God of Gnomes by Demi Harper
Publisher: Portal Books Publication date: 11th September 2019
Genre: LitRPG Page Count: 444
God of Gnomes is my first proper foray into the LitRPG genre, and I had no idea what to expect. I’ve heard great things about Demi Harper’s (aka Laura M. Hughes’) writing, and having worked with her enough I was also fairly confident of the fact, but how was that going to apply to this genre? I wasn’t even fully sure I understood the concept – a narrative that takes place within a game? With the usual constructs and components you’d normally find within a game – levels, and lives, and attributes oh my…
Setting aside my trepidations, it started off well. Our protagonist was in a state of some kind of renewed consciousness, and had no idea who they were or where they were, or what they were. And considering I in turn had no idea what was going to happen, it suited me well. I quite enjoyed the protagonist mirroring my own internal confusion. The narrative, however, was not confusing in the least. On the contrary, despite not knowing anything physical about the character, their personality was coming through loud and clear, and hooked me straight away with their internal thoughts and sarcastic asides. I thought this an important achievement all things considering!
I struggled a little with what followed this initial opening; our protagonist, Corey, has a guide who explains his new situation to him and walks him through what might be expected of him, and how he can create things and change things… it just all felt far too much like the tutorial section at the start of a game. Generally, this is my least favourite part of a game – please don’t hate me, but I button bash my way through these to quickly get into the meat of the game. And similarly here, I didn’t enjoy being guided through this process, and wanted to get back into the story. I assumed this was a quirk of the genre though, where organic story-telling clashes with mechanical game constructs. Once we were past this phase, the narrative felt much more natural, and although there was the occasional (annoying) reminder of how certain aspects worked, Harper’s gift for story-telling outshone anything else.
God Of Gnomes was really easy to read; the chapters are short, and the narrative voice is light and fun, which made for a pace which clipped along quite nicely. I found myself eager to get back into this subterranean world which Harper had so deftly brought to life. I’m not one for creepy-crawlies, and dark damp places; but Corey’s increasing interest and care was so compelling that I was swept along with it. As satisfyingly detailed Harper’s world is, as ever it was the characters who really drove me through this story. I found myself heavily invested in Corey’s story-arc.
I don’t want to spoil too much, but as wonderful as the worldbuilding was, and as exciting and tense the action between Corey and his antagonist, it was Corey’s development and personal growth that really sold this story for me. He reminded me very much of Eleanor Shellstrop from The Good Place; the way in which, to begin with, he is clearly just ticking all the right boxes to get the job done and achieve his personal goal. It was so satisfying to follow the change that comes over him. The eponymous gnomes are very much Harper’s NPCs, and just like your regular NPCs in this kind of wider-scale society-building game, they’re easy to take or leave. And yet, like Corey, I found myself becoming endeared to the individuals within the masses; this is a very well-crafted connection on Harper’s part, an insidious kind of fungal growth that neither you nor Corey notice at first, and so it’s a wonderful shared revelation.
Although I don’t particularly feel qualified to compare how God of Gnomes holds up within the LitRPG genre, I can say that as far as fantasy stories go, this is a wonderful one full of jeopardy, humour, excellent characters, and inventive worldbuilding (I especially loved the splicing of various creatures, and want a Forrel of my own!) I can’t wait for the next installment and to see where the evolution of this gnomic society goes next!