They had me at Dungeon. Being a die-hard gamer, any book, bar top shelf adult orientated magazines and how-to-guides aimed at those interested in a relatively specialist not-so-secret-anymore lifestyle choice, that includes the word ‘Dungeon’ in the title, is going to immediately peak my interest and be given my full attention. Blame Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It’s their fault that I was dragged down the sacred path of the D20, it was their creation that made sure that I could lead a team of adventurers on strange quests instead of being able to do the whole grown-up, get a career thing with any success. At least that’s who I blame in those dark moments when I wake up screaming at 3AM and realise that my life has travelled down an endless path of the fantastical instead of the practical and as such I’ll almost certainly die a paupers death, lost, cold and alone. But anyways, that’s enough about me, on to more cheery things like Colin Bell and Neil Slorance’s Dungeon Fun.
A light-hearted, witty, inventive and clever tale that draws equal inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons, fairy tales and the early days of Livingstone and Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy series, while gently mocking, and tipping it’s hat to, Disney and their assorted Princesses, Dungeon Fun is the story of Fun Mudlifter who after being on the receiving end of the everyday things that Troll’s leave behind, or more accurately throw away, decides to do something about her plight. Gathering her wits and the sword that landed on, and split in twain, her latest mud project, Fun, the orphaned girl who mysteriously arrived at her “parents” door one day, heads into the forbidden Dungeon to take her complaint directly to the queen. Cue a story of camaraderie forged by adversity, mistaken identity, long lost royalty, evil monsters, possession and more that reinforces the ideas that you should never judge a book by its cover, that life is far more enjoyable when people talk to each other instead of fighting about everything and over nothing, that families are about much more than biological connections and are often complicated and messy and that sometimes your destiny, instead of being entwined in a magical far-away place that lies somewhere over the horizon, lies in the last place you ever thought it would.
So, okay, anyone who has ever spent any time caught in the all-powerful web of Disney Princesses is going to see the twist in the tale coming a hundred leagues away, but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because Colin Bell tells his story with such verve, energy and passion that you can’t help but become entangled in, and ensnared by, the clever, delightful, pun riddled prose that gradually leads you to exactly where you know it will. And Neil Slorance’s engaging, immediate art lends Dungeon Fun an ageless quality that means you’re going to lose yourself in its monstrously wonderful detail whether you’re fourteen or forty. If the folks who do such things at Disney optioned Dungeon Fun for the big screen, they’d have a sure fire family hit on their hands and Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast would be riding high on a mountain of Dungeon Fun inspired D&D profit for decades to come. It’s time to level up… Tim Cundle