Review: Redcaps Rising by P.A. Piatt
Redcaps Rising is a comedic fairytale featuring a road trip across America with a backseat full of irreverent elves, kooky mishaps, and a genre-defying adult main character. This first installment of The Walter Bailey Misadventures delivers all kinds of madcap fun.
Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed Redcaps Rising. I encourage you to check it out!
This review contains minor spoilers.
Redcaps Rising Publisher Description:
“Murder most foul,
And evil in the air.
Seek the Red Dwarf,
Only brave may dare.”
When Walter Bailey arrived in Mississippi, he discovered the murder of his estranged grandmother was not the random and senseless crime it was reported to be.
Accompanied by an unlikely group of heroes, guided by the words of a mad little hermit, opposed by evil beyond his wildest imagination, Walter embarks on an epic quest through an unfamiliar and often hilarious world of magic. As the stakes go up, the price of failure becomes the future of magic on Earth itself.
Are Walter and his intrepid companions up to the challenge in a world where anything goes and the truth isn’t always what it seems?
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Too many fairytales written for adult audiences are focused on subverting tropes to the detriment of the genre’s integrity. The “magic” isn’t magical; the setting lacks interest. Cynicism replaces wonder; shock value and schadenfreude replace comedy.
While P. A. Piatt does not hold back either the swear words or the fart jokes, the overall effect is lighthearted. The bad guys are bad, and the good guys do the right thing.
Even though the settings tend to be rather ordinary, grungy places (more on that in a minute), they are not poisoned by negative realism. Instead, there is a sense that Walter is encountering a new world because he can meet anyone / anything or something crazy can happen at any moment.
Mundane to Bizarre
The setting for this misadventure spans a large swath of the United States, hitting up some fantastic locations including the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. However, the settings where events take place are by-and-large mundane: bars, clubs, subdivisions, drive-throughs, truck stops, and boring landmarks such as the Devil’s Crossroads.
These scenes serve as a great backdrop to all the off-the wall things that happen in them, and make the arrival in actual fairyland more outlandish by comparison. After the ignoble stops of a generic road trip, the Magic Kingdom took it over the top with colors so intense you can taste them.
In this way, the setting is typical of the story as a whole. Each event begins simply (if not completely ordinarily) but quickly gets out of hand with the quirky elements dialed up for comedic effect!
The characters were all wonderful. Walter Bailey follows a classic “luckily unlucky” (or is it “unluckily lucky”?) trope. He can’t avoid the frying pan for the fire (and the firefighters), but he always comes out ahead in the end, usually in the most outrageous way possible. I’ve always enjoyed this archetype, since the character is easy to sympathize with quickly and the personality creates its own momentum by fostering the reader’s curiosity: How will he make it out of this one!?
The elves are delightfully crude, of course, and supply plenty of verbal banter for the journey. However, my favorite characters tended to be the human ones. While there are plenty of fantastic creatures each with their own idiosyncrasies, even the ordinary people are not, shall we say, “realistic.”
The police officer who empties his gun at what he thinks is a racoon wielding a tire iron, the fire chief with the brilliant facial hair and a tendency to raise more havoc than the emergency called for, the girl at the drive thru involved in an inter-state conflict over spinach—all of these minor characters are involved in adventures of their own, and it made the world seem richer and more exciting! The potential for humor and conflict was not limited to the merely fantastical elements that Walter encounters.
Redcaps Rising is carefully focused on providing entertainment. As a result, the story lacks a hammer to pound on a well-intentioned theme or message. Two elements that may hamper the climax are the episodic nature of the events leading up to it and the lack of a cohesive and easy-to-follow pattern of growth in Walter. However, the light touch makes it easy to enjoy the diversion the author provides, without the distracting recognition of an agenda.
Of course, themes exist within stories by virtue of their nature. I would be interested to hear what others found in this story, but I thought perhaps it could be about facing dramatic change—life events of the generally unpleasant sort that force a person to re-evaluate.
Walter’s story begins with the murder of his grandmother, which makes him acknowledge a different world and seek justice. Various forces continually interrupt the road trip, and Walter is forced to change course in order to continue. Finally, the goal he had in mind did not match up with his intended destination, either in Las Vegas or the Magic Kingdom. His quest for justice ultimately did not end in a decisive blow.
However, the story’s conclusion—a happily-ever-after on the homestead—treats these changes as part of the journey and not dead-ends. Walter is successful because he perseveres, even in the face of all his misadventures.
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Redcaps Rising: A Walter Bailey Misadventure delivers a fun experience with a sincere fairytale romp across the USA. I am excited to read more Walter Bailey Misadventures!