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The Thomas Kinkade of high fantasy
June 30, 2014 3:01 AM   Subscribe

But, look: banging this book on its metaphorical pate with a knobstick for manifold failures of expression and general Thoggism, as I might do with another writer, is no fun. It’s like slapping a puppy. One of the pleasures of Brooks’ writing is that he is so in-the-bone unpretentious; there’s no overweening Jordan-ic or Donaldsonian self-importance here. And (not to abdicate the responsibilities of criticism or anything) there’s a level of response which boils down to: ‘either you enjoy reading sentences like Paranor has fallen! A division of Gnome hunters under the command of the Warlock King has seized the Sword of Shannara! [147] or you don’t.’
Science fiction writer and critic Adam Roberts reviews Terry Brooks' first Shannara Trilogy and ... likes it?

Roberts has little to say about The Elfstones of Shannara, but reading The Wishsong of Shannara realises that Terry Brooks is the Thomas Kinkade of Tolkienesque fantasy:
Perhaps I over-reach myself in trying to identify this as a distinctly American sort of kitsch, but the way religion works in these supernatural Good-versus-Evil yarns does seem to me differently encoded to the way Tolkien's old-school Gothic (in the strict sense) Catholicism operated in his art. Wishsong of Shannara is, like Tolkien, Christian in form without including specific religious content in its worldbuilding (its main through-line and climactic pay-off has to do with the pure and redemptive love between a brother and sister). It reminds me of the way Kinkade painted cottages, landscapes and Disney characters rather than (say) churches or chapels, yet always worked the Christian Ichthus fish-symbol and references to 'John 3:16' into his signature. It's tweeness as transcendence: hollow plastic blue-and-pink models of the Madonna with a light bulb inside; images of the face of Christ discovered in a potato crisp; angelic beings as simpering putti rather than terrifying figures out of Rainer Maria Rilke.
posted by MartinWisse (150 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, I can t wait to read this when I get home from work, because I've been saying this sort of thing about Sword of Shannarra since I first read it decades ago and didn't even know who Thomas Kinkade was yet.
posted by KingEdRa at 3:12 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


As always, I would say that Adam Roberts needs to be careful about what he says about other writers. He's good at being pithy but his own prose work is often patchy. I still haven't forgotten the 'comedy' Asperger subplot in the utterly, utterly dreadful Yellow Blue Tibia (great reviews, great blurb, abysmal reading experience).

Lest we forget, Roberts is also the man behind The Soddit, Bored of the Rings and, under a pen name, The Da Vinci Cod.
posted by kariebookish at 3:29 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Shannara is hated more because it was reflective of two bad trends. The first, and most obvious, was that it inaugurated a reign of self-serious, moralistic good vs evil epic fantasy that was baldly derivative of The Lord of the Rings. That's something in itself, but the '80s ended and eventually fantasy moved on.

The second is that it changed the expectation of the length of fantasy novels. Where previously they were expected to be well under 400 pages, with most books ranging from 150-250, The Sword of Shannara was a commanding 750 pages long. That's quite a bit longer than any of the volumes of The Lord of the Rings, and the bigger legacy that Shannara has left behind: even fantasy novels that don't share its particular idiom are frequently mammoth books well over 600 pages, and there are often series of them well over the "trilogy" format. By comparison, I think the longer entries in The Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire are as long as the entirety of The Lord of the Rings or even the six-novel Elric saga of Michael Moorcock.

Fantasy, because of Terry Brooks, is no longer a genre of short, fast-paced adventure novels but one of plodding, overwrought mammoth tomes. And that sucks.
posted by graymouser at 3:43 AM on June 30 [32 favorites]


Firstly, Martin, you have really been knocking it out of the park - and into some parallel fantasy dimension where you can buy a magical kingdom - lately with the SFF posts. I, for one, appreciate it.

Secondly, and more on point; those reviews are both enjoyable, and shrewd I feel. I've read all those books - and enjoyed them (somewhat) - as many a lad my age did at that time, I suspect. It was impossible for an Australian kid in the country to find a fantasy that wasn't Dragonlance, Brooks, Eddings or Tolkien. Much as I might wish my introduction to fantasy was through Howard, Leiber, Moorcock, it was through the.... other vein that my addiction was formed.

And it's kinda shameful. And the books are not great and in some cases get progressively worse (Eddings, yeesh). But I really think the author is onto something with his overlay of kitsch and a kinda naive yearning. I may resent it, but those simplistic novels are actually probably a great introduction to fantasy for children, in some ways.

He's also right about Brooks' lack of pretension. It was one of his biggest appeals, and I read a number of the Magic Kingdom For Sale books because of their lack of portentousness.

He's also right about the unique... Americaness of this vein of fantasy (and I would put Eddings squarely in that wheelhouse, too). I don't know what it is exactly, but I also associated the books with America in a way I didn't with other American fantasy writers. Looking back - and it's been many a moon since I've read them - I guess I felt like they had an almost televisual quality to them. Cast of wacky characters, familiar yet superficially unique quest, safe knowledge that everything would turn out okay, and a soupcon of romance and giggles chucked in. Very, almost sitcom-y in a way.

My sister has been reading the very recent Shannara books. She tells me they're quite good; I wish I could believe her but I absolutely don't. Still, makes a contrast to the ever so boring Grimdark shit clogging up the genre these days - Shannara is a kind of wish fulfillment that at least sounds fun.

On that note, I have been really enjoying the Pathfinder novels for the same sense of fun, unpretentiousness (and in their case, resolutely UN-apocalpytic tones). I thought I had moved beyond gaming novels literally decades ago, but they're quality, fun stories that don't insult the intelligence but don' really require it, either. Perfect when you have a baby!

I do find it amusing how the critical fantasy establishment resolutely looks the other way when it comes to the fantasy novels that are, you know, actually super popular and sell squillions of copies. Not that selling status is a metric of worth, but I do think there's some snobbiness in the genre and I chuckle when I see books of a similar, middling quality being lauded like intellectual literature, when they are pretty much Brooks et al redux (Rothfuss being the most egregious example, Lynch following every so closely behind. Erickson's middling, too, imho, but his antecedents are clearly Donaldsonian).
posted by smoke at 3:50 AM on June 30 [12 favorites]


The Eddings books is were kind of compulsively readable. I recommended them to the school librarian as a teenager & she later told me that they were the library's most popular books by some margin.

Were they great works? Nope, but they had *something*, even if it was just the same wish-fulfillment bildingsroman that Harry Potter & many other YA novels tap into so effectively.
posted by pharm at 4:00 AM on June 30 [6 favorites]


I think I read The Sword of Shannara at exactly the right time - I was 11 or 12 years old, and it was a rollicking adventure with that Hildebrant Bros artwork (fresh off their triumph of the Star Wars poster).
posted by rmd1023 at 4:12 AM on June 30 [16 favorites]


smoke, on a bit of a nostalgic whim I started some of the recent Shannara books. (I had much the same experience as you except I had older brothers so Moorcock and Leiber were accessible as well). Don't believe your sister, the recent stuff is pretty terrible.
posted by wilful at 4:13 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]



Lest we forget, [Adam] Roberts is also the man behind The Soddit, Bored of the Rings and, under a pen name, The Da Vinci Cod.


Eh? Bored of the Rings was written in 1969 or 1970 by Henry Beard and Doug Kenney during an earlier fantasy plague.

According to wiccapeedia, Adam Roberts was about five years old then.
 
posted by Herodios at 4:18 AM on June 30 [7 favorites]


There are some great thoughtful posts on that blog.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:27 AM on June 30


I remember my junior high best friend reading Elfstones when we were about twelve; she hated it, and let us all know. Perhaps to warn us. The only thing I remember her saying about it, over and over, was "the boy runs off with a gypsy and the girl turns into a tree!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:30 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


As the link says, Roberts's The Soddit and The Sellamillion book end Harvard Lampoon's venerable Bored Of The Rings. But I'm more confused by kariebookish's intended substantive point: what does his own publishing history have to do with his reading of Brooks?
posted by ninebelow at 4:33 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Viz: Where the Wild Things Are, Jonze v Eggers v Sendak
posted by Sebmojo at 4:36 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I pity the fool who doesn't enjoy the Shannara books, at least for a little while. I'm still reading them... but it's a bit of a slog these days.

He clearly didn't want to keep churning them out, but they would sell, so he did.

A bit like Fiest.

I'll give the Eddings their dues: they may have written the same book over and over, but it had a different title on the cover.
posted by Mezentian at 4:48 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


So...I learned what a Thoggism is today.
posted by adoarns at 4:52 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Let's all enjoy a distinctly Canadian sort of kitsch. "Kitch", if you will.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:54 AM on June 30


Let's all enjoy a distinctly Canadian sort of kitsch. "Kitch", if you will.

Guy Gavriel Kay?
posted by Area Man at 5:01 AM on June 30


I learned what a Thoggism is today.

Perhaps you will share with the class, because I didn't entirely figure it out to my satisfaction, despite looking it up. Does it just mean "clumsy bit of writing", or what?
posted by Wolfdog at 5:06 AM on June 30


Cast of wacky characters, familiar yet superficially unique quest, safe knowledge that everything would turn out okay, and a soupcon of romance and giggles chucked in. Very, almost sitcom-y in a way.

