2006 alumnus publishes first novel, may have skipped Writing 105
Andrew Smith’s ‘Crusader’ is a testament to the idea that hard work, creativity and following your dreams can create something that is positively dreadful. But, you know, that’s OK.
‘Crusader’ is the first published work for Smith, an ’06 graduate of Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in religion. That’s right, he had a book published within months of his graduation-most SU alumni haven’t even moved out of their parents’ basements by then. So he can be forgiven if his first work isn’t exactly ‘Huck Finn.’
Unfortunately, though, this book isn’t even ‘The Bearenstein Bears.’ ‘Crusader’ is a fantasy novel set in a truly imaginative environment: the Woven City, a world of sorcery, made of a patchwork of buildings and structures from every place and period in history. But the back of the paperback version of the novel spells ‘Woven City’ two different ways, so it’s clear from the get-go that this book wasn’t heavily edited.
It only gets worse on the inside. Periods, commas and whole words are missing from seemingly every page. The text is still readable, but all the tiny mistakes are distracting and don’t seem to show a great deal of effort on the publisher’s (Mundania Press) part. And if the publisher didn’t really care about the book, why should any reader?
To be fair, at least 95 percent of the clauses in ‘Crusader’ contain both a subject and a predicate. It could be worse.
The characters, though, are a different story. The Woven City is unfortunately populated with fairly shallow fantasy-story stereotypes, including The Feisty Warrior Sorceress, The Badass Medieval Guy, The Maniacal Evil Wizard and others. Their dialogue is a bizarre mix of proper British and brainless American university slang. The characters all seem to know each other, but they splinter off into countless subplots, all but one of which ends with a thudding anticlimax. The one that doesn’t end that way … well, it just doesn’t end.
Take the eponymous Crusader, for instance. He’s an enchanted suit of armor on a mission, but after a few chapters with the main characters, he basically disappears until the end of the novel. He has maybe a dozen lines of dialogue in the whole book. Fortunately, the rest of the gang is so bored by their magical world of suspense and mysteries they decide to carry on his quest whether he’s there or not, like some kind of mixed-era Scooby-Doo group. Unfortunately, their adventures are about as thrilling as week-old Wonderbread.
The overall issue with ‘Crusader’ is that, like the Woven City it describes, the story seems to have been made up as it went along. It jumps all over the place, sometimes over-explaining details with long back stories, sometimes glossing over seemingly crucial matters (like, say, what the heck happened to the Crusader?). The action sequences come across as nothing more than excuses to describe magic spells, so unless you read the Dungeons & Dragons rule book for fun, ‘Crusader’ really isn’t going to grab you.
On the other hand, you really should support the work of a motivated fellow SU student and check out this book. What else are you going to do while lying around your parents’ basement?
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