Ever wonder why characters in fantasy games would only take a half dozen adventurers on critical quests? Or why a someone would assemble a handful of deadly adventurers for a treasure hunt, but leave traps and locks to a lone criminal in the group? Or why, given the high mortality rates among adventurers, new applicants would keep sticking to the same dangerous practices?
They wouldn’t. Enter the Dungeoneers.
Jeffery Russell’s titular team is an entire platoon of dwarves that extract treasures from dangerous ruins with ruthless efficiency. They bring logistics officers, geologists, transportation, a cook, “acquisition specialists,” a ballista, decoy chickens, and a vanguard of highly trained combat dwarves to bear against any threat, dispatching them with cold logic and minimal drama. The result is akin to watching Rainbow 6 operatives storm a haunted house at the state fair, and it is hilarious.
Russell keeps and expands on many of your favorite fantasy tropes, while tactically dismantling many of the ridiculous ones. The adventures he writes manage to keep you engrossed in a fantasy setting while lamp-shading the genre’s more ridiculous conventions.
The dwarves themselves are a fun bunch, although aside from a few standouts they can run together at first. There are so many specialists on so many teams that it takes a few chapters or more to start to become familiar with their personalities and quirks. Thankfully, the Dungeoneers’ charismatic leader Thud always commands attention, and the humans he drags along on his expeditions are relatable and interesting.
The Lost Temple of Ssis’sythyss is the third book in Russell’s series, but I’d actually recommend reading it first. It’s a prequel that focuses on Ruby, the cantankerous and determined scribe that either follows the Dungeoneers around and / or is an integral part of their team, depending on who you ask and when you ask them. The book is a great introduction to the crew and their unconventional-but-completely-logical methods.
The Lost Temple’s story follows Ruby on a quest to find a missing friend, a fellow scribe who has been adventuring in a sweaty tropical jungle. Initially reluctant to leave her monastic life, the old scribe soon finds herself aligned with the mercantile Dungeoneers, dodging traps, negotiating with natives, meeting forest spirits, and narrowly escaping deadly beasts.
The Lost Temple of Ssis’sythyss is a fast paced, quick-witted dungeon crawl reminiscent of the best RPGs. As with Russell’s other books, it shines brightest when the Dungeoneers are methodically dismantling your favorite gaming clichés. If you’re up for a good laugh and some unconventional fantasy action, I’d recommend you pick up a copy.
Want to jump into The Dungeoneers without paying a copper coin? You can get a free copy of the first book in the series when you join Jeff’s mailing list. Click here to snag it.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.