I know that we're talking books and not movies, but that's a formula that I see in a lot of fantasy movies--consider the second Conan movie as contrasted to the first.

books of a similar, middling quality being lauded like intellectual literature, when they are pretty much Brooks et al redux (Rothfuss being the most egregious example

I'm only a few hundred pages into the first Kingkiller book, but I think that Rothfuss is doing something much more interesting than you're giving him credit for.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:07 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I always thought of Brooks as the step between Piers Anthony and J.R.R. Tolkien -- if you first encounter the Shannaras around junior high, they'll often lead you to the next step in the literature and you'll fondly remember them, but if you go back to them as an adult, you'll just be aghast at what you used to cram into your headholes.
posted by Etrigan at 5:12 AM on June 30 [11 favorites]


I read an embarrassingly large amount of Piers Anthony in junior high and high school. When I was in grad school I happened on a book sale at my neighborhood library and picked up a couple of the first books in the Xanth series. I was disappointed in 15 year old me, but now I realize that it could have been worse.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 5:18 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


All I know of Shannara is the sentence my brother's friend who'd read it would repeat as his proof of how bad they were: "His cold hard eyes turned dark". I never touched them.
posted by scalefree at 5:21 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Wolfdog : cram some Thog in your headholes!

Personal favorite : November 2001, just because Thog really dug Franzen's The Corrections. Say what you want, but the dude's well-read.
posted by suckerpunch at 5:23 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


The first Xanth book (A Spell for Chameleon) still holds up OK for me, at least as of the last time I checked. Despite the back-echoes of later cringeworthiness that you sense on returning to it after seeing the series subsequently descend into its characteristic bog of creepy punmuck, I'd say it's more imaginative than a lot of its contemporaries and includes some interesting, nonstereotypical characters.

Please tune in next week and join us again for another exciting episode of Faint Praise Theater.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:35 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


Ahhh, pulpy garbage fantasy. I read Eddings' first two five-volume epics (The Gelbariad and the Morgobbliad or something) in high school while I was recovering from tearing a ligament and loved them thoroughly. But oh man, talk about extruded fantasy product! I think Eddings tips his hand somewhat - I seem to recall the "about the author section" section saying that he wrote the novels to "explore his ideas about epic fiction", which seems like a euphemism for "apply a rubric, make mad bank".

Ray Feist's Magician is basically a transcription of a Greyhawk / Empire of the Petal Throne D&D crossover campaign and suffers for it, but I really liked his one-shot novels in the same universe: Prince of the Blood is one title I remember. I think he kept alive that thread of Howardian insanity in the mass-market fantasy universe. Christ, the villains in some of those books were snakemen! That's Howardy as fuck! I'm pretty drunk.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 5:39 AM on June 30 [13 favorites]


Not defending Brooks, but wasn't Tolkien himself Kinkade-ish enough? Lots of twee pastoral moments between all the saga pastiche. I've always thought that the Bros. Hildebrandt Tolkien art captured that quite nicely...
posted by pseudocode at 5:39 AM on June 30 [9 favorites]


As always, I would say that Adam Roberts needs to be careful about what he says about other writers. He's good at being pithy but his own prose work is often patchy. I still haven't forgotten the 'comedy' Asperger subplot in the utterly, utterly dreadful Yellow Blue Tibia (great reviews, great blurb, abysmal reading experience).

Wait, what? Roberts has written some of the most interesting science fiction novels of the last decade. I wouldn't put YBT in his top five -- it's a mess, but an interesting mess -- but it sounds like you have a very particular axe to grind with one part of the story.

Meanwhile, Land of the Headless, New Model Army, and Jack Glass are all great novels, imho, as is the novella "Anticopernicus."

I keep seeing people make offhand references to Roberts' prose being rough or clunky and I wish people would provide cites because, honestly I just don't see it, and I am generally very sensitive to that sort of thing.

Lest we forget, Roberts is also the man behind The Soddit, Bored of the Rings and, under a pen name, The Da Vinci Cod.

So we dismiss his body of work and this essay about Brooks because he wrote some good-natured parodies of classics of the genre? I'm not big into satirical humor, myself, but the worst I can say is that those books are beside the point of the rest of his work, or what I am interested in. (Kind of how I skimmed through the more parodic stories in the collection Adam Robots, but hugely enjoyed many of the other stories.)

Also, for the record, Bored of the Rings was an old Harvard Lampoon parody, though I imagine you could look at The Soddit and The Sellsamillion as sequels in spirit to that much older work.
posted by aught at 5:41 AM on June 30


It's tweeness as transcendence

I know he was describing Kincaid with this phrase, but even at 12 or 13, when I was reading some genuinely appallingly bad genre books, I found the Shannara books unreadably twee. I overshot my window, I suppose, and when I tried them (because a friend loved them and they were in all the bookstores) the Disney-esque aspect made me lose interest quickly. I think I finished the first one out of obligation to my friend, and I may have persisted for a couple more just to say I did, but my heart wasn't in it and I don't look back on them with fondness.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:46 AM on June 30


smoke: " But I really think the author is onto something with his overlay of kitsch and a kinda naive yearning. I may resent it, but those simplistic novels are actually probably a great introduction to fantasy for children, in some ways.

The Shannara series swept my junior high school when I was in 7th grade or so, right after "Flowers in the Attic" made the rounds. I had been reading fantasy since I could first read chapter books on my own, and that was the first time other kids were really interested in the same things I liked best to read, and not just a few -- the WHOLE SCHOOL. People were passing them around like crazy and handing them from locker to locker as they finished, because they were constantly out of the library so everyone who owned a copy was widely lending it out and people were talking about it in the hallways and they all got that often-read paperback softness about them.

I barely even remember what they were about, and I tried to pick one up a decade ago and was kinda like "nnnnnggggggg this is long and I kind-of don't care about these characters" but I still have a special affection for them and the way suddenly everyone liked the sort of thing I liked.

In 8th grade Eddings' Belgariad swept the school and I am not too proud to admit that I still, slightly guiltily, love the Belgariad. Oh, I see the sexism and the racism and the hackiness BUT I CAN'T HELP IT, IT'S SO FUN TO READ.

Perfect when you have a baby!

Ha! This is exactly when I pulled out the Belgariad most recently.

Sometimes I just like a little uncomplicated good-vs.-evil in my stories. I read plenty of complex, thinky fiction, and sometimes I just like a little adventure where the bad guys are obvious and the good guys triumph and people say sassy things along the way.

For the most part I enjoy that "genre" fiction is taken more seriously these days and there's such a wide diversity of interesting stuff available to genre readers that there didn't used to be space for in commercial fiction. But sometimes I grouse about the fact that it's really led to a decline in quality of the light, fun pulpy stuff. Guys who are halfway good, who would write great pulp, instead want to write Serious Fiction and a lot of it is dull and unimaginative but they are now Serious Authors so I guess that's better (for their egos).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:48 AM on June 30 [7 favorites]


...either you enjoy reading sentences like 'Paranor has fallen! A division of Gnome hunters under the command of the Warlock King has seized the Sword of Shannara!'...or you don’t.

I am utterly, completely not a fan of fantasy lit largely because I can't read a paragraph of the stuff without rolling my eyes and giggling uncontrollably, and a line like that one is akin to the greatest punchline ever written. LMAO comedy gold.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:48 AM on June 30


Feist

I think I kept reading his lowborn-boy-saves-the-world adventures largely because he describes his characters' meals so lavishly. I always knew what I wanted to have for supper.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:50 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I, too, remember reading these around when they came out. I was just a kid then, and I really enjoyed the first one.

I still have vague, warm feelings about some parts -- but whether that was due to insufficient experience as a reader or because it was good work on the author's part I won't tempt the Suck Fairy into examining.

And Eddings's and Feist's books books, with what Wolfdog calls lowborn-boy-saves-the-world adventures remind me of some of Heinlein's books like "Citizen of the Galaxy and "Starman Jones."
posted by wenestvedt at 5:59 AM on June 30


For me, as it turned out, the perfect fantasy series wasn't Tolkein (never really did come to love those books) or any of the Tolkein Facsimiles under discussion, or Xanth or Narnia. It was Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles and those still hold up wonderfully and I enjoy different aspects of them as an adult than I did when I first read them (which was quite young, well before even young adulthood).
posted by Wolfdog at 6:00 AM on June 30 [24 favorites]


The only thing I really remember about the Shannara books was the way (as Roberts mentions) the first one was set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, with ruined skyscrapers and an ancient battle robot thing and possibly some kind of sci-fi-style pseudoexplanation for the Gandalf-analogue's magic powers, but then Brooks seemed to decide that was a mistake and never mentioned it again.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:01 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I liked Shannara as a kid. I dunno. I don't see harm in reading some garbage if it at least gets you reading. In retrospect, I don't think I ever really knew why he could use the elfstones when it mattered and not when it didn't.

I like reading that kind of story, though. I'm getting jaded with a Song of Ice and Fire. I've not bothered with the tv show because I found the first 3 episodes relentlessly depressing, and I couldn't bear more of what I read in the books (although I liked the books, I'm not sure I could say I enjoyed them).
posted by Swandive at 6:02 AM on June 30


I always thought of Brooks as the step between Piers Anthony and J.R.R. Tolkien...

