The thing about fantasy is that it can literally be anything. If there’s a hint of magic, then you have fantasy. If you have sidewinder snakes going on a quest to bring back a mystical cider and save the desert, then you have fantasy. Granted, the latter might be less common, but it is still quite the adventure. Hence, Michael Evan and JMD Reid’s The Cider of Legend.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book, intentionally, follows the standard fantasy quest novel. You have your average person (snake) set a dangerous, but necessary, quest. They go off, meet other characters who help or hinder their quest, defeat challenges/monsters, get sidetracked, go complete their goal and end up back where they started with the world a better, or more interesting, place. This is the quest novel that you see in The Hobbit or The Wizard of Oz or any number of fantasy pieces. It is one of the more common epic fantasy plots and, in this particular instance, it follows the quest plot to the letter.
Granted, this book is a satire, which means that it follows the standard plot intentionally. The fact that you know what is going to happen is part of the point, and the intrigue comes from such things as bits of humour regarding the plot, breaking the fourth wall, and the character interactions.
For me, though, there is a fine line between satire and formula. This book follows the standard so precisely that it feels more like formula than satire and I could predict, quite easily, what was going to happen next, which ruins the fun a bit for me.
2. Thoughts on the characters
The main characters of this book are the narrator, a sidewinder named Mik’hai, and his wife Le’thal, who our our adventurers out to find this mysterious cider and save the desert from a plague. As worried as they are about the situation, I must say that these two characters manage to keep up quite good spirits during their adventure. Their banter brings levity to the situation and they can face down the greatest threats with determination and cheer.
Basically, I like them. These two, in my opinion, really make the story what it is.
3. Favourite part
The way that Mik’hai and Le’thal interact is probably my favourite bit. It’s not quite your standard romantic banter, the sort that you would get from a romantic fantasy or even a romance novel. This feels more like friends polking each other with sticks, just because they can, but only with the best intentions. Never goes too far, but doesn’t let up if the other needs a bit more prodding. Quite fun, I think.
As discussed with the plot, the satire gets a little lost in the formula. And even the character banter gets a little lost in the formula. I’ve read enough books and watched enough television shows to tell you precisely what is going to happen next a good portion of the time, even down to bits of dialogue. When books surprise me, then I get really interested. Excepting the characters and their banter, this book didn’t really surprise me. It was good, don’t get me wrong, just familiar. Even with sidewinders and hawks and cider.
Overall, I would say that this book is a good quest fantasy novel that just happens to feature sidewinders and the desert as our characters and setting. Apart from that deviation, it is a perfect example of quest fantasy. It even has elements of satire, though I wouldn’t necessarily classify it entirely that way. I just would have liked a bit more entropy, a bit less formula, and something that truly surprised. Though, I did like the characters. They were quite fun.