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Friday Indie Review: As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe

In 1940, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour began making the “Road To” series with the first film, “Road to Singapore.”

These films broke the mold for filmmaking of the day; they were constructed of a largely hollow, forced plot frame that really existed for the three actors to get on the screen and start cracking jokes, many of which were ad-libbed.  The overarching plot was thin, but that was perfectly OK because the interplay between the characters as they cheated and stole their way on the road to…wherever it was they were going this time…was more important to the audience than the actual plot.

These movies are still hilarious, and if you’ve ever got some time to kill, try to find one and have a good laugh.  You’ll find that you’re so caught up in the antics of the characters that you don’t mind all of the other, rather blatant, flaws with the film.

Why the hell am I talking about the Road To… movies in the midst of an indie fantasy review?  Well, because Robin Lythgoe has recreated the experience for us in a classic fantasy setting.

Our main character is Crow, who is a back-of-head-thumping, sneaky, cocky, rooftop-crawling, pocket-picking thief of sterling caliber.  There’s nothing really original about Crow, other than the rate at which his plots tend to fail miserably.  Add to this mix one Tarnis, the Javert-like lawman who has made it his life’s mission to throw Crow in jail.  Sorry, gaol.  Strap these two characters together for no reason other than the Evil Wizard has decided that maybe it would be a good idea to force them to work together, then send them off on the Quest for the Macguffin.  Why does he think that’s a good call?  Who cares!

The opening scene is fabulous, and really it kept me going through the chapters that follow.  From the point in time at which Crow’s girlfriend (with whom he is deeply in love, but who seems to return that love only in exchange for valuable stuff) shows up in the novel to the point at which Crow and Tarnis set off on the Road to The Macguffin, the plot just feels forced.  Lythgoe is ramming these two characters together with everything she has, whether they like it or not.

They do not.

That said, once we’re on the Road to The Macguffin, the book hits its pace.  It’s not about the plot; it’s about Crow and Tarnis being a wacky combination of characters to throw together.  The Road is littered with things that have absolutely nothing to do with the plot.  That said, even the plot has very little to do with the plot, so that’s fine.  Two characters, one a thief, one a cop, who start the book hating each other suffer wacky hijinks and con their way through to find the Macguffin, which…well, best leave that part for the reader.  Even the eventual name of the Macguffin is a joke.

This was a fun read.  It was not a deep read, it was not an insightful read.  It provided almost exactly the experience of a Road To movie; it was fun, it got some good laughs out of me, but I don’t feel as though I have experienced anything profound.  I was not, as it were, deeply moved, but I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the experience Lythgoe was aiming for.

So, do I recommend As the Crow Flies?  Absolutely.  But approach it as though you were watching Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the roles of Crow and Tarnis, because that’s what you are getting.  Don’t go in expecting a dark, dramatic book; this isn’t that.  But it’s fluffy fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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