgan finally gets the answer to her question and the voyage becomes a crusade – a crusade to shut down the EATUM operation.  They just have to figure out where the meat is being processed. (No…I’m not telling you what the meat is.  I can say that it’s not soylent green.  Well, not exactly.)

This book is so rife with puns, both obvious and not.  And I’ll warn you right now:  you’ll want to read them aloud.  Many of them simply don’t read well, I don’t care how clearly you hear the voice in your head.  It wasn’t until I reread aloud the part where the ship sails into the Myn Seas that I got it.  These are really the most sophisticated puns I’ve ever read…or heard.  And, yes – there really are such things.  Oh my god, now I can’t stop thinking about that passage…I ought to feel feminine outrage but I can’t stop chuckling.

But lest ye be fearful of awful puns, rest assured that this story isn’t all about the puns, it has a strong plot and delightful, well-drawn characters – which all benefit from the puns.  I enjoyed this so very much.  Well done, Delilah and Kevin, well done!

And be sure to read the fine print in the map…  ~~ Catherine Book

For more titles in this series click here
For more titles by Kevin Hearne click here
For more titles by Delilah Dawson click here

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