While ostensibly being about a human guy named Jack who becomes the legendary Jack of the Lantern, I see it as being more about the narrator. The way the story is presented makes me think of an anthropologist collecting tales about Jack and then trying to syncretize them. There are lines like "people say this about Jack" and "this story says X event happened but that story says Y" and often referring back to the Just So origin of the Jack O' Lantern. The narrator also speaks of the changing of cultures over time and how festivals changed in the process - Samhain and All Saints days are compared in a scholarly sort of tone.
It has a really slow start. The narrator speaks of the many ways in which Jack is a loser: a skinflint, a drunkard, a gambler, someone who blames his problems on others. This covers many chapters. So it gets repetitive.
There are three major events once the story finally gets going: the wagers from the title, Jack "inventing" the vegetable lantern, and then being turned away from the Gates of Hell while unable to find the Gates of Heaven. These events are far more engaging than the previous character-study-like first section. Frankly, they sound like folktales, which I assume is the point.
Though a lot of people emphasize Jack's life in this story, it is in the scene of the crowd. Only three characters have any distinction.
There's Jack, of course. He's portrayed as a clever individual but far too irresponsible to accomplish much of anything. Most of the money he earns doing odd jobs is spent on alcohol or lost in gambling. It is in applying this cleverness more effectively that he succeeds in securing his future fame, along with a large amount of maturing and self-reflection.
This story's Devil is cut from the mold of The Devil Is A Loser. He is described as appearing to be a wildly handsome, charismatic and successful individual but is fooled twice in a similar manner by Jack, and the first time when he is a deadbeat lush. However, this story highlights that he always keeps his word.
The third character is The Narrator (or maybe the author). The narration has too much personality otherwise. I can just hear them saying all this to someone with that air of academic enthusiasm of someone who enjoys studying folklore.
It is a short book and I see no grammatical flaws, so that's good.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Jack's Wagers: A Jack O' Lantern Tale for Halloween & Samhain" a C+
The author requested a review so I provided one. I can't remember exactly what they said beyond that.
Click here for my next book review (for fun): The Tao of Jeet Kune Do
Click here for my previous book review (a request): Amanda Moonstone and the Darkbane Sorceress
Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).