Monday, May 4, 2009

Review: Vault of Deeds

James Barlcay’s Vault of Deeds has completely redeemed him in my eyes as I was less than thrilled with Light Stealer. Vault of Deeds is a farcical look at your common Sword & Sorcery adventure complete with all the clichés that make the genre great. The clichés are given new life as the author delves into the symbiotic relationship between the Hero and his scribe. It becomes a question of if there’s no one there to record a Hero’s heroic feats did they actually occur?

The story takes place at the best H.E.R.O. (Hideous Evil Routinely Overcome) school in the land of Goedterre where future heroes are taught about Heroic Utterances (Virtue always triumphs over evil! Hearty Laugh for effect) and the proper way to uphold a fair maiden’s honor. Their scribe counterparts are taught how to tell rip roaring yarns of the hero’s exploits to ensure that never a dull read is to be found in the Vault of Deeds. Therein lies the problem, where once evil was routinely overcome something has gone amiss as now evil routinely triumphs over good.

47 heroes have perished at the hands of nev’do wells leaving their scribes hero-less and unemployed as is the case with our main protagonist Grincheux who thinks something stinks about the whole situation and is bound and determined to remedy the problem. With a bit of a role reversal Grincheux takes up the mantle of the heroes he once wrote about and sets off on his quest and oh what a quest it is. Along the way he’ll find a new hero, battle the forces of evil and writers cramp all in order to put the world back as it should be.

The pacing of the story is perfect as there’s never a dull moment. There’s plenty of sword swinging for those of you who like that kind of thing along with a healthy dose of humor. Caustic one-liners left me chuckling as did the absurd situations that are protagonists encounter along the way. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Barclay’s take on the Ancient Elfin Language. While the action and humor are all well and good what separates this novel from the pack are the characters.

The relationships the characters develop with each other over the course of 80 pages gives the story a lot of heart. While it is definitely farcical in nature and doesn’t take itself too seriously the way the characters begin to care about one another in turn makes you as the reader begin to form a deeper bond with each of them and this adds a lot of depth to the story. In lieu of this great character development Barclay will be sure to remind you that this is a bit of a farce by the motivations which drive the two central “evil characters”. It’s great how one of the “bad” guys actions at least in his own eyes are completely justifiable and the others actions are just because he’s evil “mwaahahahahaaha”

When the novella ended I felt as if I had just been through a whirling dervish of humorous devastation. It had all the elements needed for a great adventure; action, humor and intrigue along with a couple of well placed twists I didn’t see coming. The ending is spectacular and gave me goose bumps. Any story which can evoke that kind of emotion in me is one I would highly recommend to everyone.


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