on Aug. 10, 2013 :
AS THE CROW FLIES tells the tale of Crow, a witty, sarcastic thief who steals your heart from the earliest pages. Truly, there are so many things to love about As the Crow Flies, that it is hard to know where to begin.
The author’s characters are neatly drawn and are given quirks and manners of speech that are unique and consistent. The reader will never forget that Crow is a thief, for if not his first, then his last thought in nearly every situation in which he finds himself, will be Crow’s consideration of what he can do to “re-arrange” the goods of others. Likewise, Tanris, a man who for years had pursued Crow to bring Crow to justice, but who is now Crow’s partner in a quest, is always the consummate law-and-order man. We get glimpses into his personal life from time to time that make him more real and more loveable as events unfold.
I note that As the Crow Flies is told in first-person. I must say that I’ve rarely read a story told from a single character’s perspective that didn’t leave me aware of that fact all the while--but Robin made it seem effortless and it was, throughout, seamless, consistent and fun!
One of the things I liked best about As the Crow Flies, was the author’s wit. Robin is quick! From the opening scene when Crow refers to the wife of the target of his intended theft in the same manner in which does her husband (“'Your turn, Darling,'" Crow says as he prepares to tie her up) to the last when Crow realizes that his scathing look at Tanris did not turn Tanris to ashes (“but rather produced a curious noise I realized was laughter”), the author kept me laughing.
All that said—here is my favorite thing about As the Crow Flies: it has to do with voice. Have you ever heard an old movie running on your television in the background and you suddenly said, “I know who that is! That’s. . .that’s. . .that’s. . . ,” and you search your memory for where it is you had heard the voice before. Or, it happened to me when I took my son to NYC some years ago. We picked up last minute tickets for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with John Lithgow, and Leo Norbert Butz (and laughed until we were sick)! When the female lead first entered the stage and spoke, my head jerked up! The voice was so distinct. There was no mistaking who she was or where I had heard that voice before. “That’s Sherie Rene Scott!” I gasped to my son. “I didn’t know she was going to be in this! I saw her as Princess Amneris in Aida! She’s fabulous!” Well, I tell this story because voices often seem to blend in with others—but once in awhile one comes along that has a unique resonance, a startling clarity, a rhythmic musicality—or something—that makes it stand out from amongst the crowd. It is a rare thing—but now and again, an author will come along with a voice that you think you will never mistake for another. This is what Lythgoe has—voice. It comes from a choice of playful words and phrases, like “the steady rising of the sun was making my hiding place less and less ‘hidey’ by the moment,” or “eyeballs and elixers and other wizardly knickknacks,” or “careful, Crow, you fly a very fine line,” or “victims of recent precipitation,” or “there were personal belongings amongst the crowd to rearrange.” The voice is also heard in Crow’s way of naming things (Horse? Girl? Not-an-Egg?). Finally, there is unique voice in the character’s internal thoughts, such as in “at least we could enjoy spring on the return trip—flowers budding, birds singing, poison creeping inexorably through one’s system, and all of that,” or “ending my life as a snack did not come high on my list of glorious ways to die” or when referring to his new hat that had already managed to become mangled, Crow notes that “only a few short minutes in my possession and already it was achieving character.” Yes, Robin has voice—a voice I want to hear sing again.
Finally, I must say that I’ve read a fair number of indie-published works of late. This work stands out as one that any major publisher worth its salt ought to know what to do with—publish it and promote it.
Well done, Robin! Very, very well done, indeed!
(For more about Robin and my interview of her, see: http://www.oathtaker.com/2/post/2013/....)
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Tammy J Rizzo
on July 26, 2013 :
Full disclosure: I received this book free in exchange for a review. Having read the book, here's my honest review:
I thought this book rocked! The main character, Crow, was smart and snarky, and very funny. Living in his head was a real hoot. Of course, he seemed to have superhuman stamina, keeping on keeping on with injuries that would have put me in a hospital bed, but hey, it is quest fantasy - you expect your heroes and your antiheroes to be, you know, heroic.
