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Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free by Randy Henderson

Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free by Randy Henderson
Book Name: Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free
Author: Randy Henderson
Publisher(s): Tor Books
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Release Date: February 16, 2016 (US) March 1, 2016 (UK)

The phrase “never judge a book by its cover” is one we should all live by, especially those of us who read fantasy in the 90s, when all covers required dragons regardless of the content of the book. No, I have always preferred to judge a book by the first paragraph. When buying a book, I walk into a bookstore, open everything to the first page, and then put it back on the shelf. That’s right; I’m the guy who opened your book before you.

Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free by Randy Henderson passes this test by opening with a hilarious description of fairy embalmment. In a genre where taking yourself seriously is something of a badge of honour, it’s great to see what happens when an author is just having fun.

Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free is the second book from Randy Henderson in his urban(ish) fantasy series (I don’t count anywhere with Washington’s natural splendour as urban), which began with Finn Fancy Necromancy last year. This story picks up three months after the events of the first, with the Finn picking up the pieces of his life after having just been released from a twenty-five year exile to the Outer Realm just in time to be framed for murder and to foil his grandfather’s evil machinations. His grand plan to turn his life back around? Set up a magical dating service, of course.

Like I said, this isn’t a book that takes itself too seriously.

That’s not to say there aren’t some real serious moments in this book or that it doesn’t tackle some pretty heavy topics. Like any good novelist, Henderson inflicts ample psychological trauma upon his characters, particularly the protagonist, who is caught between every rock and every hard place, finding himself out of his own depth at every turn.

Much like my personal hero, Captain America, Finn is a man out of time. During his twenty-five year exile, he was unable to create any new memories. For him, it is very much like the last quarter of a century has not happened and he has been dropped into a world where all of his skills, knowledge, and (most crucially) his pop culture references are woefully out of date. Sure, there is humour to be found in this and there are some moments that are genuinely very funny, but Henderson also proves to be a respectable humourist, using comedy to explore just how much our experiences make us who we are. Finn’s struggles are just as much about him finding a place in the world and among his family as they are about not being killed by the wealth of magical creatures that keep trying to kill him.

So it’s got some serious bits, but it also has a lovelorn sasquatch, a randy faerie spirit living inside the main character’s head, and enough 80’s pop culture love to make even the most nostalgic of us shake our head. Normally I’d roll my eyes at such a thing, but thankfully Henderson doesn’t rely on blatant fan service, instead using the references to season the story rather than to carry it. The plot builds and grows in a very classic mystery pattern, with a number of strands seeming to be completely unconnected coming together at the end to always keep our hero guessing. The world Henderson presents is one of constant tension between the magical creatures that lurk in the background and those tasked with making sure they don’t properly freak out the rest of us, like the MiB for dwarves and elves. Throughout the novel, Finn practically trips over the different plots and conspiracies that the creatures around him are involved in, obstinately trying to maintain a sense of neutrality while just getting pushed further and further into the rabbit hole.

All Finn was trying to do was help a sasquatch bro find love, after all. Isn’t that what we all want, deep down?

Okay, that’s not entirely true. He’s also trying to help his brother choose between an easy life and the woman he loves, to figure out why his family of necromancers are all acting so crazy (my guess is the necromancy but what do I know?), and to get laid without the disembodied voice of a faerie knight in his head giving him tips and advice the whole time. All of which are equally important and distressing tasks.

So if you’re looking for a quick fix for your urban fantasy addiction and are craving something that stands out among the seriousness that dominates the genre’s landscape, Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free is a welcome change of pace. It combines two of my favourite things: a well-paced mystery plot and a writer who seems determined to have fun. I’m definitely looking forward to the third book in the series and potentially many more from Randy Henderson.


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