This post of Cryptofauna by Author Patrick Canning has been adapted from two previous posts. First is the spoiler free review followed by the spoiler full review and summary.
Thank you so much to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Spoiler Free Review
Cryptofauna had me in the first line: “Jim grabbed a can of root beer for his suicide.”
I knew this would not be just another run of the mill fantasy adventure novel and I was pleased with the result.
Canning spends the entire book giving us more of an introduction to Cyryptofauna than a history or narrative but this introduction has me very excited for the universe building that could occur.
Cryptofauna appears to be an ancient world wide game that is played with a dramatic back and forth between good and evil and is heavily monitored by Jinn and demi-gods alike.
Our protagonist, Jim the suicidal janitor, is the newest recruit to the game and he must pass three trials before he can become an official player. This novel gives us the three trials and a taste of the conflict that this game can have.
Although it is a good book on it’s own I do anticipate a sequel and I am excited to see how it plays out with all the introductions taken care of.
The characters are interesting and well developed. I have a sense for each of their unique personalities and oddball quirks. I especially appreciate how they all interact with each other.
Each group, no matter how the characters are rearranged, has a natural give and take with their dialogue and actions. I can fully picture every scene and hear each individual voice as it comes off of the page.
Canning has fun with language and there are times when this book made me laugh out loud. The way he describes things is priceless and Cryptofauna is worth buying for similes alone.
His descriptions are also creative and palpable. When the main monster is finally described in full I was completely disgusted and that’s a high compliment!
My main critique of the novel is that it struggles with rough transitions. On several occasions I was startled to find a character present whom I did not believe to be in that scene or confused about where the cast was in the settings.
The book is in such a hurry to get to the wild and crazy action that sometimes it forgets to tell us how we got there.
But the wild and crazy action is well worth a wee bit of confusion. Cryptofauna is a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes their adventures comedic and their action surreal.
Cryptofauna had me hooked with the first line: “Jim grabbed a can of root beer for his suicide.”
So we know our hero, Jim, is a suicidal janitor who works at St Militrude’s. An old folk’s home slash insane asylum. You know, a totally normal place to be employed and a perfectly reasonable position for a suicidal person to be in.
His suicide is interrupted in a frenzy by a large man named Oz who whisks him away to a secret room in the basement that contains a tree filled with strange items. He’s told to choose one, he picks a bag of powder, and to call into the tree for his familiar, a red eyed dog comes out.
And we’re off!
Cryptofauna is quick paced and does not spend a lot of time giving unnecessary backstory. It gets where it’s going and drags you by the lapels with it.
So Jim finds himself suddenly in the ocean and is saved by a painter in a lifeboat who has been at sea long enough to develop a crippling fear of the color blue.
All they know is that they have to survive long enough to find a way back to land. After weeks of barely surviving a shark bites off the painter’s, Barnabus’, leg and Jim discovers that his bag of powder could have many uses when he uses it to stem the bleeding.
The reader starts to learn a little more about Cryptofauna. We discover that it’s an ancient game currently being played by two not quite god like men named Oz and Nero. Jim is Oz’s newest entry into the game and a very ill behaved man named Boyd is Nero’s.
Jim must accomplish three tasks before he can officially play the game. The first task was physical, surviving the horrors of the ocean. I would hate this task and probably fail. The ocean is a nightmare land where every part of it wants to kill you.
His second task shall be mental, he needs to smarten up.
Oz sends him to some ancient monks who do nothing but hide away and learn 24 hours a day. They’ve figured out the secret ingredient to not needing to sleep and I’m incredibly jealous. I also love that a main part of this ingredient is menthol. Give me that minty goodness!
He meets Zoe at the abby amongst the monks and falls instantly in love. As one does.
But while he waits for Zoe to notice him at all he is tasked with learning as much as possible as fast as possible. He also needs to find a companion to join his party for later adventuring through Cryptofauna.
In order to find a companion he works with a Jinn named Whip whom he briefly met out at sea whilst stranded. Jinn are heavily invested in Cryptofauna in that they report on it and gamble on the outcomes.
Meanwhile, Boyd has been working with an ancient evil who calls herself Bo Peep. She can shapeshift and proxy her evil out to objects both animate and inanimate and she has her sights set on Jim.
Nero decides maybe Boyd wasn’t the best horse to bet on and that he might need to put him down in order to avoid mass destruction.
Jim is attacked by Bo Peep taking the form of an absolutely horrifying mannequin monster with needle teeth. Unfortunately the mannequin demon chased Jim back to the abby and she kills one of the monks.
The descriptions in this book are so great. I could picture this monster in every detail and it was terrifying.
Jim is now wracked with guilt but he has grown his party, or combo, to include Zoe and an asian hitman he met at Whip’s bar named Panzer.
All of the characters in this book are quite unique. They all have a different charm and set of quirks to become engaged with.
Now it’s time for Jim to pass his second task. The monks give him a hilarious list of test items to test any and all sort of knowledge that one could possess. He passes them all with ease.
The combo is now off to find the final member. Jim is gifted with a sort of enhanced people sense and he knows the final member is an 11 year old girl trapped in a well outside a school for miscreants.
They get the girl and she convinces them they must burn down the (empty) school. It makes perfect sense in context. I think a lot of this book needs the rest of the book to make sense, it works when it’s all together.
Despite his best judgement Jim decides they need to go beat Boyd and Bo Peep before he finishes the third trial so they go to find him.
They find Nero, lungs ripped clean out of his body. Boyd is a monster on par with Bo Peep who is described in her true form and it’s absolutely disgusting and I love it.
Oz appears spontaneously to help and ends up martyring himself to save the others.
Jim of course is experiencing even more guilt and has become catatonic over it.
They all take Jim to see someone called the conduit so that he can talk to Oz post mortem. It works and Jim knows he must complete the final trial, spirit.
He meditates for a few months and comes out of it newly bearded and certified to officially play Cryptofauna.
They are finally able to actually beat Boyd and the book ends with them happy and healthy and maybe heading off to their next adventure.
I asked the author straight out and he says there are plans for a sequel, don’t worry.
I would very much enjoy seeing this rag tag group on another adventure now that the introduction to this universe is complete. It’s a whole crazy new world that Canning has created and I’m excited to see it explored.
Overall, Cryptofauna was a wild ride and any fans of adventure and fantasy will likely enjoy it. It’s humorously written and has delightfully odd similes and ways of describing things that I really enjoyed.
My main complaint about the book is that it has some trouble with transitions and introductions. On several occasions I found myself starting a new chapter very confused by where the characters were or who was present. Oz especially has a habit of just appearing somewhere with no prelude and I’m surprised to see his name.
But none of that should deter you from opening your eyes to this bizarre new game. This synopsis and review hardly does justice to the crazy shenanigans that happen on these pages. This book is fun, plain and simple.
4/5 carrots 🥕🥕🥕🥕
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