Crow's characterization was brilliant. I loved him, and I loved his story. I loved his smartassery, and his matter-of-factness about thieving and climbing sheer rock walls and such like. I loved his snarking at every little thing that was going wrong, even as he praised all the gods that he was so beloved of them that they constantly smiled down on him. I loved his naming convention for things that he felt needed names. I loved his banter with his best enemy, Tanris, the guard who had been trying for so long to catch him. I just loved everything about Crow, and his story, and the world that Robin created for him. The story was well-crafted and kept me guessing as to just HOW they would get to the most-likely-though-apparently-impossible ending.
There was only one false note with me, as a reader, and that was that Crow complained about everything about his first time on a horse, except he didn't even mention being saddle sore. Of course, he had lots of other things on his mind to complain about, but it just felt like the saddle soreness would have been the tiny little topper to top everything off, you know? I've been on a horse, and I missed that detail, but not enough to stop reading. The rest of his story was just too enthralling to let one false note ruin the symphony!
I would certainly recommend this book, even without the saddle sores - it's a funny, witty, tight adventure with a thoroughly enjoyable narrator in Crow, and it's well worth the time and money you'll put into reading it.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
M Joseph Murphy
on June 17, 2013 :
As the Crow Flies is a solid, entertaining epic fantasy. It hits all the right notes at exactly the right time. I can easily recommend this took to anyone who likes the fantasy mixed with comedy, tragedy, magic, dangerous heists and, yes, a dragon.
I received As the Crow Flies in exchange for a review. That means I have to read the book whether I like it or not. I read through fairly quickly mostly because I couldn't put the book down.
Crow is a thief pulling one last heist before he retires with the lover of his live, Tarsha. Unfortunately for him, realizes after the fact that he stole from a wizard, Baron Duzayan. Tarsha is captured and Crow is poisoned. To free her and get the antidote he must do the impossible: steal a dragon's egg. Duzayan doesn't trust Crow, of course, so he sends along Tanris, a member of the city guard who has hounded Crow for years.
What I liked
Let's start with characters. As the Crow Flies is written in first person subjective. We hear the story through the mind of Crow. He is a fully rendered, complete character. He's humorous and witty as befitting a thief. However, he's also not as strong and ruthless as he likes to think he is. He's flawed but incredibly likable. I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him I love him. I dare you to feel differently.
The plot is handled well. Like most good fantasy stories it is a classic tale told through fresh eyes. Pacing is also handled well with no real "dragging" points. As a writer, I also appreciate the way Lythgoe follows Chekov's "Gun on the Mantlepiece" . It states that if you introduce something early in the work it MUST be important for something later on. Without giving any spoilers I can promise you every single thing that is introduced it important. She also occasionally reminds the reader of items that will become important later just so you don't forget them. It never feels overdone or unnatural. Instead it helps build tension and remind the reader of the stakes.
The ending is also completely satisfying. Every significant question raised in the book is answered and every character has a well-defined ending. That doesn't mean everyone lives happily ever after but you definitely know what happens. It also asks a few other questions which leaves me hungry for more Crow stories in the future.
Lythgoe also expertly works in worldbuilding information. She never veers into endless paragraphs of exposition. Instead, every time she reveals worldbuilding information it is believable and in context. She reveals enough to give you the scope and flavor of the world without turning it into an almanac.
What I didn't like
Some of the writing, specifically in the first 1/4 of the book, could use another edit. Several paragraphs are not as tight or cohesive as they could be. I noticed two spelling errors and there were a few formatting issues. The formatting issues could be related to the method in which I received the book and may not occur if purchased directly through Amazon.
However, none of the issues were significant enough to bring me out of the story and diminish the experience.
I strongly recommend As the Crow Flies to any fans of fantasy. I also recommend it to writers of fantasy to use as an example proper worldbuilding, pacing and execution of Chekov's Gun.
(reviewed 14 days after purchase)