This precisely nails what Brooks was to me. I read the Shannara books and the Magic Kingdom for Sale books in my very early teens, and they were definitely a gateway to better fantasy, and from there I moved on to science fiction.

I got to meet Brooks when I was maybe 11. The Seattle library system held a writing contest for kids; though I was beginning to read Brooks, I was still firmly in the throes of my Redwall obsession and my story involving heroic talking animals and a good quarter of it was just a description of a feast and all their food. I won some sort of prize (maybe 3rd place?) for my age group, and Brooks was the speaker at the awards ceremony (he may even have been a judge, I don't remember). I dressed up as one of his characters for the ceremony (and distinctly remember feeling the foreshadowing of years of teenage embarrassment when I realized I was the only one in costume) and Brooks recognized who I was immediately. I have no memory of what he actually said to me, but I remember that it was warm and encouraging for a kid who at the time still wanted to be an author when she grew up.
posted by skycrashesdown at 6:09 AM on June 30 [8 favorites]


It was Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles

Lloyd Alexander is an amazing writer. His books are definitely a product of their time and he wasn't changing the boundaries of the genre (like you could claim Le Guin did, say), but unlike Eddings and Brooks, Alexander's writing was solid and grounded, and I suspect will stand the test of time. If I had kids I'm sure I would buy them copies of Alexander, while I very much doubt that I'd be pushing them to read Brooks.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:10 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I kind of want to reread these now. I loved them when I was...hm...I remember leaving one in my desk over the weekend by mistake, realizing this at Girl Scouts and being absolutely gutted since I'd been looking forward so much to finishing it on the weekend...so I must have been nine, because I was only in Girl Scouts that one year.

The funny thing is that my dad - who hated those Shannara books, he'd read me the first one when I was eight, because he is a hero of reading aloud - didn't let me read Lord of The Rings until I was eleven or twelve - he said I was too young for it.

I also loved the covers of the second two - recollect that I was eight and nine, of course. Frankly, that whole early eighties vaguely Brook Shieldsy girl in a tunic and cloak aesthetic - as seen for instance here in the really quite good Lloyd Alexander YA novel The Kestrel - still basically sends me.

I think they have interior illustrations as well.

It's funny, because the whole logic of contemporary YA is that kids want to read about kids, but past the age of about ten I really didn't. Schlock fantasy with adult characters (and some pretty decent but still not-especially-sophisticated fantasy really did it for me.) (And I remember that the pursuit scenes with the Skrulls or whatever the Nazgul knockoffs were called seemed genuinely scary to me at the time.)
posted by Frowner at 6:12 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


> do find it amusing how the critical fantasy establishment resolutely looks the other way when it comes to the fantasy
> novels that are, you know, actually super popular and sell squillions of copies.

You must mean this to apply specifically to mighty-thewed sword'n'sorcery fantasy, because vast numbers of critics of all ranks and stations in the literary life had vast amounts to say about H*rry Pott*r.
posted by jfuller at 6:15 AM on June 30


I loved the Prydain stories. They felt like he really cared about what he was writing, and knew it all inside out.
posted by Swandive at 6:15 AM on June 30


Man, I was wondering why nobody was mentioning the TV show and then I realized that Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind are in fact not the same person. Oops.
posted by kmz at 6:16 AM on June 30


Thats good that people want make books that are almost similar to the lord of the rings and as mentioned the fantasy of the book itself can get you locked in so fast that you will be sitting their for hours reading it. Very good way to educate children did you know that reading a book maintains your mind.
posted by FrankNella at 6:19 AM on June 30


And speaking of junk we read in the 1980s…

You guys should read "Heiro's Journey" and "The Unrepentant Heiro": they are totally ready for a break-out! Some of the things that make them awesome are:
  • post-apacolyptic setting
  • giant fungi
  • sweet cover art
  • psionics
  • telepathic moose steed (yes, I said it)
  • psychic mestizo warrior priest

    Don't believe me? Check it out!

  • posted by wenestvedt at 6:33 AM on June 30 [11 favorites]


    I read Eddings first, and remember thinking that the whole Shannara thing was sooooo derivative. I never finished it.
    The Belgariad still holds up, btw. It's amazing how it can be so much fun, when there's so much wrong with it!

    What's bad about Yellow Blue Tibia?
    posted by Omnomnom at 6:37 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    Not defending Brooks, but wasn't Tolkien himself Kinkade-ish enough? Lots of twee pastoral moments between all the saga pastiche.

    I feel like Tolkien used that as code for the familiar, so he could get away from it in the more exotic places. Later fantasy authors didn't feel the need to reinforce "this is an epic journey and we're going to strange places and I'm just this country bumpkin!" quite so much unless parodying the trope.

    I think for that comparison to work, Kinkade would have to paint some Detroit slums, Eyjafjallajökull, and maybe the Iraq war back when Saddam's troops were more or less randomly firing into the air.
    posted by Foosnark at 6:38 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


    ...along with the twee pastoral stuff that is.
    posted by Foosnark at 6:39 AM on June 30


    Little correction here:

    lowborn-boy-

    who-is-secretly- [a kidnapped prince / heir / wizard / mutant / the 'chosen one' of god(s) / culmination of a generations-long breeding program run by nuns / dedi knight / ai/robot/android / strange visitor from another planet -- have I missed any?]

    -saves-the-world


    I stand by this criticism of fantasy fiction in general, but on re-reading the quoted comment by Wolfdog, I do see that you're referring to the work of a specific writer (Feist -- who I have not read) Sorry if this counts as a derail.

    what Wolfdog calls lowborn-boy-saves-the-world adventures remind me of some of Heinlein's books like "Citizen of the Galaxy

    Exactly what I mean: Ciitzen of the Galaxy is a great story, which works because of the secret prince bait and switch trope. But in telling this great story, it incidently perpetuates the trope.

    the whole logic of contemporary YA is that kids want to read about kids, but past the age of about ten I really didn't.

    My experience and obsevation is that, right up to college age, kids seem to want to read about the doings of kids approximately four years older than they are.
     
    posted by Herodios at 6:48 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    I liked Magic Kingdom for Sale, and I think I read the Belgariad, but that was about the time I started to ask myself "Why do the girls never get to be the heroes?" Then I found McKinley's Blue Sword and never could go back to boy-centric fantasies of that type. I kind of went off of fantasy as a whole soon after, because most of it was still Heroic Dudes vs. Evil Dudes, and Maybe a Woman Shows Up To Love the Hero, and it bored me. If it wasn't for the Hobbit, which has the virtue of being funny even though totally bereft of women, I would have gone off Tolkein altogether at that point also. But Bilbo was not particularly masculine, so it might have been easier to sympathize with him.
    posted by emjaybee at 7:02 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    I'm only a few hundred pages into the first Kingkiller book, but I think that Rothfuss is doing something much more interesting than you're giving him credit for.

    No, he's really not. That illusion doesn't survive the second book.

    I read piles of fantasy novels in elementary school and junior high, and was into the Shannara books for a while before my interest petered out and I moved on. I think I generally preferred stuff with more humor (and talking animals and women if I could get them.)

    There was a series with a dwarf and a talking beaver or otter, maybe? Does that ring a bell for anyone?

    I preferred Time Cat to the Pyrdain Chronicles when younger. I haven't reread any Alexander's books for year - might be time for to revisit them. The YA fantasy series that stayed with me the most into adulthood is the Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. I liked the mix of modern day with mythic elements.
    posted by Squeak Attack at 7:09 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


    hey

    uh

    what is a thoggism
    posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:14 AM on June 30


    There was a series with a dwarf and a talking beaver or otter, maybe? Does that ring a bell for anyone?

    Spellsinger

    Oh how sad am I that I can answer that question without any effort of memory.
    posted by winna at 7:14 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


    I read both the Prydain and Dark is Rising series around 5th grade and loved them both. Thank you for reminding me.
    posted by mbd1mbd1 at 7:15 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    Roberts has a slightly unusual style — you have to go there in his car, but it's a big car. I've been reading By Light Alone recently and enjoying it quite a bit.
    posted by Wolof at 7:15 AM on June 30


    Don't be too sad, winna - I don't think that's the series I was thinking about. Mine was probably published in the 70s, not the 80s, because I'm just that old.

    My sister was way into Alan Dean Foster, though, and we shared and discussed all the Pip and Flinx books.
    posted by Squeak Attack at 7:19 AM on June 30


    Hurrah!

    Now I'm curious about what series it was. How many talking otter series can there be? The answer is probably lots.
    posted by winna at 7:23 AM on June 30


    The only thing I really remember about the Shannara books was the way (as Roberts mentions) the first one was set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, with ruined skyscrapers and an ancient battle robot thing and possibly some kind of sci-fi-style pseudoexplanation for the Gandalf-analogue's magic powers, but then Brooks seemed to decide that was a mistake and never mentioned it again.

    Untrue! There's a mad computer in one of the Isle Witch books (the last one, as I recall), and I think First King Of Shannara visits some forgotten hi-tech city or tower. It's totally riffing off the Dark Tower in my brain.

    I'm reading Moorcock's Corum books for the first time at the moment (my history was a little like Smoke's and somehow even though I did try to get beyond brick fantasy I was enraged by Donaldson, bored my MZB thank Christ, and confused by Jerry Corneleus) am digging the economy of words. Plus my wrists don't hurt.
    posted by Mezentian at 7:25 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    A thoggism is sentence you write after being struck with a thagomizer.
    posted by Panjandrum at 7:31 AM on June 30 [10 favorites]


    How many talking otter series can there be? The answer is probably lots.

