The Blurb on other People’s Words – Adam M. Johnson

July 24, 2012 at 2:08 am (writing)

Loud, Disorderly & Boisterous – by Adam M. Johnson

Fantasy is one of those genres that, more often than not, takes itself far too seriously, so it is a pleasure to find a fantasy novel that is both well-written and humorous like this one. The most notable fantasy humour tends to lean towards silly, thinking particularly of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and Monty Python. The humour in this book, however was more subtle and intellectual, a biting wit along the lines of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, if it were written as a medieval fantasy.

The story opens with the introduction of Princess Aletheia’s newest tutor, a pompous ass and the latest of many, not expected to last long in his position. We also meet Will, a humble squire who is secretly the hero of the people, manipulating the control of game (to allow for easier poaching) and the taxation system with bribes and favours. In addition to this, we encounter Gus, the real decision maker for the kingdom, and Tom, a bored guard with itchy feet.

When the latest tutor proves to be a bust, and the king threatens to marry his daughter off to the next appropriate suitor, she and Will begin to make plans for her escape, escorted by Tom. Their plan does not go off without a hitch, however, and is complicated by romantic inclinations.

Some of the characters in the novel are big, bold and multi-hued, like the tutor and washerwoman, Gretchen. The more clever characters, such as Princess Aletheia and the squire, Will, while very active in the story, are more subdued, watchful and thoughtful, timing their responses with careful calculation. It presents an excellent juxtaposition, the titular loud, disorderly and boisterous versus the quiet, scheming and reasonable, the people who allow the status-worshipping, ignorant figureheads to believe they are in charge while others with more sense and discretion actually run the show.

Two things I didn’t like, the first being the little history lesson surrounding the introduction of Otto, despite being presented with humour. It took me out of the story I was really enjoying, which I found frustrating – it bothered me especially because everything else is so well integrated into the story.

The second thing, and the reason I couldn’t in good conscience give this five stars, was the copy editing. I’m usually forgiving of the odd mistake here and there, especially with self-published or small press books, but when I’m running into three errors in a single paragraph, and multiple mistakes per chapter, I have to say the book is in serious need of a good polish and another solid round of copy-editing. If this was corrected, I’d definitely consider this a five star read.

Personally, I thought the story was presented with brilliance. The author played with fantasy stereotypes by sourcing the humour from the essence of their roles, a farm-boy turned guard for the sake of escaping drudgery and turnips only to discover his new life is no more exciting, for example, doomed to polishing metal instead.

Simple things like the day of the week (Tuesday) and boredom, or the necessity of various characters to escape it, become institutions – the reason why people are doing things or events happen. Like running gags, this adds another layer of playfulness to the tale.

This is truly funny fantasy – I’d even go as far as saying that this is the funniest fantasy I’ve ever read.

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