fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Nick O'Donohoe The Gnomewrench in the DwarfworksThe Gnomewrench in the Dwarfworks by Nick O’Donohoe

Set during World War II, The Gnomewrench in the Dwarfworks (1999) concerns a young man who works at an industrial plant selling furnaces for war production. When he gets an order for a furnace sized for someone who is only three feet tall, he investigates and discovers that there are dwarves supplying the American military with some of their most essential war machinery.

The Gnomewrench in the Dwarfworks has a brilliant premise: what if the success of the American war machine in World War II depends upon a small band of dwarves being able to keep themselves hidden, and also protected from their historic enemy, the gnomes?

Unfortunately the book falters on execution. Plagued by an overabundance of loosely differentiated characters, the story kind of meanders along, resembling a series of vignettes that are only loosely cobbled together. There are some wonderful scenes — a Christmas concert and a visit to the MIT campus with a group of freshmen engineering students bent on destroying their dormitory spring readily to mind. But overall the scattered nature of the storytelling kept me from feeling any real sense of the urgency that would have been inherent in a war-time situation where the safety of the characters’ loved ones would have been dependent on the ability of the heroes to successfully complete their job.

Nick O’Donohoe has a considerable amount of talent. He has good ideas and the ability to write good scenes, but at the end I was left flat by the overall story. The climactic battle sequence was resolved by… contract negotiation? Rather than feeling like a fantasy novel, The Gnomewrench in the Dwarfworks felt like an overly earnest documentary attempting to expose the racism and sexism faced by people fighting the war on the home front. There are flashes of brilliance here, but just like panning for gold, you end up sorting through a lot of dull material to find the sparkle.

The Gnomewrench — (1999-2000) Publisher: At the height of World War II, Grady Cavanaugh, a young American engineer and draft reject working for an industrial furnace manufacturer in New England, receives an odd order that leads him to the discovery of an incredible underground world populated by dwarves in which magic is all too real.

fantasy book reviews Nick O'Donohoe 1. The Gnomewrench in the Dwarfworks 2. The Gnomewrench in the Peopleworksfantasy book reviews Nick O'Donohoe 1. The Gnomewrench in the Dwarfworks 2. The Gnomewrench in the Peopleworks


  • Ruth Arnell

    RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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