In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez takes place in a world full of creatures of epic fantasies and folklore. Orcs, goblins, sirens, wizards, warriors, and the titular ogres are among the species present, as well as regular humans. Most of the story is set in one company of the Legion that provides armies for wars.
The main character, Ned, is sent to be the new commander of Ogre Company, the place where troublesome soldiers are sent, mainly because he seems to be immortal. This is a good thing, as “accidents” have befallen the previous commanders of Ogre Company. Actually, Ned dies rather frequently, but somehow he manages to come back to life every time. He has not been able to figure out why he keeps coming back to life, but that mystery becomes clearer as the story progresses.
Ned is being cared for by a magical and divine protector, and she is responsible for his supposed immortality, but she cannot protect him forever. Eventually Ned must learn to protect himself, because if he dies and stays dead, the universe will be destroyed. You will have to read the book and find out what happens, because that is all I can tell without giving away certain plot points, not to mention the ending.
I have not been able to peg down exactly the type of audience Martinez is writing for. Initially, the book seemed to be aimed at adolescent boys. The soldiering and mythical creatures combined with simple descriptions and dialogue clearly places the writing in the young adult fantasy category; however, there are some elements of the story that are better suited for a more mature audience. Although, not so mature that they have lost all sense of silliness.
Silliness is the key to a great deal of the plot. Like Ned, the reader is bounced from one fantastic circumstance to the next, never knowing exactly what will come of it and without a clear direction towards an end point. Publisher’s Weekly recommended Martinez’s debut book, Gil’s All Fright Diner, to fans of Douglas Adams, and I suspect that style of silly is what Martinez is aiming for with In the Company of Ogres.
Most of the gore in the book leans towards the gross-you-out variety, more than the freak-you-out type. Besides, what kind of fantasy book does not have at least one sword fight scene? On the whole, the book is an entertaining read suitable for most young adults, provided that their parents are not adverse to a few slightly veiled references to sexual activity.