    I guessed Spellsinger to, so you're not alone
    Beyond that there's Narnia (well, beavers), Redwall, the one that isn't Redwall (Duncton Chronicles), and something called Nightpool (1988 so probably not the right book), McKillip's RiddleMaster series and her The Forgotten Beasts of Eld had talking animals, and several talking animal books in this thread, most of which I have never heard of.
    posted by Mezentian at 7:32 AM on June 30


    Roberts notes the Sword of Shanara's theft from Lord of the Rings is so thorough that for the first 450 pages or so there are no women in this story. True to the original! Honestly I think I'd prefer fantasy books with no women at all to the way authors like Piers Anthony or Robert Heinlein wrote women.
    posted by Nelson at 7:36 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    Found it! Grayfax Grimwald - Circle of Light 1 by Niel Hancock. Very mixed reviews!

    Now I'll move on to trying to remember more details about what I remember as a fantasy series about a young witch or gypsy or gypsy witch, who had adventures and probably a cat familiar, published in the 70s or early 80s, so I can ask y'all about it.
    posted by Squeak Attack at 7:38 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


    2nding the Hiero books. Read A Canticle for Liebowitz first, though.
    posted by Dreidl at 7:41 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


    I read the first Shannara book after I read Tolkien. Unsurprisingly, I did not read another. And unlike, say, Donaldson, nobody was using it for rpg backgrounds, so I didn't have a motive to read it anyway.

    Extruded fantasy product was the kind of thing that put me off fantasy for years, until it got out of the faux/post-apocalyptic middle ages. Even when we got into the 90s and the women took over the genre (and all the dudes got tired of the cooties until GRIMDARK came in), a lot of it was really samey. It's taken me a long time to get back to fantasy and I still reflexively turn away from anything that looks vaguely Tolkienesque or faux-medieval (at least for values of western Europe).
    posted by immlass at 7:41 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    I don't care about Sword of Shannara one way or the other but I read the hell out of Greyfax Grimwald and Spellsinger both. And haven't thought of either in 30 years. Thanks, thread!

    Anybody wanna talk Master of the Five Magics?
    posted by escabeche at 7:50 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


    Speaking of Tolkien, well, homages, which painter would we go to for Donaldson's Covenant series?
    posted by pseudocode at 7:54 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    Tolkien I think is entirely sincere in his pastoral Hobbit everymen, who may or may not have been influenced by the two World Wars, which isn't the same thing as saying that Lord of the Rings is a metaphor. He's saved from being "twee" in that his rejection of both technological and moral modernity is deeply sincere and considered. This is opposed to many of his imitators who reduce him to a set of signifiers to be played like trump cards in a literary game, not understanding either his method or his moral frame. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have a moral frame: faith in the right things saves you, faith in the wrong things destroy you. I don't remember if Shannara even has one.

    It's one of the reasons why worldbuilder's disease has been something of a pet peeve of mine. Most of the fantasy worth reading of the last 50 years has understood the underlying philosophy behind the story--the Big Idea--and then tailored the world to fit. I actually have a great deal of respect for Tolkien for saying things I think are a bit wrong, than I do for fantasy that doesn't have anything to say at all.
    posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:01 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


    And unlike, say, Donaldson, nobody was using it for rpg backgrounds, so I didn't have a motive to read it anyway.

    Someone was using Donaldson for RPG backgrounds?
    posted by Naberius at 8:04 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    Okay, two more formative books of my youth and then I'll stop derailing. The books with the witch I mentioned above are Song of Sorcery and The Unicorn Creed featuring a hearth witch named Maggie Brown, by Elizabeth Scarborough, who went on to collaborate (ghost-write?) with Anne McCaffery.

    Also The Green Knight, The King's Damosel and King Arthur's Daughter by Vera Chapman, all of which feature young women protagonists in an Arthurian setting. Vera Chapman was a big Tolkein fan, and founded the first Tolkein Society. I do have to pat young Squeak Attack for seeking out as many fantasy series by, and featuring, women, although I admit the unicorns on the covers were the big draw.
    posted by Squeak Attack at 8:12 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    Someone was using Donaldson for RPG backgrounds?

    It was a home-brew game that pulled Donaldson elements in. I read all six of the then-extant books in a weekend, less than six months after I'd gotten a diagnosis of chronic illness. It was neither the most stellar decision I've ever made nor the most stellar game I've ever played in.
    posted by immlass at 8:13 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    From the Hieros link: "a world of enormous predatory lampreys, ... ancient telepathic snails, ... intelligent fungi with malignant intent, and cautious bear-people."
    posted by zippy at 8:15 AM on June 30


    What I remember about "Sword" was the nifty artwork and a wizard named after a twelve-step program.
    posted by TDavis at 8:24 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    Oh, this brings it all back--the time when I had read Tolkien and was reading anything Tolkien-likeI could find. Shannara was pretty clearly, even to a very young reader, a pastiche of Tolkien, but I read it anyway and didn't hate it. It was product to fill a need, but not very satisfying product.
    Loved Alexander's Prydain, picked up Anthony and Eddings etc, and didn't care for them. (I think I was too old by the time I read Eddings).

    But--Lin Carter! There was a time when fantasy wasn't as ubiquitous as it later became, and Lin Carter was there. His own work is painfully, painstakingly derivative--he has a Conan-like series, a Tarzan-like series, a John Carter series--even a Jack Vance-like series. He clearly loved fantasy but couldn't write anything original.
    On the other hand, he did edit many reprint anthology books that introduced a lot of classic fantasy to a new generation, so give him credit.
    posted by librosegretti at 8:24 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    Heiro's Journey I remember fondly. A little after reading that I encountered Gamma World, and it all seemed so familiar...
    posted by librosegretti at 8:25 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    On the other hand, he did edit many reprint anthology books that introduced a lot of classic fantasy to a new generation

    Yep. The seventies Ballentine Adult Fantasy series is worth seeking out, collecting all sorts of pre-Tolkien fantasy writers.
    posted by MartinWisse at 8:27 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    In fairness to Eddings, he does have some strong female characters. Polgara is probably the smartest of any of them, and maybe just a hair less powerful than Belgarath. And Liselle/Velvet (in the Malloreon, aka: the Belgariad with different names) is a good match for Kheldar/Silk.

    Ce'Nedra is an idiot, but so is Garion, so I feel like that washes out.
    posted by Chrysostom at 8:30 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


    Fair point on Bored of the Rings - I read an edition that collected them all. My point regarding his own fiction (and I have read four of his novels - though did only finish two of them) still stands.

    And because I like context (who's doing the reading here and how does his own work inform it) I think it's interesting to see what Roberts extracts from brooks (and other authors). His reviews in the Guardian always make me steer clear of books rather than encourage me to read them.
    posted by kariebookish at 8:30 AM on June 30


    by Elizabeth Scarborough, who went on to collaborate (ghost-write?) with Anne McCaffery.

    She also wrote some mysteries, and what I remember as a really good contemporary novel with fantasy elements about a nurse who was a Vietnam veteran. She seems to have been mostly forgotten by the field, but for a while, she was pretty popular (and reliable).

    This seems to be an appropriate thread to ask if anyone else ever read an odd little series of children's fantasy/religious novels by (IIRC) Rosemary Harris, which involved Egyptian gods and Noah's flood and the early Israelites. The premise was that the Egyptian gods were real, but they were also facets of the Israelites' god, so their existence didn't (quite) cause a theological problem.
    posted by suelac at 8:36 AM on June 30


    My impression is that Roberts' rep is similar to that of John Clute - great critic, maybe not entirely successful on the fiction.
    posted by Chrysostom at 8:36 AM on June 30


    Shanarra was a product of its time. I bought it specifically because not only did it have a Hildebrandt cover, it also had a bunch of interior Hildebrandt illustrations.

    I read it, but never got around to any of the sequels, despite getting a hold of it between ages 10 and 13 somewhere.

    I was amused to find out, much later, that Tim Hildebrandt and his sun used to refer to it as "The Sword of Sha-Na-Na", (e.g. another nostalgic throwback product).
    posted by Mad_Carew at 9:31 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    The seventies Ballentine Adult Fantasy series is worth seeking out

    The Ballantine Adult Fantasy line has a number of reprints of fantastic books; Fletcher Pratt, Lord Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith, David Lindsay, William Morris, and a bunch of others. As a whole it's very worthwhile, and probably the reason we even call the genre "fantasy" with a straight face today.

    Strangely enough, it also started Katherine Kurtz and Evangeline Walton in publishing their Celtic-themed fantasy work; I wound up reading a bunch of Kurtz's Deryni books (fantasy Wales with psionics) in high school and found them enjoyable, if a bit off the normal fantasy path.

    But--Lin Carter!

    A very odd duck. Serious Bob Howard fans today consider Carter and de Camp almost like antichrist figures despite the fact that they had done yeoman's work in popularizing the character in the first case. You do a few "posthumous collaborations" (i.e. finishing another author's uncomplete draft) and people make it a great infamy. His work is all pastiche, but in the most loving sense of the term.
    posted by graymouser at 9:57 AM on June 30


    Shanarra was a product of its time.

