What kind of god would you be?
Deep beneath the earth, Corey finds himself reborn as a God Core – a sentient crystal with unusual powers. His new worshipers? A colony of incompetent gnomes, scratching out an existence in their underground grotto.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Corey soon realizes that his gnome denizens are about to become extinct. They are threatened by groups of blundering adventurers, and abducted by raiding kobolds to be sacrificed to their own dark god: an ancient, mysterious foe who does not take kindly to Corey’s arrival.
With the aid of his helper sprite and a menagerie of newly evolved creatures, Corey must protect and guide his gnomes until they can stand on their own two feet. But the kobold army is on the march, led by his new rival’s powerful avatar.
It’s a hard rock life, being a God Core.
Inspired by the god sims such as Black & White, dungeon managers like Dungeon Keeper and civ builders like Age of Empires, God of Gnomes is the first in a new generation of LitRPG and Dungeon Core stories — God Core.
My first foray into the LitRPG genre was with Ready Player One back in 2015 (and I’ve heard it’s debatable that it is truly LitRPG, but that’s another argument). I got about halfway through before I decided it wasn’t worth my time to continue on and I put it down for good. Cut to 2019, and I hear about this name new subgenre in Sci-fi/Fantasy called LitRPG that was making waves and getting a lot of comparisons to RPO. So, stupidly, I write it off, the whole subgenre, as being not for me.
But I also kept hearing about a little book called God of Gnomes. And I hear it’s quite funny. And it’s engaging. And it’s, well, pretty good. So, eventually, I decide to give it a read (I did mostly listen to it on Audible though).
And, I’m happy to say, those above statements are true, it is pretty good!
Demi Harper (I have been told this is a pen name for Laura Hughes, but that’s not true because I’ve met Demi in real life and she’s really weird, with her neon pink Mohawk hairstyle and her face tattoos of mushrooms) is a genuinely hilarious writer, with countless laugh out loud moments reminiscent of some of Pratchett’s best work. I know it’s a tad bit of a cliché to compare funny fantasy to Pratchett, but it really did remind me of Discworld. The world that the Gnomes inhabit is whimsical and charming, the relationship between our star of the show Corey and his subjects is compelling and laugh a minute stuff. Not only that, but it touches on how to be a better person, and how to use power that you possess for good and not just personal greed. Corey and Ket, the God Core’s fairy sidekick, have a brilliant buddy-cop type relationship too, usually propelled by disagreements they have about what to do with the Gnomes. For example, Corey, being a literal God, will sometimes want to punish them for not showing enough faith, and Ket will usually have some witty or scathing response that makes Corey think twice before causing any distress to his people. It is these moments that are thought provoking and left me mulling over its questions long after I put the book down.
The Gnomes themselves, whilst not taking an active role (in fact I’m fairly certain they don’t have any spoken lines) are still easy to get behind and root for, as Harper makes their emotions so identifiable, from their highest highs to their terrified and tragic lows. There are plenty of fantastical creatures in this tale too, from the cute and cuddly to the creepy and gross, and the world itself is fun, vivid and an absolute joy to dive into and discover.
The LitRPG elements in this story I felt held the pacing back especially at the beginning quarter. I know this is like going to a Marvel movie and complaining that there are too many superheroes because, of course, if you read a LitRPG, you should probably expect some gaming stuff every now and again! But when the story moved away from the character interactions to the gaming side of the coin, it felt very much like experiencing a tutorial, so it could often get a bit dry. I don’t think it was helped by the narration of Adam Sims who, for most of the book does a really good job, often fell into a monotone lull during these base-building/tutorial and more in-depth LitRPG parts. But, with that said, during the latter stages, I found that these harder rule based elements surrounding the magic and the larger story helped to increase tension and build stakes, much like when you know how many bullets Action Hero A has left in their gun, and it’s just enough to take out the bad guys in the room.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with this book. I was definitely wrong about this subgenre all those years ago, but you’ll have to let me off because I am very dumb indeed! I’m looking forward to seeing where Harper takes us in the next instalment (Exodus of Gnomes, which I will be listening to later this year) and I’m certain that it will be bigger, better and even more enjoyable ride than this one!