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War pummels the kingdom of Pell in Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne's No Country For Old Gnomes

By Jeff Spry
No Country for Old Gnomes textless cover art

Carried in on a crackling bolt of fantasy lightning, New York Times bestselling authors Delilah S. Dawson (Star Wars: Phasma, Sparrowhawk) and Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles) have returned in the second installment of their hilariously entertaining book series from Del Rey, The Tales of Pell.

Following in the puntastic footsteps of last year's debut novel, Kill The Farm Boy, this latest trek into the crazy kingdom of Pell has been humorously christened, No Country For Old Gnomes, a sly homage to Cormac McCarthy's revisionist classic, No Country For Old Men. Here in the sensational sequel, Dawson and Hearne have orchestrated an uproarious blast back to their odd fairyland with all its irreverent quirks and twists.

No Country For Old Gnomes Cover

The wild plot finds war brewing on the horizons of Pell. On one side stand the noble gnomes, wearing tidy cardigans and having zero taste for cruelty. On the other side sit the halflings astride their trusty war alpacas, carrying sacks of grenades and hungry for a spirited fight.

But it takes only one halfling bomb to upend our protagonist Offi Numminen's existence, given that he resides in a simple hole in the ground. His smart-looking goth cardigans and aggravated melancholy set him apart from the other forest gnomes, as does his decision to battle back against their halfling oppressors.

Offi becomes the reluctant leader of a band of lovable misfits and outcasts — from a mystical gryphon who would literally kill for omelets, to an ambitious dwarf herbalist who is more adept at dealing with bees than with his cudgel, to an assertive teen witch with a beard as long as her book of curses — all on a perilous journey to the Toot Towers to confront the dastardly villain intent on tearing Pell asunder. This motley band of merry adventurers never fit in anywhere else, but as they become close friends, fight mermaids, enjoy fine cheeses, and express their anger at a particular raccoon, they eventually learn that there's nothing more heroic than truly being yourself.

Dawson and Hearne

SYFY WIRE chatted with Dawson on the eve of No Country For Old Gnomes' arrival in book stores on April 16 about the tweaked tropes of fairy tales and high fantasy, what fans of the first book can anticipate in the new offering, and what keeps her and Hearne enlivened by the entrancing world they've conjured.

Can you indulge us with a quick rundown on this amusing new sequel?

No Country for Old Gnomes is all about lovingly flipping Tolkien's tropes to bring together a group of unlikely heroes — because bringing together unlikely heroes and afflicting them with ping pong and armored war llamas is apparently what Kevin Hearne and I do best. The hero is a goth gnome who doesn't quite fit in, and he ends up leading a dungeon party composed of a teen witch, a half-sheep kleptomaniac, a halfling in love with the law, a flatulent gryphon, and a dwarf who longs to purge his soul of violence so he can retire to raise bees. Their goal: To find the legendary City of Underthings and stop the war tearing their homeland apart.

What was the genesis of these strange and wonderful characters?

Kevin and I came up with them while eating and drinking our way down Frenchman's Street in New Orleans. As we put together our crü, we focused on looking at the existing fantasy tropes and subverting them hilariously. For example, Gerd the gryphon is based on the logo of the hotel we stayed in, and we tried to figure out how to take a noble, beautiful, mythical gryphon and make it... weird and gross in the best possible way, with lots of umlauts. I adore all the characters and love how Kevin and I take turns writing them, each of us adding new layers of strengths, flaws, and hilarity.

Old Gnomes Promo

What fans can expect on their delightful return journey to Pell?

You'll see even more fiddly bits of the amazing map Kevin drew, including the lands of the halflings and gnomes, not to mention the Pruneshute Forest, the City of Underthings, a famed halfling restaurant called Dinny's, the Toot Towers, and an exciting store where one might purchase a leather ballsack to hold fine halfling cheese balls. Kevin also came up with these brilliant, Tolkien-esque epigraphs for each chapter with clever sayings and ancient quotes, and the chapter headings also crack me up. If you get the audiobook, I can't begin to explain how hilarious Luke Daniels is. His voices are impeccable.

Can you comment on the striking cover design these novels are adorned with?

The covers are by Craig Phillips, and we just love them so much. On this one, we're especially fond of the rampant gryphon and her gnome rider. If you look closely, you'll see oodles of lovely little hints about the plot hidden in every Pell cover.

Princess Beard

What can we look forward to in the third Tales of Pell novel, The Princess Beard?

This October, The Princess Beard will follow the story of the lady sleeping in the tower of thorns from Kill the Farm Boy, taking her from damsel-in-distress-with-grossly-overgrown-toenails to fearsome pirate. It's a story about saving yourself, finding your destiny, and what happens if you don't fit into any of the Hogwarts houses. Personally, I'm just so excited for everyone to read the epilogue — even if that's putting the cart before the war alpaca.

What else is on your crowded creative plate for 2019 and beyond?

Right now, I'm working on Star Wars Galaxy's Edge: Black Spire (August 27), Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (September 30), and a new creator-owned comic with IDW called Star Pig about a giant space tardigrade (out in July and drawn by Francesco Gaston). I couldn't be happier to be working with Del Rey, Disney, IDW, and Boom! Studios! My goal is to get things off my plate and keep my editors happy, and so far, it's working.