Misfits of Carnt Book Series
I picked up a book in a promo for free a while back. The title, Orcs in Portland by Aaron Frale, caught my attention and was the entire reason I downloaded it. I used to live in Portland, and I have a fondness for books related to orcs. I was curious how the location would feature in the book. After I started it, I realized it was book two in a series, and I hate reading books out of order. I wanted to know what happened in the first one, so I set it aside until I could get the first book.
I picked up My Three-year-old is a Barbarian and Other Parenting Problems, the first book in the series Misfits of Carnt and read it. It’s an isekai body-swapping story, where a bunch of high school kids, their TA and the TA’s three-year-old kid get whisked through a portal into Carnt, another word inhabited with orcs, elves, gnomes, trolls, dwarves, sorcerers, and magical beasts. Their consciousnesses get stuck in the bodies of the Silent Legion (a group of heroes that are the equivalent of a DnD group of adventurers). The consciousnesses of those heroes end up in the bodies of the people back on Earth. And so, the adventure begins for both groups.
The three-year-old Jonathan ends up in a giant barbarian’s body, and his mother ends up in a halfing’s body, which makes parenting a child difficult, especially when said child needs to go potty or even worse, needs a nap. And what does one do when the child in the man’s body doesn’t want to put down his war axe?
When a giant of a man—a king!—who is used to commanding respect gets stuck in a three-year-old’s body, he gets extremely frustrated when people tell him “No”. A bad attitude, swearing, and threatening bodily harm to your minders is a quick way to get put in time-out. Or to get put down for a nap.
In Orcs in Portland, our heroes are back into their proper bodies, but portals are opening and spilling out threats into Beaverton High School willy nilly (nod to Buffy and the Hellmouth), and the teens and their TA must keep saving the day, without getting caught. In the modern age of cell phones and security cameras. No problem... Meanwhile, in Carnt, a necromancer has created an undead army, and the Silent Legion must somehow stop it.
I love humor, especially when it’s self-referential or metahumor. There are a lot of nods to pop culture and geeky fandoms in these two books, as well as DnD and RPGs. It is easy to be too heavy-handed with the metahumor and references, turning something fun into “look at me, I’m all pop-culture geeky edgy and shit.” Frale walks that fine line, and he pulls it off.
I love the characters. They're funny, relatable, and your typical high school teens. I think my favorite character might be Tim, since I always like the nerdy kids. But then, each character is fun in its own way, and each has a personality and background.
The plot is farcical, but is actually pretty involved, with lots of pieces and weaving of the different parts. Despite that, the pacing doesn't suffer. I enjoyed the books a lot!
The Misfits of Carnt series has another book expected sometime next year.