In some stories within the fantasy genre—including all the grimdark, horror, epic, adventure, and otherwise—there are beings that are as old as the world. Usually these beings are gods, or monsters. In Brent Kelley’s work, Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater, the main character is one of these beings. And he manifests as a drunk, more-than-slightly sarcastic person with a chain and anchor protruding from his ribs. Chuggie is the manifestation of Drought and he is, unknowingly, about to enter into a series of events that is going to change the lives of a good number of people and also cause a whole lot of trouble.
There is a lot going on in this book, which is actually quite nice. There are so many different elements that all exist separately and yet come together to make the whole. For people like me who enjoy a well-woven story just as much as puzzles, this is a really good combination. The way that Chuggie interacts with the world seems to be a haphazard and drunken staggering from plot point to plot point. The characters around Chuggie have their own intent, their own mechanisms, their own motivations, and yet everything that Chuggie does expands upon and renders moot all that these characters do. Basically, this world has no idea what hit it. The way that this is explored is really well done on the author’s part. It is a difficult feat to manage to make everything come together under the attentions of a character who seems completely blown about by chance. And also quite impressive.
For as much as Chuggie seems to be a drunken wanderer who has no real intent beyond living his life and enjoying it, he is actually a very complicated and interesting character. It is sometimes hard to relate to these incomprehensibly old and powerful beings in stories, simply because their experience is so far beyond our own. With Chuggie, however, he seems to be a perfectly ordinary guy. Well, except for the super old bit. And the embodiment of Drought bit. But everything else is just a result of Chuggie trying to eke out a decent life and encountering rather dangerous and unfortunate situations along the way. The really entertaining part, though, is the way that all of the other characters seem to underestimate him. He may act like an ordinary guy, but he really isn’t. And honestly, it’s more than a bit amusing to see the other people floundering when they realise their mistake.
There are so many pieces of this book that I enjoyed that it’s really hard to pick a favourite part. Is it the bit where we’re introduced to Chuggie and he’s stuck in a tree? Or the bit where he impulsively runs off to go fetch a goat-faced purse to save his trapped love? Or the part where the other characters finally realise what idiots they’ve been? I don’t know. So I shall instead say that my favourite part was the fact that everyone is going around riding goats like horses and pretending that it’s completely normal. Every time I read that, I had to fight from laughing out loud and scaring my cat. Even in dire circumstances.
I think out of everything, I had a hard time with the ending. This book does such a spectacular set-up and building of the dark-possibly-horrific world that we find ourselves in. There is so much going on that comes together so nicely. The bits that push this book into the horror category are really well described and quite vivid. So when everything ends so abruptly, it felt a little strange. Okay, yes, the ending does make perfect sense. And, yes, there is a book two that will (hopefully) answer all the remaining questions. But it felt a little like everything just stopped. It was a little like being yanked out of the story by a string of strangely spelt words (this didn’t happen, but for a linguist, this is the best parallel I’ve got).
Overall, though, and even disregarding the ending, I would say that this book is very well written, well thought out, and well done. The characters were interesting (if a touch grotesque in parts, which is to be expected), the plot was entertaining and the whole goat situation… Anyways, I would say that this book was very good.