The back copy of Lustlocked by Matt Wallace reads, “The Goblin King (yes, that one) and his Queen are celebrating the marriage of their son to his human bride. Naturally, the celebrations will be legendary.” Sounds pretty awesome huh? Goblins and weddings and the promise of all kinds of unpredictable magic? I was eager to dive in, because this story promised tons of fun.
It’s a lie.
Well, that’s a little harsh. Not all of it’s a lie. There is a Goblin King, and his son is getting married. There is a goblin wedding. However, it isn’t that goblin king, the one I was promised. This displeases me. When I think goblins, I think the Lord of the Rings; when Lustlocked thinks goblins, it thinks…I guess Leonardo DiCaprio?
Which isn’t cool at all. Goblins aren’t supposed to be extra pretty people, even if I’m sure their origin in ancient European folklore disagrees with me. They’re supposed to be big and stupid and smelly and ugly, and the Goblin King himself best be at least a ten-man raid boss, one that drops a polearm as a weapon even though he’s only carrying a large club.
But in the case of Lustlocked, goblins are pretty and, funny enough, most are celebrities. And honestly, it doesn’t matter all that much since they aren’t the focus of the story. I’m just still bothered by it is all.
Lustlocked takes place in a top-secret kind of kitchen called Sin du Jour, where they prepare meals for the elite magical folks—or that’s what I gather. There is at least one other novella in this series and probably a few short stories, meaning starting in the middle was a little rough. The story assumes you know the characters ahead of time, which is fair, but also made the first handful of pages confusing.
I didn’t know any of the characters, and damn are there a lot of them.
As a setting, Sin du Jour is brilliant. The whole package reminds me of Chowder meets Harry Potter meets True Blood (minus all the smut). It’s such a fun place that I wish this story were bigger, the characters more fleshed out. I want to know more, and really, I’d like to visit it again.
There’s something inspired about showcasing magic from the side of the mundane. Two of our giant cast are simple line chefs, suckered into their jobs because of some past history with the kitchen and because they need the money. They understand what’s going on to a point, but that point isn’t all that big. This allows them to react alongside the reader, marveling at the idea that rubies can be ground into jam and that there’s a whole set of mind-controlled zombies used to decorate weddings.
This is probably the most creative use of zombies I’ve seen in fiction, by the way.
And hell, I like the characters here, or what I understand of them. There are probably six or seven people to jump around, more if you include the goblin prince and princess who actually get screen time, and I’m impressed they’re all juggled so well in such a short piece of fiction. There’s a lot crammed in here.
That being said, I don’t really remember who is who on basic levels. There’s a reason why I’m not going into any depth about our colorful cast.
Sadly, the package that I really wanted to like begins to falter at the writing style itself. The novella is written in a very choppy fashion, with lots of very short, one-sentence paragraphs. And when I say, “Lots” I mean lots. I’m talking full pages sometimes:
“At first she doesn’t recognize the nondescript man in the black-and-white Adidas running suit, wondering if he’s a jogger who has lost his cell phone or something.
Then a name leaps at her from the shadows of her own mind like a tiger, and Lena almost recoils in the same way.
His name is Allensworth.
He’s the man who delivered Ramiel, the captured angel, to Sin du Jour.
He’s the man who expected them to serve every part of it at a banquet for demons.
He’s the man who explained that expectation as if he were asking for a cup of sugar from a neighbor.
Lena turns away from the door.
It’s really, really annoying. It kills any flow the prose has, and honestly, it reminds me of a forum or social media post. It took a lot of joy out of the story, and it killed most of the humor for me. This is a big problem as Lustlocked really wants to be funny and probably would be had the prose been less choppy.
Because as someone who loves the overtly offensive humor of Kaptara, the kinds of debauchery going on in this book really should have had be rolling.
Before I start wrapping this up, I should mention that my copy of Lustlocked came with a short story within the Sin De Jour world. It’s tacked onto the end and gives some introduction to a few of the characters you’ll see. It’s good. It suffers from the same stylistic problems, but it’s quick and interesting, and you should read it first if you pick this book up. It’ll help explain a lot.
It sucks when my big complaint is how a story is written, because it’s something I have to put up with for the entire package, and because authors should be allowed to experiment and try different styles. Not all styles will appeal to all readers. That’s just the way of it.
So take a look at that above piece of text, and if you’re okay with that kind of writing, add a point and a half to this score.