Short Reviews: James L. Grant’s Velan the Reticent

One note before I begin this, the first reviews post in this here blog. If I review something here, it’s generally going to be something I like overall (whatever caveats I may express). Books I dislike get quietly pushed into dark corners where they can be food for the varmints that live there; any pleasure I might get from ripping on them is eclipsed by having to actually think about them for that length of time. I’d rather point people at books what I like.

That said, on to Velan the Reticent, by James L. Grant.

Barbarian sword-and-sorcery books have never been of great interest to me. It’s one of those genres, like military science fiction, high fantasy, and paranormal romance, where I can see where there are elements that other people might be drawn to (and are, in great numbers) without being drawn to those elements myself. So I came to Velan the Reticent, a novella suggesting a send-up of works such as Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, I was not entirely sure it would work for me. Parodies I like; parodies of things I’ve never seen or read, less so.

Fortunately, James L. Grant has wrote a book that is both funny and entertaining regardless of how much or little one knows about the genre. He does it the old-fashioned way – by creating real, complete characters who deal with the strange situations they face (scavenging warbirds, scheming townspeople, hidden temples) in realistic (for the genre) ways. The humor flows from the characters and their situations, rather than any forced wordplay, joking, or overt silliness, and is all the more effective for it. While I suspect there are depths I missed due to unfamiliarity with the genre, I nevertheless thorougly enjoyed the book and look forward to Velan’s return.

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