Tuesday, April 1, 2014

As the Crow Flies (e-book) by Robin Lythgoe

As the Crow Flies is a self-published fantasy novel. It's 158,420 words long.

This review contains some spoilers near the end.

Synopsis:

Crow is a thief who wants to finish just one more job and then live out the rest of his life in peace and happiness with his beloved, Tarsha. Unfortunately, that last job turns out to be more troublesome than he expected. Had he known Baron Duzayan was a wizard, he would never have tried to steal from him.

Now, in order to save both his and Tarsha's lives, Crow must do something that seems impossible: steal a dragon's egg.

Review:

I received this in a BookLikes giveaway held by the author. A fantasy novel starring a thief sounded like my kind of thing, and the reviews made it sound pretty good, although there was one on Goodreads noting editing issues that worried me.

In the end, this turned out to be a pretty decent read. I enjoyed Crow's “voice,” even though I didn't always like him (more on that later), and the story managed to keep my attention even as I fought off a cold. There were some very good, exciting moments. My favorite was probably the part where the group traveled through the Ghost Walk – if I remember correctly, that was when magic began playing a larger part in the story. The way Crow and Tanris complemented each other (and clashed) was usually fun, and I loved Not-An-Egg (although I fretted over the cat).

There were a few aspects that didn't work for me, however. Crow was one of them. Strange, I know, since he was also part of what I liked about the book.

The story was written from Crow's POV. He came across as clever and snarky, and I figured he was one of those lovable rogue types whose charm could somehow make his crimes more forgivable. However, I soon began to feel that Crow thought himself to be more clever than he really was. Supposedly he was an excellent thief, but the beginning didn't show me any of that. What I saw instead was him failing miserably – attacked by a demon, wounded, tracked back to his lover's home, and locked in a pitch black cell where the best he was able to do was fight off rats while he turned into a gibbering mess.

The circumstances that set him up for such a monumental failure were revealed later on, but I was never quite able to get past my initial feelings that Crow was not nearly as good and clever a thief as he thought he was. He had some clever moments, but, even after having finished the book, I felt his strongest attributes were his phenomenal luck and his ability to spread chaos. Crow viewed his luck as proof that he was beloved of the gods. He was surprisingly devout, albeit in a weird sort of way – he gave offerings, prayers, and thanks to all the gods. After all, every last one of them could potentially help him and watch over him.

Speaking of Crow's devoutness, one of the things that annoyed me enough that I mentioned it several times in my notes was the phrase “gods of” (or, more rarely, “god of”). As in, “Praise the gods of the afflicted” (58), “Thank the gods of floor-coverings” (61), “all praise to the gods of chattering women” (65), “thank the gods of armor, armorers, thieves, good intentions” (65)...You get the idea. How many gods did Crow's world have? And did he really have to praise and thank them every few pages? According to my Nook's search function, there were 46 instances of “gods of” or “god of.”

Okay, getting back to Crow: he was not the most likable of guys. He often seemed to be, but then he'd do or think something that put me off. I honestly think he'd have stolen a starving, orphaned beggar-child's last coin if the shine of it pleased him enough. His only real personal code seemed to be “try not to kill anyone.” Impressively, he did seem to change as the story progressed, but little things here and there made it hard for me to trust that that change was real.

I'll wrap this up with the women. I admit, I wanted more from them. Girl had potential. Neither Crow nor Tanris knew anything about her and, since she refused to speak or write (or possibly couldn't), they didn't even know her name. She spent much of the book crying, but she had flashes of awesomeness that could have blossomed into something more. I really wanted her to turn out to be a rival thief, darn it. At the very least, I would have liked to know her name.

That leaves Tarsha, because Aehana is barely even worth mentioning. Oh, Tarsha. I figured she'd be trouble from the minute she appeared on-page. The way Crow thought about her and talked to her did not strike me as the way a man would think about and talk to a woman he truly loved. He didn't love her, the person – he loved the being he'd put on a pedestal.

Two hundred pages later, my suspicions about her were confirmed. Crow was hurt and angry, but it was his reaction when he saw her again that really bothered me. For one thing, he was more violent with Tarsha than I was comfortable with. For another, he shouted this at her: “'...you took the one true and good thing you had and broke it all to pieces!'” (374) For the record, the “one true and good thing” was Crow's love. But how could his love for her have been good and true? He never knew the real her, never even suspected that she was lying to him, never bothered to dig deeper. He didn't even feel a twinge of concern when she was in danger of dying near the end. I didn't feel that Tarsha should be forgiven, but I couldn't bring myself to be on Crow's side either.

Although I had some issues with this book, it did hold my attention, and I did enjoy it overall. If Lythgoe ever writes another Crow book, I'll probably pick it up. I'd like more closure where Girl and Not-An-Egg are concerned.

Read-alikes:
  • Going Postal (book) by Terry Pratchett - Crow seemed to me like a combination of Pratchett's Moist von Lipwig and Rincewind. Personally, I prefer Moist over Rincewind, so I've chosen to list the first of Prachett's Moist von Lipwig Discworld books. Moist is a conman who is given a reprieve by Lord Vetinari, on the condition that he revive Ankh-Morpork's postal service. Those who'd like another mix of fantasy and humor may want to give this a try. I've written about the audio book version and the mini-series.
  • The Mister Trophy (e-short story) by Frank Tuttle - This is sort of fantasy noir with an edge of humor. Markhat, the protagonist, is a clever and snarky private investigator. I've written about this story.
  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar (book) by Maurice Leblanc - Those who'd like something starring a clever, quick-witted, and charming thief and don't mind if it's not fantasy may want to give this a try. Even better, it can be downloaded for free via Project Gutenberg! I've written about this book.

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