    It's worth remembering that The Sword of Shannara was only published becaue Lester Del Rey was looking for the most explicitly Tolkien-like book he could possibly find, as he had figured out that this was like a license to print money. It turned out he was right, and overnight would-be fantasists went from pastiching Burroughs and Howard to writing epics that were exactly like Tolkien, except without any of the redeeming literary value.
    posted by graymouser at 10:00 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    Thank you, Wolfdog and others, for mentioning Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles. Because one, I am glad to see so many other mefites appreciate it. And two, that thing upthread, where people were saying that going back and reading a book later and discovering it was horrible? All that talk about the Suck Fairy? I had the opposite reaction to Prydain. Going back and reading it as a young adult I had the rather startling realization that nearly everything I believe about love and honor, and friendship and duty is found in those books. And that was kind of deliciously alarming, because given my age and background, I really should have gotten those lessons from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and John Wayne movies. It has become an amusing koan-like diversion for me to ask myself if I got my moral compass from Lloyd Alexander, or if he just articulated it in the way that most closely resonates with what was already in my soul.
    posted by seasparrow at 10:14 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


    The only thing I really remember about the Shannara books was the way (as Roberts mentions) the first one was set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, with ruined skyscrapers and an ancient battle robot thing and possibly some kind of sci-fi-style pseudoexplanation for the Gandalf-analogue's magic powers, but then Brooks seemed to decide that was a mistake and never mentioned it again.

    Mezentian points out some further instances, but this really was very much of a thing. Quite a few books devoted specifically to that apocalypse, the events leading up to it, and how that transitioned to the Shannara setting and the Druids. Yes, a couple years ago I said "fuck it" and read All Of Terry Brooks, and overall I don't regret it, they're enjoyable. He gets a lot better at writing as he goes on.

    Now, as far as fantasy books I loved as a wee'n which utterly fall apart as an adult, I'd have to point to Gordon R. Dickson's Dragon Knight series. Which I also read all of during that period. And good god, that stuff is just interminable and nonsensical. I remember really liking The Dragon on the Border when I was young, read it a bunch of times, but revisiting it at 29 the thing is seriously three hundred pages of planning an ambush and then doing it in a chapter.
    posted by kafziel at 10:44 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    It was Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles

    Words cannot describe the love I had for those books as a kid, nor the love I am holding for you right now for reminding me of them.

    I got introduced to Tolkien very young; The Hobbit was my 7th birthday present from my mum. Sometime in the couple years after that I read LOTR in one go, in a week during summer vacation. Often with a dictionary beside me. Seriously the only time I wasn't actually reading the book was while sleeping (after flaking out around 1-2 in the morning with my face in the book) or at the dinner table.

    Shannara just sucked. End of story. I made it through the first one and then I gave the fuck up because oh my God just so much suck.

    I'll admit I quite liked Eddings in the 12-14 years--building into your world the fact that things will keep repeating themselves was a genius marketing move in letting him write Malloreon, the virtually identical sequel to Belgariad. As said above, they were weirdly compelling to read. The fantasy version of Tom Clancy or something. Then I read the, what was the series called, the queen trapped in some sort of crystal or diamond thing to... slow some poison? Can't remember. I slogged through the trilogy out of sheer bloodymindedness even after about halfway through the first book realizing he was just recycling characters from the previous series.

    Anne McCaffrey I got into as a kid around nine or so. I mean, yay dragons! Except literally everything else about her books sucked. Except Dragonrider's Guide to Pern which was actually pretty interesting, and the real life version of klah is actually really tasty. Then I heard (years later) about her assertion that simply being penetrated anally makes you gay and whoosh, all her books went into the trash.

    Donaldson I discovered at about, hmm, eleven or so? I still quite like the books (though I've only read the first six; he shot himself in the foot by proving The Land was real with Avery, for one, and the later books involved fucking time travel so fuck off). I've never really been able to understand the point of raping Lena in the first book or Elena's attempted (was it attempted? I haven't read The Illearth War in a while and ISTR it was never consummated) incest. Admittedly in the second trilogy the whole side plot with the Elohim was really damn fucking stupid. You've created the Q, basically, who could fix the whole world at a whim, but they... don't want to? Because Reasons? Ugh. All that being said, at least he truly did try (and even succeeded sometimes) at discussing finer points of morality and loyalty and duty.

    I think it wasn't until my twenties-ish that I discovered Goodkind. The first book was okayish, and I tried to keep going through the series but only made it I think three or four books in before I realized how fantastically bad and stupid they were. Richard was a Gary Stu and Kahlan was a Mary Sue and auuuugh the Mord Sith really? And getting your memory back by carving a fucking statue? No. JUST NO SOMEONE MAKE HIM STOP.

    Then there was Robert Jordan. I tried. I really did. There were some neat concepts in his novels but after all the braid-tugging and so forth I gave up after I think the fourth book? It seemed really clear to me he actually had no fucking clue where he was going at all so he just kept writing and writing and writing until he could try and figure out some way to wrap things up.

    Guy Gavriel Kay, if you haven't read him, is one of the best fantasy writers ever. He also did all the compilation work on Silmarillion, for which Chris "I Will Make My Father Spin So Fast In His Grave He Becomes A Black Hole" Tolkien took the authorship credit rather unfairly.

    With Kay, best to read him in chronological order starting from The Fionavar Tapestry (essentially a retelling of the Arthurian myth, in a trilogy) as he keeps (mostly) getting better and better. Best of all, almost all of his books are standalone singles, though with the exception of Fionavar they mostly take place in roughly the same world at different points in its history; so in Last Light of the Sun for example you get references to The Sarantine Mosaic--even better, the references are garbled, the same way our own history is often garbled. He stumbled a bit with Tigana (chopping that book by a quarter or a third probably would have helped a lot, but a lot of the conceptual work in the book was amazing), then seriously finds his feet with A Song for Arbonne (loosely based on troubadour period France). After that came The Lions of al-Rassan (Moorish Spain, esentially), and The Sarantine Mosaic (Byzantine Rome, two books). He stumbled again with The Last Light of the Sun (roughly England around the time the Saxons were pillaging); it wasn't quite as compelling as his previous books, but still head and shoulders above any extruded fantasy product anywhere. I haven't read his latest.

    But the besterest thing of all with Kay is that he writes very strong female characters, with agency and intelligence and independence and all the things that so very few other (male) fantasy writers even bother thinking about, let alone write, let alone write well.

    Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon was really damn good. So was Philip Jose Farmer's The Dungeon series.
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:51 AM on June 30 [14 favorites]


    Oh! Talking animals! Watership Down maybe?
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:51 AM on June 30


    And more noodling about Kay: unlike so much fantasy, his characters (and worlds) suffer actual lasting consequences, and not just in the 'someone who is kind of almost a main character dies in some symbolic way.' Not that his books aren't rife with symbolism.

    And how the fuck could I forget Narnia? I literally read two complete series to bits.
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:54 AM on June 30


    Because I am as old as dirt, I came upon Brooks, Eddings, and Donaldson in my twenties. That was unfortunate timing. I did read all of Donaldson's first series but the other two series were just too wretched to continue past the first volume. I tried one Pern book and decided that dragons were not ponies and quit. I started reading far more science fiction than fantasy. Katherine Kurtz was an exception. The first Deryni trilogy was a jolt because it was something other than Tolkien Lite. But I read far more SF than fantasy in the 80s and early 90s because I was sick of the derivatives.

    It was a combination of Glenn Cook, GRRM, and Robin Hobb that brought me back to swords and spells. I know grimdark has been done to death now but boy, it was a breath of fresh air when Jaime Lannister pushed Bran out the window. Now the genre has folks like Daniel Abraham, NK Jemisin, Saladin Ahmed, etc. The Republic stands and is in good hands.
    posted by Ber at 11:10 AM on June 30


    There was a series with a dwarf and a talking beaver or otter, maybe? Does that ring a bell for anyone?

    Spellsinger



    Nah, that sounds like Niel Hancock's Circle of Light books, which were basically Buddhist Narnia (and pretty good, too). There was a bear who was their friend plus two wizards (one all Gandalf-y and one all Ged-y).
    posted by KingEdRa at 11:20 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    rmd1023: "I think I read The Sword of Shannara at exactly the right time - I was 11 or 12 years old, and it was a rollicking adventure with that Hildebrant Bros artwork (fresh off their triumph of the Star Wars poster)."

    Are you me? I had an identical experience, although that summer I was recovering from chicken pox. Adored the books when I was 12, and find them almost unreadable now. On the other hand, they are the first epic fantasy I can remember reading, and acted as a gateway drug of sorts to much better stuff.

    I think I also read the Thomas Covenant series that summer. What an odd summer that was.
    posted by scrump at 11:42 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    No, he's really not. That illusion doesn't survive the second book

    Sure it does. I've never seen a critique of the story (as opposed to the prose style or whatever) which could not be handily explained by pointing out that Kvothe is an absurdly unreliable narrator who is obviously deliberately slanting things.
    posted by Justinian at 12:17 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    I love that the phrase "extruded fantasy product" is something we can just toss off casually and everyone knows what we're talking about. I miss rec.arts.sf.written!
    posted by Justinian at 12:19 PM on June 30 [11 favorites]


    The only thing I really remember about the Shannara books was the way (as Roberts mentions) the first one was set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, with ruined skyscrapers and an ancient battle robot thing and possibly some kind of sci-fi-style pseudoexplanation for the Gandalf-analogue's magic powers, but then Brooks seemed to decide that was a mistake and never mentioned it again.

