Book Review

The Adventure Zone: The Crystal Kingdom by the McElroy Family

Genre | Fantasy Graphic Novel
Page #s | 272
Publishing Date | July 2021

Based on the blockbuster podcast where the McElroy brothers and their dad play a tabletop RPG and illustrated by cartooning powerhouse Carey Pietsch, The Adventure Zone: The Crystal Kingdom takes this #1 New York Times bestselling series to haunting new heights.

A desperate call for help interrupts holiday celebrations at the Bureau of Balance, and sends Taako, Magnus and Merle on a high-stakes mission to find and Reclaim a fourth deadly relic: a powerful transmutation stone, hidden somewhere in the depths of a floating arcane laboratory that’s home to the Doctors Maureen and Lucas Miller. An unknown menace has seized control of the stone, and is using it to transform the lab into a virulent pink crystal that spreads to everything it touches.

It’s only a matter of time before this sparkling disaster crash-lands, but in order to find the stone and save the whole planet from being King Midased, our heroes will have to fight their way through a gauntlet of rowdy robots and crystal golems, decide whether they can trust the evasive Lucas Miller, and solve the mystery of what—or who—has put them all in peril, before there’s no world left to save.

Goodreads

Although this is the fourth installment in the graphic novelization of the McElroy’s D&D actual play podcast The Adventure Zone, the story stands on its own as an entertaining romp with the McElroy’s characteristic charm, side jokes, and zany creativity.

This time, Magnus, Merle, and Taako are saving a scientific research station that is slowing turning into pink crystal from crashing in the planet and crystallizing / killing everything. It’s a fun arc with beautiful artwork and a mix of fantasy and sci-fi tropes. This is what The Adventure Zone does best – throwing fun things at you, regardless of whether or not it makes complete sense.

In addition to a great plot and fun worldbuilding, this story has excellent characters. I love an ambiguous villain, and Lucas’s motivations remain clouded for much of the book, which is great! The work that he and his mom did on planar mirrors is super cool, and a focus on familial love rather than romantic love is always welcome in my opinion.

We get a lot of cameos and recurring characters in this section of the overarching Balance arc, which made Merle’s confused, “Who is that?” very rewarding as I was often wondering the same thing. This tongue in cheek acknowledgment of the sprawling story (as well as Clint McElroy’s hilarious inability to remember details) allows this story to stand alone while also moving the larger story forward.

Speaking of Merle! I adored his character growth in this book as his faith in Pan is tested pretty significantly. The pay off was epic, and I loved it.

I can’t wait for the next book to continue enjoying this story and the McElroy’s joyous humor. Until then – Happy Candlenights!

What Makes This Book Queer?

Taako flirts with death…literally. When the Grim Reaper appears and turns out to be a handsome man, Taako and death flirt fairly fantastically. I’m not sure if this is the first acknowledgement that Taako is gay, but it’s definitely the first time he openly has a crush (that is reciprocated). I ship them!

We also get some side queer action in the characters of Killian and Carey, and COME ON. An orc/dragonborn lesbian romance? Yes, please!

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

If your preferred flavour of D&D is silly with a side of dramatic story beats, you probably already know about The Adventure Zone. Do yourself a favour and read the book in addition to listening to the podcast – it’s a great adapation!

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

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