Where Summa was serious, H2C was humorous. I laughed many times the first time I read it. Those jokes still made me laugh the second time. And as I mentioned before, a second read from me is rare these days.
This coming of age story takes all the rules of fantasy writing and turns them on their head. This works because it is done self-consciously and over the top. It is humor in the like of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld or Robert Lynn Asprin’s Myth Series. Heroes narrate their battles against Villains (and Heroes only fight Villains, never villains). The Villains monologue during the execution of their death traps and schemes.
The main character, Cyrus Solburg, has always dreamed of being a hero like his father. When the International Guild of Heroes finds him, they apprentice him to Reginald “The Crimson Slash” Ogleby. Reg then attempts to teach Cyrus everything there is to know about being a hero (“Remember this, lad, the first thing about being a hero is taking unnecessary risks”). The relationship has rough points because Cyrus desires to use magic while Reg has never trusted magic or even magic using heroes. In their quests, Cyrus discovers that the world is much more complicated than he ever imagined and meets his True Love. But there’s a problem in Central Mundi. An Arch-Villain (not just a Villain) is on the loose and gunning for revenge against Reg.
There are many things to like about this book. The humor is out of this world without seeming forced. Each Hero has a nickname consisting of “The + Adjective + Noun.” So we wind up with the likes of “The Crimson Slash,” “The White Tiger,” “The Blak Spoon,” (yes, he spells it that way) “The Solid Wall,” and “The Swift Justice.” Villains take names like Voshtyr Demonkin or Thomas Hacknose and have their own theme music (in minor keys). Both Villains and Heroes find themselves constrained by a force even more powerful than they are: bureaucracy.
Another thing I liked was how the seriousness of superpowered heroes and villains was taken. They didn’t just do damage and go on as if the world was in all other ways normal. The consequences of their powers were dealt with. For instance, Villains are limited in the number of eclipses they can use per quarter and have to file environmental reports with the Brotherhood before they take certain actions. Heroes have to be heroic or they face losing sanction of the Guild.
However, this book is long. You could use it as a blunt instrument if you wanted to. In some ways, it is too long. There are a lot of characters who get screen time, and one can easily get lost in the names. There are a few jokes which get old and tiresome. The author likes to make word plays on common English phrases but the word plays make no sense. It takes you out of the story for a brief time. Also, about half way through, some of the characters realize they are in a book and start making comments on the fact. This becomes tiresome as it picks up near the end of the book.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the book and recommend it.