    I kind of miss this trope. Saberhagen's Empire of the East (and subsequent Swords series) is one of my favorite fantasy-rises-from-the-Old-World's-ashes book(s).

    How many talking otter series can there be?

    Well, the earlier question immediately made me think of this book cover (which book I purchased used after reading Spellsinger, but I don't think I ever read it), so...yes, probably lots.
    posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:30 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    There's not many post-apocalyptic fantasy novels out there, but I think many of them read better. Emma Bull's "Bone Dance" likely does the best job merging the science fiction and fantasy elements. Sean Stewart's "Galveston" is a horrific magical apocalypse where having a living Carnival in your city is quite possibly one of the better outcomes. Bujold's "Sharing Knife" isn't terrible, if you don't mind that she's taking the romance novel structure for a test drive and can't go for more than a few chapters without a reminder that Fawn and Dag are having sex again or still. Crowley's "Little, Big" ends as the apocalypse starts somewhere else. Then there's Wolfe's massive "Book of the New Sun" which is a genre boundary buster. On my to-read list is Boyett's "Ariel."

    Just yesterday, I read Cherryh's "The Only Death in the City" which I think I need to re-read before evaluating. I do more short story reading these days via Lightspeed so my perspective on the state of both genres is likely a bit askew.
    posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:52 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    I kind of miss this trope. Saberhagen's Empire of the East (and subsequent Swords series) is one of my favorite fantasy-rises-from-the-Old-World's-ashes book(s).

    I always hated that trope, especially when it cropped up in the Wheel of Time; shattered my suspension of disbelief because I could see no way from here to there.
    posted by MartinWisse at 12:58 PM on June 30


    . Then I read the, what was the series called, the queen trapped in some sort of crystal or diamond thing to... slow some poison?

    The Diamond Throne, first of the Elenium, followed by the Tamuli series, which were my Eddings series. Never liked the Belgariad or Malloreon, but those were great even if at age fourteen it was clear the heroes were never in any real danger.

    That first book though has Eddings perhaps writing his best sequence, when the hero remembers being almost killed in a southern town or something and remembering the bells of the women going to get water down the well. That was almost poetic and has been stuck in my mind for *mumble* years.
    posted by MartinWisse at 1:02 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    Spider-gnomes, spider-gnomes, does whatever a spider can... A gnome can... Nope, I've got nothing
    posted by fallingbadgers at 1:05 PM on June 30


    Guy Gavriel Kay, if you haven't read him, is one of the best fantasy writers ever.

    I like G.G. Kay too. He's not perfect, but -- just like in Tolkien -- magic in his books isn't about shock and awe. Instead it's a thematic element. Some of his books are close to historical fiction with the serial numbers filed off (The Lions of al-Rassan, which is still very good). I found the Fionavar Tapestry mostly derivative with a few strong moments and I disagree about Tigana. It has a few rather embarrassing sex scenes, but the heroes and the antagonists have interesting motivations. The Golden Bough must have been a major influence on it. I tried reading The Sarantine Mosaic, but it didn't really do it for me although maybe I was too familiar with the Byzantine setting. A Song for Arbonne is probably the best starting point - it involves a lot of music, there's a soupçon of Conan in a certain character, and plenty of well-realised women.

    I'm reading Moorcock's Corum books for the first time at the moment (my history was a little like Smoke's and somehow even though I did try to get beyond brick fantasy I was enraged by Donaldson, bored my MZB thank Christ, and confused by Jerry Corneleus) am digging the economy of words. Plus my wrists don't hurt.

    Since Corum isn't exactly feelgood, if you still like it after the first trilogy, consider reading Erekosë. The ending is WTF, but that's why I keep thinking about it now and then.

    Sure it does. I've never seen a critique of the story (as opposed to the prose style or whatever) which could not be handily explained by pointing out that Kvothe is an absurdly unreliable narrator who is obviously deliberately slanting things.

    Kvothe is apparently too loquacious in the second book ;) I think the Dickens pastiche in the beginning of NOTW (and the similarities to 'arry Potter) certainly helped Rothfuss' case wrt literary merit. I started reading these while waiting for GRRM to finish ASOIAF thinking the next book would be out soon. I knew nothing, Jon Snow.
    posted by ersatz at 1:08 PM on June 30


    I always hated that trope, especially when it cropped up in the Wheel of Time

    The only time I can remember that happening (only read the first 7, though) is when they found a Mercedes-Benz hood ornament in that Seanchan (I think?) museum. Good times.
    posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:12 PM on June 30


    I like G.G. Kay too. He's not perfect, but -- just like in Tolkien -- magic in his books isn't about shock and awe. Instead it's a thematic element.

    That's a very good point to make. Also: he uses it very, very sparingly, and if memory serves, never uses magic as a deus ex machina.

    I dunno about Tigana though. Yes, there were the embarrassing sex scenes (always involving Devin for some reason), but what I meant was that I think the book as a whole is flabby. The motivations of the characters are fascinating--especially, I think, Alberico's--for sure, but the book just feels like it drags in places. Kay's pacing is often, hmm, relaxed, which I have no objection with; his works have a movement that ebbs and flows in lovely ways (there are a couple of a very good examples of that in one of the Sarantium books, can't remember which one, those little side digressions into other peoples' lives who mean nothing to the plot). Tigana, I felt, just got slow as opposed to reflective, if that makes sense?

    I'd never thought of The Golden Bough as being an influence there but... well now I have to find my copy of that book and reread it and then rerere...rerererereread Tigana in that light.

    Fionavar was more or less deliberately derivative; he was rewriting the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot story. Plus all the main characters were from Toronto! So as a kid it was super cool to read this fantasy novel that started out where I lived! I don't think it lives up to the heights of Arbonne or Lions (especially that line from Jehane, "How do men find it within themselves to do such things?"), but again, it's still head, shoulders, and elbows above standard extruded fantasy product.

    And my God yes, the women in Arbonne. There was that thread just the other day about the asshat who 'wanted' to write a strong female character but wrote a sexbot instead. He should be locked in a room with a copy of Arbonne and upon every wall should be painted "THIS IS HOW YOU WRITE STRONG WOMEN YOU DUMB FUCK." Signe, of course, but Arianne especially. Carrying those secrets for so long, making her own choices about what she does and when and with whom (though of course a woman doing that was the setup for the whole story; I don't take that as sexist on Kay's part, I take it as part of his 'actions actually have long lasting consequences' worldview that inhabits all of his books. And of course one could easily argue that it was Signe and her husband who set that whole mess in motion, so the actions and consequences were theirs, which as rulers of the country meant the consequences got visited on everyone. But I digress).

    I think perhaps what appeals to me most about Kay is not just the strong and intelligent women (and how could I forget to mention Styliane and Ali(x)ana in Sarantium? And Kasia, for Jad's sake!), not just the actions=consequences, but that he comes up with such monstrous antagonists who are still fully fleshed-out human beings, with interesting (albeit skewed; e.g. Galbert) motivations. You can actually see the exact moment where someone chose the wrong fork in the road (or had it chosen for them) rather than just being The Badguy, you know?

    Hi I'm from MetaFilter and I could overthink a plate of Kay.

    (Also HBO please ignore the usual titties and lesbian sex requirements and do series of Arbonne and Lions and Sarantium thank you. Probably two seasons for each of ten episodes. That would make me the happiest person ever.)
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:35 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


    The Diamond Throne, first of the Elenium, followed by the Tamuli series

    That's the one. I couldn't bear to pick up Tamuli after realizing he only actually had maybe a dozen characters ever and would just recycle.
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:56 PM on June 30


    In 8th grade Eddings' Belgariad swept the school and I am not too proud to admit that I still, slightly guiltily, love the Belgariad. Oh, I see the sexism and the racism and the hackiness BUT I CAN'T HELP IT, IT'S SO FUN TO READ.

    Nothing to do with the character of Ce'nedra, of course. (The one and only World Con I ever attended, in Seattle, also included a woman who was part of the Portland contingent who fit Edding's description of Ce'nedra so exactly I thought she must have been the model, but it would have been too rude to enquire, I decided, especially after I'd asked Zelazny during Q & A in front of an auditorium full of his rabid fans whether he thought his female main characters might be dying off a little more often than chance could reasonably account for.)

    I loved the Hiero books too, and even now am haunted sporadically by a ghost of the disappointment I felt as the years passed and the promised completion of the trilogy did not appear. If you go hiking in the Alpine Lakes wilderness area east of Seattle in early summer, you can find surpassingly eerie fog-bound lakes edged with twisted driftwood-like near-timberline dead trees that are to me inescapably evocative of certain scenes in Hiero-- and living in Seattle has made the concept of an intelligent, malignant fungus considerably less implausible to me than it was, but I still didn't like it all that much when a giant, benign slug helped reverse some of Hiero's mental deficits by extending a very fine-fibered pseudopod up Hiero's nose and into his brain.

