A Review of Shirtaloon's He Who Fights With Monsters

C: Good read with flaws.

A fun portal-fantasy with plenty of humour and a protagonist that drags his moral soapbox in chains behind him.

Jason, our MC, is simultaneously this series greatest strengths and greatest weakness.

Transported to a magical world, Jason is thrown into some truly unfortunate circumstances right off the bat. Weirdly there’s very little detail given about Jason and his past life, apart from a few vague comments about it not exactly being ideal (I mean, he was Australian, just like me, so points for that), but there’s no time to dwell on that as Jason struggles to survive against a host of organisations, beasts, and eventually eldritch horrors.

Due to these unfortunate circumstances, Jason’s powers that manifest are decidedly evil, and provide numerous sources of humour. His familiar is an apocalypse monster named Colin.

Jason gets swept along in conflicts along the way until we end up in a slightly more traditional progress fantasy setting (students, interpersonal politics, and yes, the classic entitled Noble who is a massive dick and serves as a generic antagonist). Jason’s snark against the entitled Noble class is initially amusing.

Then the snark continues and turns into a bit of preaching, and it starts to wear on me.

Make no mistake, this is not on the same level as Terry Goodkind trying to shovel Randian Objectivism down your throats (note to readers, for your mental health, please do not read the Sword of Truth series), its philosophy we all agree with. Classism is stupid. Inequality is bad.

But that’s the thing. We get it. Having the MC snark on about it all the time is tiring. Mostly because Jason is portrayed as smart, but when the dialogue gets philosophical its incredibly basic and the other characters act as NPCs to passively listen and ask the requisite follow up questions.

When it was just Jason it wasn’t too bad, but if you read onto the latter books, everyone becomes Jason. And Jason remains Jason, with almost no character development hundreds upon hundreds of pages in.

It would have been nice to see Jason’s internal struggles to not become the elite himself, exploiting other people for his own gain, or have his powers manifest in some way to create conflict with his moral philosophising, but it doesn’t happen.

There are some great scenes in the book, especially in Book One. His one-on-many fight using guerilla tactics and terrorising the other fights, amazing. And that’s effectively my summary of the scene. There are these great, polished scenes of Jason set into a larger story, but it’s the lack of development in both Jason and other characters outside of being a vehicle for him to exist that I wish was done better.