Friday, 30 October 2009

J.W. Wells & Co. - Supernatural Consultants, Paranormal Engineers, Practical Metaphysicians -- A Review of the Tom Holt Series

Not had an update in nearly a week, I apologise for that, I have been busy and then ill! To all my loyal followers and to anyone else who has looked though, today you are in for a treat for I am going to talk to you about one of my favorite authors, and my absolute favorite series of books within the fantasy genre!

Tom Holt is an ex-lawyer turned fantasy writer, who took his writing pro in 1995, he specialises in historical novels, and fantasy novels which incorporate various tales of mythology. There seems to be a special emphasis in his books on Roman and Greek mythology, but even though there are hints of it in the series I am going to talk to you about, it is more Wizardry, Fey, Goblins, well I could keep going but it's proper comic-fantasy!

The series of books I am going to talk about are the J.W Wells & Co series, which incorporate currently (I think) 6 books, however I am yet to read the 6th and I think 4, and 5 I will leave for another time, as they are more like spin offs from the original 3 (and it'd make this post last ages!)

Book 1: The Portable Door

I was introduced to Tom Holt via this book, and boy am I glad about it. Sometimes the best books you get are the ones you stumble across, and this is exactly what happened with me. I had received a book token as a gift, and the book I actually bought with it was Vernon God Little. I happened to be out with my mum at the time, and when I got back to her she said “I've already got that one” so I quickly went back to change it, and came out with this book, totally at random.

So what can I tell you about this opening book? Our hero...or massive loser...depending on your vantage point, is Paul Carpenter, who goes for a job interview for a firm who are looking to hire 2 clerks. At the interview he notices how everyone is better then him, and he also notices a not too attractive female picking her nose with the end of her biro...Paul falls in love.

Surprisingly, both he, and the "attractive" female (Sophie) get the job at J.W.Wells & Co. and get to chronologically ordering bits of paper, running through other pieces of paper circling anything they think might be a bauxite know general admin.

However all is not as it seems, for one afternoon they get locked in the building by accident, and end up being attacked by a horde of Goblins, they are shown the company letterhead, “J.W. Wells & Co. - Supernatural Consultants, Paranormal Engineers, Practical Metaphysicians”, and the boardmembers include some of the greatest in their fields, including the Contessa Judith di Castel'Bianco; Queen of the Fey.  And Paul, and Sophie...wizards, of course!

Well from here on in, things all get a little bit fun, and a little bit sticky. Paul has these weird dreams, there's a sword stuck in a stone, The Acme Portable Door turns up in Paul's desk draw (stick it to any wall, open it up and go where ever your heart desires), the CEO (J. Wells) has been missing for a long time now, and what's it all got to do with Gilbert and Sullivan. And (as with all offices) the stationary keeps going missing; where is that pesky stapler!

Book 2: In Your Dreams

It's time for Paul and Sophie to move around the company a bit, going into the different areas to see what they would be best suited to specialise in. Paul, well he gets lumped with “Pest” control, or how it's better known as: Heroism. Sophie, entertainment, and she gets whisked away to the Hollywood branch of J.W.Wells (and swiftly breaks up with Paul...poor sod)

It seems though that Paul...doesn't exactly have the aptitude for Heroism, and when his boss disappears, it is down to Benny Shumway, a dwarf – and the company accountant, to teach him the ropes. Paul does become a dragon slayer though...well he tripped and sat on a dragon's windpipe until it choked to death...but it's he had all the tools with him to really get it if he wanted to...

But things aren't all as they seem in the world of paranormal consultancy, and when Paul's hero boss jumps through the window of his apartment, cut and bleeding, and demanding coffee (not just any coffee, but at least half a mug of coffee grindings), and warning Paul not to sleep things start to go pear shaped.

But what has Paul's Great Uncle Ernie got to do with this, and what's up with the Bank of the Dead. And his old School friend Melzie is working at the firm now, and seems to take an unhealthy liking to Paul (in that a talking to him). Can The Contessa really be trusted, and what is so scary about sleeping, and dreaming?

And what is it that truly makes a hero...?

Book 3: Earth, Air, Fire and Custard

Dennis Tanner, Paul's frankly horrible boss has only gone and done the unthinkable this time. He's gone and offered Paul a promotion, a promotion that even ups his holiday entitlement from zero to something...unbelievable...there must be a catch right?! Apart from obviously working with a bunch of psychotic board members who's only goals in life seem to be to try and get Paul killed.

In this final book of the 3 series you are kept on your toes throughout, unable to tell at any point who is on the side of good, and who is on the side of evil. What is it with the empty place that Paul keeps finding himself in if he takes on too much pastries though, and can the 4th element really be Custard?

I don't want to give too much of this book away, it's intricate and can be difficult to follow from time to time. We find out more about the real love story behind our Sophie and Paul, and more about Paul's heroism.

This is a good read, and wraps up the three stories brilliantly! Oh and I should really let you know that quixotic means “caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals; idealistic without regard to practicality”...that should save you having to hunt out a dictionary when you hit that part.


All in all, Tom Holt is a light read, fun read. He mocks, and parodies myths and legends brilliantly, and his books will make you snort out loud on a train. There are clear influences from other fantasy novels (Paul Carpenter seems closely mirrored on The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy's Arthur Dent), but these aren't just any other novel, nor are they just any other fantasy novel. This is a 3 book journy into the life of an ordinary man, who wants an ordinary life, but instead...gets wrapped up in a life of carnage, chaos, and unreliable parents.

WELL WORTH A READ – do it, you wont regret it! :o)

Much Love


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