#WyrdAndWonder Fantasy 5 Tuesday: The Rag-Tag Crew
Back in November I ran a series of posts called “Sci-5 Tuesdays” to celebrate Sci-Fi Month, so for Wyrd & Wonder, I thought it would be fun to do something similar to highlight some of the fantasy tropes and themes that I find simply irresistible! In the last few years, I’ve also been fortunate to read some wonderful new books in the genre, so to give them some extra attention, for each Tuesday’s topic I will also be featuring five titles that I recently enjoyed.
In Week 2, we’ll be looking at the RAG-TAG CREW. You know their type. They’re the mavericks and oddballs of society, the weird and the wild. They may come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Some of them claim to be the best at what they do, even if what they do is esoteric and just a bit insane. In fact, maybe no one wants anything to do with these individuals because they’re just too damn crazy or annoying to work with! Still, when a job needs to be done, these misfits will band together and give it their best shot, and even if they’re not your first choice of a crack team, they’ve got what it takes to get things done. After all, everything’s better with friends.
In what may be the ultimate “rag-tag crew” book, Kings of the Wyld is the classic quest narrated reworked and presented in a fun and refreshing package. It has it all: gritty anti-heroes and twisted villains, epic battles and heart-stopping fight scenes, exotic locales and all manner of fantastical creatures. If this sounds like your kind of story, then you’re in for a treat. We follow a motley crew of aging yet charming mercenaries as they reunite to rescue a bandmate’s daughter trapped behind the walls of a city under siege. After years of questing and brawling, Clay Cooper is ready put his past behind him. He’s married now with a young child, and he’s looking forward to retiring to a life of quiet and leisure. Fate, however, has different plans. One day, his old bandmate Gabe shows up with a desperate request for help, and it’s a matter of life and death. At first, Clay is reluctant to get involved, but after seeing Gabe’s distress and recalling all the good times he’s had with his friend, he finally relents, and the two of them set out to round up the members of their old band, Saga. (Read the full review…)
And of course, no list about rag tag crews would be completely without including the Crows from Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy heist duology set in the world of her Grishaverse. In the bustling trade city of Ketterdam, a gang of thieves called the Dregs will take on any job for the right price. Kaz “Dirty Hands” Brekker is their fearless leader, and the mastermind of their little group. Then there’s Inej, also known as the Wraith. Her talents lie in being able to melt into the shadows. Jesper is the sharpshooter, and he’s also the joker of the group. There was also this great dynamic between him and Wylan, the Dreg’s “outsider” who nonetheless found his way to a special place in my heart. And finally, there’s Nina and Matthias, the Grisha and the Witch Hunter. Nina brings the magic and Matthias brings the intel. When tasked by a powerful crime lord to rescue a scientist with a secret formula from the impenetrable walls of the Ice Court, Kaz goes forth and gathers his crew in preparation for the heist of a lifetime. (Read the full review…)
Sometimes, your rag tag crew can be your own weird and whacky family. That’s the case in this five-book fantasy series by Rachel Aaron following the youngest member of a dysfunctional dragon clan as he tries to remain good in the cutthroat world of draconic politics. Julius Heartstriker is not your typical dragon. He’s nice, considerate, and has absolutely no designs on taking over the world, all of which makes him a total failure in his mother Bethesda’s eyes. Sealing him in his human form, the matriarch Heartstriker banishes her son to the Detroit Free Zone to fend for himself. Thankfully, not everyone in his family are so quick to dismiss him. His brother Justin might be their mother’s favorite, but he’ll always be there to fight by his side. Then there’s Bob, their resident seer who has always been kind and looking out for him. And of course, Chelsie, the clan enforcer everyone fears, but somehow she has a soft spot reserved for her littlest brother. And finally, who can forget Marci, the human mage who befriends Julius and stands by him in his quest, despite having her own hefty set of problems to deal with. The fantastic relationship dynamics in this series make it a must-read, and it’ll always have a special place in my heart and on my shelf. (Read the full review…)
With a title like that, you can be sure this dark epic fantasy will have plenty of grit and violence. Throw in a hog-riding gang of half-orcs, some breakneck pacing and a dash of that crude and vulgar brand of humor, then you’ve got yourself a recipe for a good time. The story follows Jackal, who is sworn to the the Grey Bastards hoof, one of the eight brotherhoods of former slaves that now live on the land known as the Lots. Shunned by humans but also hostile to the orcs, the mongrel bands are all that’s left standing between the city of Hispartha and the forces that want to see it fall. Our protagonist, with his lofty ambitions, can sometimes be blinded to other perspectives around him. Luckily, Jackal has his good friends to back him up. Oats is a thrice who is as loyal as they come, and rounding out the inseparable trio is Fetch, the only female in the Grey Bastards who had to fight tooth and nail for her position in the hoof. Like all friendships, the three of them have their ups and downs, but the well-developed relationships between them made these dynamics very convincing. (Read the full review…)
Baptism of Fire is perhaps my favorite book in The Witcher series, and it’s no surprise, since this installment feels different from the others, shifting to a more traditional quest narrative while downplaying the political intrigue. We start the book off with an introduction to a new character, an expert archer and hunter named Milva. She meets Geralt in the forest, and even though the Witcher only has his mind on continuing on to Nilfgaard to find the young princess Ciri, he gives in to Milva’s request to tag along. They are accompanied by Dandelion, the poet. And on their way, they also meet a dwarf named Zoltan. Further along their journey, they join up with a Nilggaardian named Cahir. Eventually, the party even gets a vampire named Regis. And finally, they are joined by a young woman named Angoulême, who sides with Geralt after he saves her life. Together, they make up “Geralt’s company” or his hanza/hansa/hassa, a term derived from the Nilfgaardian phrase “aen hanse” meaning “gang.” (Read the full review…)