Brian Lang’s The Knight’s Journal I Review

It’s perhaps a bit presumptuous to say this, but Neogaf’s writing community is looking to be a haven of talented indie writers. The site is going two for two at any rate, with Aidan Moher’s Tides of Shadows from two years ago and now Brian Lang’s The Knights Journal I: Descendent. Ardent. Evident.  I should read more of what they have to offer because two for two isn’t a big number, but oh well.

Which is my way of disclosing that I have talked to Mr. Lang on a few occasions outside of this book review business transaction. I am a member of that writing community. I don’t expect that to sway my opinion either way, but it is worth mentioning.

I should also disclose that The Knights Journal is a bit outside of my wheelhouse. I went in expecting fantasy and wound up with historical fiction or medieval fiction depending on your definitions. There’s a boy that wishes to become a knight, but the setting isn’t Middle Earth but the actual Earth. The year is 412 A.D.. Now, this isn’t a problem at all, but as a personal preference, I do tend to prefer elves, dwarves, and magic with my swords and horses.

The plot is, as I said, about a boy who wants to become a knight. It sounds generic, but it’s really the framework that sells it all. Aidan isn’t the main character; the monk detailing his journey is.

The monk—I don’t actually know what his name is or if he is given one—is a devout Christian with a few too many character flaws to be a devout Christian. He’s a brilliant character really, starting the book off with why he’s forced to chronicle Aidan’s adventures (it involves two women at the same time), and going on from there. He knows very well that everything he’s writing down will be read by a Lord Bishop and Aidan’s father, but that doesn’t stop him from including details that he really shouldn’t be including.

He’s got a dry, cynical since of humor when he’s willing to crack a joke, a passing love for a well-written sentence, a tooth so sweet he sometimes comes off as a glutton, and in general, a thick tone that drips across every sentence he writes.

I very much enjoyed spending time with him.

Aidan, meanwhile, is a nice lad with a big heart and a willingness to dive head-first into any scenario. He can be a bit generic at times, but not offensively so, and by and large, he has a great sense of humor. He and the monk play off each other very well.

I think I’d call The Knights Journal I a comedy first and an adventure novel second. Yes the characters go on an adventure, but the play between the monk and Aidan is filled with jokes and humorous situations more than actual tension. Brian Lang has a great sense of comedic timing that works perfectly for the framework he’s writing in, making light of rough situations while enhancing his characters all the while. Plus, I laughed out loud a lot.

Because this is an epistolary novel (a story told via letters). The framework comes with baggage that can be hard to work with. The story ends if the writer dies. This gives the monk some plot armor, and Aidan too; however, that’s not an issue if the dangers aren’t all that dangerous and the tone is one of mirth first and tension second.

Basically, this novel handles the epistolary format exactly how it should.

Structurally, Aidan needs to complete 12 challenges in the span of a year, with this novel covering the first three. At 300 pages, the book can be divided into three clean, 100-page(ish) sections, though to its credit, the changes from one challenge to the next are seamless. This is an ongoing series of novellas, but it reads like a novel, complete with a big, climactic fight at the end.

I had a lot of fun with The Knights Journal I, but it isn’t without a few flaws. The first one involves the formatting itself. The monk writes all of Aidan’s adventuring details down, which makes sense, but when it comes to the actual action scenes, the level of detail almost spikes instead of declines. The fight sequences tend to be blow-for-blow, and while fun, don’t fit the style or format of the book.

That isn’t to say the action sequences are bad—they’re all quite fine—but they do come off as overly gratuitous and a bit too gory for the tone of the book.

The second flaw continues off of the first in that some portions of this book feel overwritten or drawn out. Certain scenes have more details than they need, and a certain event involving a horse and some mud is repeated more times than necessary. I’ll admit to skipping paragraphs that I felt were retreading information or covering information I didn’t deem important. A strong round of editing could remove a good 20 pages from this novel and lose nothing for it.

Thankfully, these sections are mostly contained in the first third of the book, and by the later two, the style and pace pick up considerably.

The Knights Journal I: Descendent. Ardent. Evident. is a solid comedy/adventure set in medieval times. The plot is fun, the characters are fun, and the comedy is fun. But what really sells it is the writing. Brian Lang has a masterful use of voice and tone, and not a page goes by without that being evident. Granted, a few of those pages could probably be cut for a more streamlined piece of fiction, but that’s neither here nor there. I had fun, and I recommend it.

If this interests you at all, find the book here

Brian’s Facebook page here

and his Twitter account @BrianLangAuthor