RogerBW's Blog

The Curse of the Giant Hogweed, Charlotte MacLeod 31 March 2018

1985 fantasy, fifth of MacLeod's novels of Professor Peter Shandy. Shandy and two colleagues are in Wales to look into a hogweed infestation, but soon find themselves in a fantastical realm.

This is not what one expects from a nice respectable mystery author. Apart from some framing narrative, it's comic fantasy, written by someone who doesn't particularly know fantasy; there's a fair bit of the Connecticut Yankee here, though soap-making is rather more important than gunpowder. Everyone talks in cod-mediƦval, and there's a blatant authorial hand pushing the story forward.

"A mere prince wotteth not to make a griffin go poof. A prince can't do much of anything except ride off on gestes and rescue beautiful princesses from monsters and evil wizards. My uncles have all been down that road long ago. Bethink ye, once a prince hath rescued one beautiful princess, that first princess be like to wax exceeding wroth gin he goeth off and rescueth another. I know because Uncle Edwy tried it. Aunt Edelgysa found out and beaned him with ye thighbone of a sheep."

It's moderately amusing, and there's even a small element of mystery. I don't think it really holds up against comic fantasy by people who know the genre (though Tom Holt's Expecting Someone Taller wouldn't be out until two years after this), and I certainly wouldn't recommend that anyone read this book as a stand-alone, but as a series entry where one can see several of the regular characters outside their normal context it works surprisingly well.

Followed by The Corpse in Oozak's Pond.

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