Book Report: Compendium of North American Cryptids

Published May 23, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

You can already tell two things from the image I started out with.  One, this isn’t for Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge, and two, I took the picture of the cover myself.  Now, technically, that turned out not to be necessary, as (just now) I looked it up on Goodreads and found that it does actually have a listing (though it doesn’t have any reviews) so I could have downloaded the cover image from there.  But since I’d already taken my own photo, I figured I’d just go with it.  (Please ignore the sheet beneath it.  When your preferred method of buying new bedding is “on clearance at Target,” you don’t have as much choice of patterns as you might like.)

The full title of this book had no hope of fitting into the title of the post.  I could say “click on the thumbnail and read the photo for yourself” but then you’d have to wait while it loaded, so I’m just going to transcribe the text on the cover of the book, line by line:

Compendium of
North American Cryptids
& Magical Creatures
The Official Magimundi Guide
*
150th Anniversary Edition
Written by Foxfire Castellaw
Annotated by Wyn Diego

By Mike Young, Maury Brown & Ben Morrow
Illustrated by Ffion Evans

As you can guess from all that, this is roughly the equivalent of buying Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander, but actually by J.K. Rowling.  (My mother, I might add, actually did buy that.  In a three-pack of books that were produced to benefit charity.  I actually used the one on quidditch for my Read Harder book on sports last year, in fact.)  The biggest difference here, though, is that I didn’t realize that was what I was getting.

See, I was backing a Kickstarter called “Cryptid Cuties” that was enamel pins (soft enamel, unfortunately) of various cryptids.  As add-ons, you could get a copy of this book, a plush cactus cat (very cute and cuddly, but mine has a slight factory defect, which is sad) and when I added it on, I thought I was getting a Faeries-like book compiling all the different regional folklore/urban legends of mysterious critters.  So I was pretty surprised when I got it out of the package and read that cover!  (Though I’d already been confused by the return address on the package, which was from Learn Larp, LLC, and I was sitting there going “what the heck is this?  I didn’t order any cosplay supplies, and I don’t even have the social skills to play a tabletop RPG, let alone a LARP!”)

It turns out that this book is a sort of bestiary for a particular LARP (that’s Live Action Role Playing for those of you who aren’t geeky enough to know the term), but rather than being written as a collection of stats and such, it’s written as if it was an actual book for within the fantasy world, so it’s a perfectly entertaining read even for people like me who have no intention of ever playing the associated game.  (It does, however, mean I won’t be using it as fodder for any future April A-to-Z sessions, though!)

The creatures covered in the book fit into four categories:  “actual cryptids,” “general mythic/legendary monsters,” “definitely made up for this,” and “wait, is that a real cryptid or did they make it up?”  With a few outliers that are hard to categorize, like the Fiji Mermaid, which isn’t really any of the above, having been a carnival hoax.

The first category includes old standbys like the Jersey Devil, the Mothman, chupacabra, jackelopes, and sasquatch.  The second category has things like thunderbirds, golems, homunculi, werewolves and vampires.  The third category has things like gobwins (no, that’s not a typo) and humfaeries (both of which were actually designed by Kickstarter backers from a previous campaign, it turns out)  The final category ranges from things that really sound made up, like the cactus cat and the wampus cat (picture a centaur with a puma’s body instead of a horse’s), to things that I could believe are actually folkloric, like duwende, fiddle spider and lightning snake.

Each entry has an illustration, and they’re all quite nice, though of course the artist is no Brian Froud (then again, who is?).  The entries themselves vary in entertainment value, since not all the concepts can be described in a particularly entertaining manner.  That, however, is where the annotations come in:  the annotator is snarky, thinks he knows everything, and has a very low opinion of the author.  In the course of his annotations (which are not, admittedly, on every entry) you get a good sense of what kind of character he is, and his attitude towards the author is almost always entertaining.  I think the annotations are what really sets this apart from other books of the type.

I don’t know if the book is actually available for purchase anywhere, because of the three web addresses printed inside the book, I only actually visited one, http://www.magimundi.wiki, which obviously is not set up to sell merchandise.  The more official-sounding one, http://www.magischola.com, I couldn’t access, because my anti-virus software was adamant that it was a phishing site.  I have no idea why they would think that, but…when it gets that screechy about it, I tend to chicken out.  The third web address was http://www.learnlarp.com, which sounded more like it was about the LARPing aspect than about the magical world that had been created as the setting for the LARP games.


I actually finished this on Monday and haven’t started a new book yet, because I’ve been too glued to my 3DS to figure out what I want to read.  (That’s the problem with MegaTen games:  they really sink their tentacles into me.)  I’m disappointed that they didn’t add any 3D elements, but I cannot begin to express how grateful I am that they didn’t dub it!  (I’m gonna freak if they don’t give us a voice cast in the end credits, though.  The computer’s AI sounds to me so much like a particular seiyuu that it’s driving me crazy wondering if it’s really him, but noplace I’ve looked online, so far, has had a cast list for it.)  What I’ve seen of the new material, so far, has left me a bit uncertain:  the new human character looks like a female Vincent Valentine, and seems to have the same exact motivation as the villain of Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army, which could be good or bad, and they introduced a new “demon” in the form of a lolita Persephone/Kore who for some bizarre reason is calling herself her own mother.  (Seriously, that is not Demeter.  No.  Freaking.  Way.)

I realize no one cares about any of that, but I just had to get it out there.

Also, I found a line really hilarious because they didn’t quite think through the overtones of the way they localized it:

D’you have any idea what you’re saying, Jimenez?

*cough*

Sorry, I meant to talk about what I’m gonna read next.  Probably 16, because I have something picked out that’s been sitting on my “to read” shelf for like three years.

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