    Master of the Five Magics gripped me too, but I had to laugh when I read in the cover blurb that Hardy was a Caltech dropout, given how much the book rails against the creativity-stifling evils of too much specialization.

    But my prime candidate for Great Neglected Fantasy Trilogy (That No One Else Has Even Read) is Cherry Wilder's The Rulers of Hylor series: A Princess of the Chameln (1984); Yorath the Wolf (1984); and The Summer's King (1986). Still makes my hair stand on end just to recite "the summer's king" to myself.
    posted by jamjam at 1:57 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    So was Philip Jose Farmer's The Dungeon series.

    Oh, god, I loved these books so much until the last one, when it became obvious that the writer of the first book and the last was going to end the series the way he goddamn well wanted to regardless of what the other authors had written. Specifically, that woman who died (disappeared? whatever) in the first book and was almost totally ignored in the next four books, and then the protagonist was suddenly pining over the lost love of his life in the last book. It took me a long time to trust a shared-universe story again after that.
    posted by Etrigan at 1:58 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    It took me a long time to trust a shared-universe story again after that.

    Really? You didn't get pissed off by Thieves' World first? Brilliant concept but the execution oh my god. After the first three or maybe four books it all went completely pear-shaped.

    For any Donaldson fans out there: I just recently read Mirror of Her Dreams. Should I bother with the rest of the series?
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:04 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    The rest of the series is just one more book of roughly the same size, right? I liked them when I read them, but I don't really remember them now.
    posted by eruonna at 2:08 PM on June 30


    > I'm only a few hundred pages into the first Kingkiller book,
    > but I think that Rothfuss is doing something much more interesting
    > than you're giving him credit for.

    No, he's really not. That illusion doesn't survive the second book.


    "I have a photographic memory! Despite my tragic past I'm much better than my peers at everything! Except for talking to girls; they're complicated!"
    posted by sebastienbailard at 2:14 PM on June 30 [6 favorites]


    sebastianballard I think you meant to say Gary Stu there

    eruonna: I've never even seen any other Mordant books in the wild so I have no idea.
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:23 PM on June 30


    Ready to have your mind blown? You better get ready. Because the mind-blowing is imminent.

    So close now.

    Here it comes:

    The accent falls on the first syllable. SHANN-a-ra.

    Same vowels as "banana." It should sound vaguely like an Irish surname.

    (Source: my mom, who heard Terry Brooks say it once.)
    posted by Iridic at 2:32 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


    Someone was using Donaldson for RPG backgrounds?

    Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed/Evolved showed some clear Donaldson influences, if I remember correctly.
    posted by pseudocode at 3:53 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    I'm glad to hear that I am not the only one who didn't like the Kingkiller books, though I'll admit that I only got about fifty or so pages into the first one before giving up completely. The prose was awful, and the narrator/protagonist was just the best at every damn thing. Now, if it's supposed to be that he's an unreliable narrator, and there's a real story there then fine. But none of that came through in what I read, and the poor writing did not encourage me to push through the Gary Stu-ism. After hearing so many people rave about the books, I was wondering if I was going crazy.
    posted by X-Himy at 3:56 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


    Great Neglected Fantasy Trilogy?
    Lyonesse, by Jack Vance.
    posted by librosegretti at 3:58 PM on June 30 [7 favorites]


    I loved song of sorcery and still have my copy, great book.

    I know Rothfuss has good fans but really it's the most transparent adolescent nerd fantasy wish fulfillment, and its length is undisciplined verging on obscene. There's nothing wrong with that, but the claims of originality and great talent baffle me. Super retro, and his success compared to frankly more talented peers is clearly down to its teenagey elements, imho. An inn, in the middle of nowhere, the best wizard ever, best sword fighter ever, he's so cool, snigger.
    posted by smoke at 4:03 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    You... realize he's the one telling the story?
    posted by Justinian at 4:14 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


    Yeah and up read a gazillion pages on the first book with nary a suggestion that much was amiss. Don't get me wrong, they are fine - for what they are (cool magic system too). But this is not, like leguin or Paul park or anything here.

    On another note I read the chathrand voyage chronicles last year and really loved them, but they seem to have sunk without a trace - was it the teenage protagonists, or female main character or what?
    posted by smoke at 5:00 PM on June 30


    Maybe it's worth noting that Eddings willed $18 million to Reed College for the study of language and literature, and $10 million to National Jewish for the study of asthma.
    posted by underflow at 5:08 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


    He actually willed them $1M each and then rewrote the same will a bunch of times with different titles.
    posted by Etrigan at 5:12 PM on June 30 [10 favorites]


    You... realize he's the one telling the story?

    You...realize that's not much of a gotcha? Kvothe being an unreliable narrator doesn't make the story any less dull, meandering, or puerile.
    posted by Squeak Attack at 5:49 PM on June 30


    I guess we'll just have to disagree, smoke. If anyone is interested I encourage them to read Jo Walton's lengthy chapter by chapter analysis of Rothfuss. I believe they are on Tor.com.
    posted by Justinian at 5:50 PM on June 30


    Obviously, Squeak, I think the story is anything but dull and only occasionally meandering.
    posted by Justinian at 5:51 PM on June 30


    Yeah I think you and I have pretty different tastes Justinian, though I do respect your love and knowledge of the genre, of course.

    Just curious, what's your opinion on Erickson?
    posted by smoke at 6:02 PM on June 30


    The phrase I usually use for those things is kitchen-boy-saves-the-world but somehow my brain couldn't come up with "kitchen" this morning despite having physically been in one a few minutes earlier. Pardon me.
    posted by Wolfdog at 6:06 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    I read Sword of Shannara late, when I was in university, which was really the time that I started branching out into different genres. I remember being at a used bookstore, wanting to get a fantasy book--not SF, but fantasy. And that seemed to fit the bill. I brought the paperback to the counter and the middle-aged lady who rang me up saw it and gushed. "Sword of Shannarra! I love that book, you're gonna love it, too!" High praise, indeed. And she was right, I did in fact like it, and it wasn't until several years later that I realized it was very derivative of Lord of the Rings. I haven't gone back to read it since then, but I wonder how it would stand up now.
    posted by zardoz at 6:12 PM on June 30


    smoke: I have mixed feelings on Erickson. I have all his books in hardcover and I admire the audacity and scope and so on but his prose style is more than a little clunky. Plus there's the whole everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach he takes which grates on me at times.

    But the entire Chain of Dogs sequence was superb and worth the price of admission.
    posted by Justinian at 6:30 PM on June 30


    We are in perfect accord on this score, Justinian! I stopped shortly after that, the books had so much potential and some genuinely great parts, but i felt with karsa oolong our whatever his name was -the prologue that was a novel with the barbarian blood sword dude - that the bad started to outweigh the good. Lack of women, and ridiculous hyperbolic violence started to weary me, too.
    posted by smoke at 6:42 PM on June 30


    I tried rereading TSOS about a year ago, got about thirty pages in and put it down. I loved the series as a kid. I read Sword, Elfstones, and Wishsong back-to-back one summer. But they're impossible for me to revisit as an adult.

    I like G.G. Kay too. He's not perfect, but -- just like in Tolkien -- magic in his books isn't about shock and awe. Instead it's a thematic element.

    Has anyone else read the Fionavar Tapestry and noticed how much goddamn weeping is in it? At one point I tried keeping a list of every time Kay made a character weep—for happiness, sadness, fear, whatever—but lost count and gave up. Still love those books though.
    posted by echocollate at 6:47 PM on June 30


    but i felt with karsa oolong our whatever his name was -the prologue that was a novel with the barbarian blood sword dude - that the bad started to outweigh the good. Lack of women, and ridiculous hyperbolic violence started to weary me, too.

    Karsa's arc is actually at all interesting because of the early violence and misogyny - it's about his moral development away from thuggishness.
    posted by sebastienbailard at 6:59 PM on June 30


    I loved TB when I was 9-10. When I went back in my 30s, I was shocked at how bad the writing was. Still, he made summers really special when I was in grade school.
    posted by persona au gratin at 9:06 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


    I'd never thought of The Golden Bough as being an influence there but... well now I have to find my copy of that book and reread it and then rerere...rerererereread Tigana in that light.

    The priest-king at the fane of Nemi, who was ritually murdered by his successor is Alessan's buddy who lives south of the Palm (iirc), and the description about the hunt of the god is also rather similar.

    And yes, Brandin is an antagonist who could have been a protagonist.

    We are in perfect accord on this score, Justinian! I stopped shortly after that, the books had so much potential and some genuinely great parts, but i felt with karsa oolong our whatever his name was -the prologue that was a novel with the barbarian blood sword dude - that the bad started to outweigh the good. Lack of women, and ridiculous hyperbolic violence started to weary me, too.

    The breadth of Malazan is impressive and it often shows that Erickson is an anthropologist, but the way he brutalises some of the women in his books (whereas men seem exempt from sexual violence AFAIRemember) is too much for me. Poor Felisin. Better than Black Company though.
    posted by ersatz at 10:27 PM on June 30


    Am I the only one who loved the Death Gate Cycle?
    posted by Evilspork at 2:01 AM on July 1


    Here's a thing: the MTV adaptation of the Shannara series skips "Sword" and starts with "Elfstones" -- presumably because the Tolkien derivativeness would be too high (maybe even legally preclusive?).

