Author: Patrick Canning
Publication date: December 7, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Humor, Fiction
Summary: Jim works as a janitor at an insane asylum/home for the elderly, but feels his life is going nowhere, so he attempts suicide. Fortunately, his attempt is interrupted by a resident named Oz who, quite without explanation, pushes Jim into a massive worldwide game called Cryptofauna. Tasked with completing three trials in order to become Certified, he’s sent on a crazy journey into the game where what he does has the potential to impact the balance present in the world. But every player has a Rival, and Jim’s isn’t one to play the game fairly. Armed with good socks, a sack of magical dust, and some really great, if somewhat questionable, companions, Jim is prepared to play the game.
I loved this book. It was fascinating, intriguing, twisting, and unique. This was a great concept that was exceptionally well-executed. This is the kind of self-published book that I dream about. Not only does it have a fascinating story, but it’s actually well-written. A gem of a self-published book, I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s bizarre, zany, nutty, funny, and overall delightful.
The game, Cryptofauna, was a little hard to follow at first. We’re literally thrown into it along with Jim. But, as the story went on, more and more was revealed and it became easier to follow and figure out. Indeed, the entire game is laid out, and it actually made sense. I loved that it took place in the real world and that the doings of the two Rivals balance the world.
The characters were charmingly bizarre, but somehow created a really lovely family. Each was interesting and unique with different personalities and great back stories that really contributed to who they were. Sometimes I felt the back stories didn’t connect well with what was currently occurring in the story, but they still added a little color to an already nutty game. I loved that Jim was a completely ordinary guy who was seemingly chosen at random, but who also managed to take it all in stride (after all, it’s more interesting than being a janitor to the old and insane) and make great strides in growth as a person and player. Overall, his was a very well-done hero’s journey.
I loved the jinn and their radio network. They’re these little, and big, creatures who enjoy wrecking havoc while also being dedicated reporters. They’re shape changers who largely stay on the sidelines for the purposes of properly reporting each game move, but their involvement in the game offers amusement, tension, and conflict as sometimes they reveal things they shouldn’t. I really think they added a ton of color and interest to the book, and I really wanted more of them.
Cryptofauna moved along at a great pace. Even though the second trial seemed overly long, the story never felt like it was stuck. There was continuous movement and every scene held importance. There was a constant forward movement. This story was a great blend of being character and plot driven where the plot clearly moves forward, but you get the sense that it couldn’t move forward without the characters being the driving force.
I loved that this wasn’t solely Jim’s story. We don’t get a lot of it, but there is a good bit of the Rival’s story being told. Even though the two stories felt off balance as Jim’s was, of course, at the forefront, the Rival’s story added a nice layer of tension and foreshadowing that really contributed to a delightful growing sense of foreboding.
Overall, this was an excellent book. It has a wonderfully fun concept that was well-done and with characters that created quite a bit of color. I do think it could have used another round of proofreading, but this was otherwise a truly excellent book.
How many cups of tea will you need?
5 cups, definitely
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Thank you so much to the author, Patrick Canning, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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