fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJames Barclay Vault of DeedsVault of Deeds by James Barclay

Vault of Deeds proved to be a funny read as James Barclay plays on heroic fantasy conventions, not unlike Jim C. Hines or A. Lee Martinez. In this novella, it’s up to a scribe — in this case someone who records the deeds of heroes — to save the day.

Barclay’s writing is easy to get into but goes beyond simply being functional or serviceable. Dialogue and action are frequently utilized to draw the readers in, and comedy is provided by the verbose and exaggerated prose spoken by the protagonists. Since this is a parody, I can’t really blame Barclay for using two-dimensional heroes and villains. There’s also no dallying here as Barclay gets us to the action quickly and the fight scenes are also quite commendable.

If you’re going to read Vault of Deeds, do it to tickle your funny bone. Honestly, some of the fantasy satire I’ve already seen before. What sets it apart is Barclay’s writing style, which is more than palatable. However, there are also a couple of good lines in there and a few surprises that elevate it beyond the norm. As far as books of this sub-genre go, it’s certainly above average. Having said that, don’t expect this to be layered comedy. James Barclay attempts to do one thing — make readers laugh — and does it well. There’s no additional sub-text here or complex plot threads. Which isn’t to say that Barclay just threw in a random assortment of jokes; there’s a structure to the prose and how the comedy fits. It’s just that if you were expecting more, this isn’t the place to find it.

If you want something fun and quick, grab Vault of Deeds. No qualms with the execution and it certainly accomplishes what it sets out to do.

FanLit thanks Charles Tan from Bibliophile Stalker for contributing this guest review.

Vault of Deeds — (2008) James Barclay says: This was one of those ideas that just wouldn’t go away. In the midst of writing A Shout For The Dead came an unbidden thought. Happens that way sometimes which is why I go nowhere without my notebook. It was a germ that became a gem to me, having polished it up and let it rattle around in my head and on scraps of paper here and there… a comedy. Or if not, a little humorous at the least. It would concern a man whose job it was to chronicle the deeds of his own personal hero but as we join him he is witnessing that hero’s sudden and gory demise. This leaves him all alone on a mountainside swarming with the forces of evil. Right, I thought, away you go. And out came the Vault of Deeds.