    I was pretty amazed at those Eddings bequests. He had to have been a savvy and careful investor to have transformed Del Rey paperback royalties mostly earned 15 to 30 years before into a $20mm plus estate.
    posted by MattD at 4:55 AM on July 1


    Am I the only one who loved the Death Gate Cycle?

    No. But I had already read Dragonlance.
    (Disclaimer: I am so tempted to re-read the W&H Darksword novels lately).

    Anybody wanna talk Master of the Five Magics

    Oh, god, I have that somewhere. I keep threatening to read it.

    Since Corum isn't exactly feelgood, if you still like it after the first trilogy, consider reading Erekosë. The ending is WTF, but that's why I keep thinking about it now and then.

    Aside from the fact I keep reading Corum (2nd book, halfway) and thinking I have read this in the Elric books (or the works of Pat Mills) SOLD!
    posted by Mezentian at 5:58 AM on July 1


    Extruded Fantasy Product! I'm sitting here at work giggling at the notion but because it's Canada Day and the office is empty I can't share it with anyone.

    Probably just as well.

    I never liked Shananana much, read the first couple. I read the covers off my Eddings though. I remember it gradually dawning on me that the cookie cutter nation/race characteristics were ridiculously unlikely in practice, and that the second series was a transparent reboot of the first. I forgave all.

    Then one day I realized that the same inane speech phrases were showing up over and over again, and even in other series (elenium, tamuli etc). The specific one that I STILL remember is "xxxx, you are a dear treasure!" When I realized I could pick out 5 or 6 of those at will, I put the books on the shelf and they have stayed there since.

    I don't read much of this type of thing anymore. for awhile I was quite enamored of Erickson but that's starting to wear on me. He keeps creating new vectors and complications, four or five books in, and I just don't have the energy, you know?

    Also (whispering) I've never really liked GRRM. *Hands in Nerd Card*.
    posted by hearthpig at 6:02 AM on July 1


    Also (whispering) I've never really liked GRRM. *Hands in Nerd Card*.

    Everything I've heard about ASoIaF adds up to not-my-thing. Grimdark? Small doses thank you. Historical fantasy conceit? Nope. Multi-volume epic with no resolution in sight? Hell no. Writing for the sequel has become something of a plauge of the genre.

    On the other hand, I've liked a few of the Wildcards stories I've read.
    posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:56 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


    I don't think Martin's very good, either. Who is writing non-epic fantasy these days? Outside of R. Scott Bakker (whose worldbuilding and philosophizing I enjoy), I think I am pretty much done with doorstopper fantasy.
    posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:07 AM on July 1


    His story "Sandkings" won the Hugo and the Nebula, and deservedly so.
    posted by Chrysostom at 7:07 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


    Chrysostom, you are correct and I have been unnecessarily broad. I've never liked, or understood the fuss around, ASoIaF in book or motion picture form. I can think of any number of written works I'd rather see adapted to the screen (big or little) and fawned over.

    Sandkings was great. I enjoyed some of the Wild Card stories too, although admittedly not for mumblemumble years.
    posted by hearthpig at 7:12 AM on July 1


    Am I the only one who loved the Death Gate Cycle?

    I never really bothered with it, because as Mezentian said, I'd already read Dragonlance. I tried the first book, but it didn't grab me enough to want to read the second.

    I suspect, though, that I may be the only person here who loved the hell out of the total ridiculousness and hamfisted moralizing that was the Darksword series. (And oh god, the 'reference' book they wrote with the WORST most complicated RPG system somehow tucked in.)
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:03 AM on July 1


    I don't think Martin's very good, either.

    Based on Game alone? Bad call.

    I mean, aside from the fact it is atypical, GRRM is mostly a broader writer.

    I mean, Wild Cards, Tuf Voyaging, Fevre Dream and ... Rretrospective alone are wrothe at least a taste (one of, not all)
    posted by Mezentian at 8:07 AM on July 1


    It had admittedly been a couple if decades and change since I read either Dragonlance or Death Gate, but are people saying they were basically the same thing? Because that's not my recollection.
    posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:28 AM on July 1


    Weis/Hickman had, let's say, limited creativity around plotting and characterization. Death Gate was basically Dragonlance Gothicgrimdark, in my recollection.
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:30 AM on July 1


    I came to Eddings in very early high school. I definitely gobbled them up and spent a lot of time with a friend fancasting a movie. Somehow I missed Wheel of Time completely and turned up my nose at Shanarra. Oh gosh, and the Dragonlance books - the ones with the seasons, and the ones with Rastalin? Lots of my friends were obsessed with him.

    At this point I had already been deeply immersed in Pern, early Robin McKinley, Narnia, and, most deeply of all, The Dark is Rising books, which I still love and reread along with the Robin McKinley books. I haven't reread Eddings in forever but recently have had the itch - just to go wallow in them and see how they're like now.

    I read most of the Thomas Covenant books when I was in a place with very few reading options, but I hated them the whole way through and just sort of grimly powered through them because I Had To Finish. But the Mirror duology is, while depressing, much better.

    It's ok that people weep a lot in the Fionovar books, because I'm usually crying right along with them. There's an author that has always made me sob like bananas. In fact I haven't reread Tigana in ages because of that. I'm tickled to see people who like Song for Arbonne as much as I did because at the time I read it I think it was vastly overshadowed by Tigana, which was held to be the clearly superior Kay book. Nowadays I'd probably put the Sarantine books first, but god, I love the Fionovar-Ysabel one-two punch.
    posted by PussKillian at 9:39 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


    Has anyone else read the Fionavar Tapestry and noticed how much goddamn weeping is in it?

    No, because I'm sobbing along with the characters. Any time I needed a good cry, I'd start reading The Darkest Road with a box of tissues at my side. "Only each other at the last" indeed.

    And PussKillian posted much the same as me while I was off re-reading summaries of the three books. How did it get so dusty in here?
    posted by mogget at 9:51 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]


    Oh goodness yes. There are passages in Arbonne, Tigana, and Lions that I simply cannot read in public because I will cry and cry.

    Especially the last chapter of Lions. You know what I mean.

    "Only each other at the last"

    auuuuuugh dust, dust everywhere
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:52 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


    Well, CBrachyrhynchos, I htought that Boyett's "Ariel" isn't very good, though it did teach me about how some vehicles have railroad wheels attached to them on crank-down axels which allow them to go from road to rails and vice versa. I pointed out an Amtrak maintenance vehicle rigged like this to my kids last weekend!
    posted by wenestvedt at 10:16 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


    but unlike Eddings and Brooks, Alexander's writing was solid and grounded, and I suspect will stand the test of time. If I had kids I'm sure I would buy them copies of Alexander,

    I still read Eddings' Elenium & Tamuli every year or so. They're such dreck. Like gummi worms for the brain.

    But my voracious-reading daughter, who inhales anything Tamora Pierce has written, didn't much like the Prydain series. And I reread it after she started, and...I was really disappointed. Eilonwy wasn't nearly the strong character that I had remembered, and I didn't find it great from a good-girl-role-model point of view. Kind of problematic, actually. I was disappointed.
    posted by leahwrenn at 10:18 AM on July 1


    I didn't bother with the first ASOIAF when it came out precisely because I'd read Wild Cards. The guy who gave us the Great and Powerful Turtle re-envisions the Wars of the Roses as extruded fantasy product (with added GRIMDARK)? More for everybody else. Nothing I've seen or heard since has made me revisit that decision.

    This thread has reminded me to reread some good stuff and confirmed my sense that a couple of the series under discussion are also probably not for me. I love Lynch's books but it's mostly because they're capers more than quests. I've classed them so far more with the early Vlad Taltos books by Brust, which I loved, though I can see indications Lynch may go off the rails into un-fun srs bzns in exactly the same way Brust did. Fingers crossed that he avoids that pitfall.
    posted by immlass at 10:24 AM on July 1


    I read the Prydain books to my son a year ot two ago, and was underwhelmed. They felt a little thin. I know people love them, but they just didn't work for me.
    posted by Chrysostom at 10:49 AM on July 1


    wenestvedt: Thank you.
    posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:20 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


    My wife, who is not much of a fantasy reader, is a SLOBBERING GGK fan. I finally broke down and asked her to recommend something to me, and she pointed to Tigana as a good start.

    Gotta say I found it painfully slow (and I _like_ character driven fiction, I swear). Page after page waiting. for something. to happen. "Holy shit honey! They're going to buy some grain!".

    I finished it but am not anxious to try another.
    posted by hearthpig at 2:32 PM on July 1


    hearthpig, Tigana's a good place to start because it really is only uphill from there. GGK learned to keep his pacing reflective in places (as I mentioned upthread), while still keeping everything actually moving.

    Give Arbonne a try, or Lions. Trust me (and your wife).
    posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:27 PM on July 1


    hearthpig, I usually recommend Lions of Al-Rassan as the intro to GGK, if we can convince you to give him another shot.
    posted by mogget at 3:27 PM on July 1


    I bring glad tidings!
    Game Of Thrones Meets Teen Wolf? MTV Is Really Putting Shannara On TV!

    My only hope is that it isn't Under The Dome bad. Or Sword Of Truth bad.
    It's a small hope.
    posted by Mezentian at 6:27 PM on July 11


    That is ... bizarre.
    posted by kafziel at 7:28 PM on July 11


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