Critical Failures #1 by Robert Bevan
There’s not enough truly humorous fantasy in this world. There’s so much grim dark, but I love absurdism–and does this story ever deliver. I’m going to review each of the four books in the main series arc separately, even though I read them in a box set.
Critical Failures isn’t an original plot–D&D…wait, C&C…nerds get transported into their game world by a dick of a dungeon master, Mordred. They literally become their characters. Tim is a halfling thief, Dave a dwarf cleric, Julian an elven wizard/sorcerer, and Cooper a half-orc barbarian. Later in the book, Tim’s sister, Katherine, and her date-but-not-boyfriend, Chase, are transported to the C&C world as well. Katherin is a half-elf druid, and Chase is…a bard. Because someone has to be.
I’ve never read a sword and sorcery fantasy with so many dick jokes and fart jokes. It’s amazing. The adult humor makes some of the subtle character moments–I promise that they’re there–work well instead of making them feel cheesy. This plot flies on wings of audacity, which makes the cliche avalanche feel fresh and new. For example, healing magic is painful at first–and then you orgasm. Or shit yourself, if you’re Cooper.
Magic healing–painful yet relaxing.
The main antagonist is Mordred, who manipulates the C&C world to dick with Tim & Co. Tim is kidnapped by Captain Righteous, whose name is hilarious, but he ends up being a weirdly interesting character. Same with Shorty the gnome prison guard. That’s the genius of this book, really. It gives a sweet, sweet nerd fix while playing with elements of character and making everything that can feel…well, cheesy…about D&D feel fresh and real. It’s kind of hilarious to me that so much *bad* fantasy has been inspired by D&D, and yet, this D&D fanfic/love letter feels new and fresh.
Maybe it’s the swearing. Maybe it’s because that this story captures the heart of playing D&D with your stoned friends. Not that yours truly has ever done that. *ahem*
This is clearly going to be a long series, so the ending isn’t resolved. It’s satisfying, but I went into the end knowing this series continued. The main ‘kick-off’ arc with Mordred has a satisfying twist that allows the gang to tango out of immediate danger, but for a steep price. The characters remain in the C&C world–good for us, bad for them.
The number of dick jokes won’t disappoint.
Rating: 5 stars I dare you not to laugh.