The Dungeoneers (Dungeoneers Series #1)

The Dungeoneers (Dungeoneers Series #1)
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Release Date
June 23, 2015
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The world is not a fair place, and Colm Candorly knows it. While his parents and eight sisters seem content living on a lowly cobbler's earnings, Colm can't help but feel that everyone has the right to a more comfortable life. It's just a question of how far you're willing to go to get it. In an effort to help make ends meet, Colm uses his natural gift for pickpocketing to pilfer a pile of gold from the richer residents of town, but his actions place him at the mercy of a mysterious man named Finn Argos, a gilded-toothed, smooth-tongued rogue who gives Colm a choice: he can be punished for his thievery, or he can become a member of Thwodin's Legions, a guild of dungeoneers who take what they want and live as they will. Colm soon finds himself part of a family of warriors, mages, and hunters, learning to work together in a quest to survive and, perhaps, to find a bit of treasure along the way.

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Colm is being raised in a family that includes eight sisters, a hard working shoemaker father, and a beleaguered but loving mother. Knowing that the family fortunes are devastated in the wake of a family illness, Colm does the unthinkable-- he picks pockets in town, and comes up with a LOT of money. His father doesn't see this as a good thing, and takes his case to the magistrate, where he meets Finn. Finn wants to make Colm his apprentice as a rogue, working for Tye Thwodin. Thwodin is a Dungeoneer, and leads a group of talented individuals who help him find treasure in various dungeons and take it for their own. He also runs a sort of school, and Colm's introduction to this is finding himself trapped in a dungeon with Serene, a Druid, Lena, a warrior/barbarian, and Quinn, a mageling. They break out in record time, and set to preparing for their trial. Some odd things are going on in Thowdin's world, including Master Wolfe being set upon by orcs, but Colm blossoms under Finn's tutelage. He can pick locks, and learns many other copying skills. He also makes the acquaintance of one of the most accomplished dungeoneers-in-training, Ravenna Heartfall, who is striking and mysterious. The trial brings many challeges as well as some surprises, and Colm must utilize all of his new skills to keep himself and his new friends alive.
Good Points
Colm was a fantastic character. At home, he was just trying to survive his rambunctious sisters, knowing that his father wanted him to become his apprentice, but realizing he hoped for more than such a hard scrabble existence. Not knowing where to find any other kind of life, he is relieved and excited when Finn shows up and promises him untold treasure, but only as the result of hazardous undertakings. Repairing shoes for a living, or adventure where one might possibly be eaten by an orc? The choice for most twelve year olds is quite clear! Colm works hard and makes good progress, and his loyalties and character are tested in a great twist at the end of the book.

The supporting characters are fun as well-- Serena can talk to animals, but is afraid to talk to large ones. Since those are the most useful animals with whom to converse, she has to overcome her fears. Lena is bound and determined to be the fiercest barbarian ever, and the insults that she hurls are delightful-- at one point, she threatens orcs with putting her fist down their gullets, bringing up their last meal, and making their neighbor eat it! She also wants to name her sword "Bloodgulper"! Quinn has the ability to shoot fire out of his fingers, and occasionally his ears, but needs to learn to control his powers and overcome some of his fears. Ravenna doesn't get too much coverage in this book, but I can see her emerging as a love interest in the second book-- it's fantastic that she ends up saving Colm!

Anderson's prose is fast-paced and funny. As he did in Minion and Sidekicked, he has created unique and quirky characters who embrace the challenges thrown at them by their magical worlds. My only objection was that the world building seemed weak, mainly because the book supposes that the reader is familiar with the sort of medieval-ish setting where boys are sent away from their hamlets to seek their fame with swords. The dialogue at times sounds very modern. However, when I read other reviews of this title, I learned that the setting owes much to the Dungeons and Dragons game, or other role playing games of adventure. Since Runescape makes me cry bitter tears of frustration, I didn't understand this facet of the book. Fans of RPGs will adore this, and be quick to imagine themselves into the story.
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