Robert Asprin’s series of Myth books follows the buddy adventures of Skeeve, a young apprentice magician whose teacher is killed in the first few pages of book one (Another Fine Myth) and Aahz, a demon (anyone from a non-native dimension) who takes Skeeve under his wing. The two get in and out of one scrape after another over the course of many books as their relationship deepens and grows more equal, and they pick up a crew of friends along the way, with Skeeve eventually becoming The Great Skeeve — terror of multiple dimensions and protector of the Great Bazaar.
The books were a favorite of mine when I was in my younger teens and I remember them fondly. So the question, as always, on a reread is “how do they hold up?”. Well, I can see why I would have liked them in my younger teens and that’s the audience (more male than female) that I’d still recommend them to as they don’t really lend themselves to fulfilling more sophisticated readers, and even with that recommendation, I’d offer up a few caveats.
To start with why they do make good early reads: MythAdventures are short — more novellas I’d say than full novels. And they’re quick reads beyond their length, as nearly all the plot is conveyed via dialogue, which means they really speed along. It took me only two nights to read the first seven, so that gives you some idea. The characters are all likable and the reader enjoys spending time with them. The banter is decent, the humor on and off, and the puns relatively minimal at the start. The books all present the problem early and resolve it by the end with some antics in between.
As for their weaknesses: As mentioned, the books are mostly dialogue — don’t expect a lot of sensory detail (or any for that matter). The world-building is non-existent — there is no real sense of place in any of the first half-dozen novels, whether the place is a room, a building, a town/city, a world. A few lines sketch the bare minimum necessary for the plot (usually where a door or window might be for some sort of fast exit) and that’s about it. There’s no richness of detail here.
The characters are likable, and they do grow as the books go on, but I wouldn’t call them particularly deep or fleshed out. The growth is relatively predictable and its conveyance is pretty straightforward — usually in the form of one of the characters saying how he/she has grown or with Skeeve thinking it. No need to read between the lines or into gestures.
MythAdventures mean to lampoon stock types and plots, which of course means the characters and plots are stock. I know this is difficult to classify as a weakness since it’s intended, but I’d say he’s more successful with lampooning plots than characters as the character types are a bit broad for the older me (the mob guy who can’t stand garlic, the dumb moll who’s a genius with numbers, the troll who speaks like an Oxford Brit, etc.). One problem is that some of the references might go whistling past younger readers unfamiliar with just what is being lampooned here (though to be fair, I stopped at book 7; my guess is later entries in the series have been keeping up with pop culture). As for the plots beyond the humor, there really isn’t much here. I wouldn’t label them compelling; more interesting enough to want to know vaguely what happens by the end.
And there’s never any true sense of tension, while predicaments are gotten out of pretty easily.
I nearly stopped after the first book or two, but the characters were likable enough and the reads fast enough that I went on, mostly because I’d remembered where Skeeve ended up and I was a little curious how he got there, but by the last book I was skimming the last half even with the quickness of the read. As mentioned, then, I’d recommend for younger readers and mostly male since the main character is an adolescent male and there’s some (not a lot) of cleavage and chest-pushing references (nothing like Piers Anthony — don’t even get me started) and even then I’d say maybe for reluctant readers who want something fast and light since there’s such a wealth of great fantasy and sci-fi for sophisticated readers in that age group that really is in another class when compared to these. But again, the intent is different — MythAdventures are just what they advertise themselves to be with their titles — light, quick reads.