Why I’ve been "out"

Until this week, I had despaired of ever finding a new fantasy novel or series that I could actually enjoy.

It seems the shelves are glutted with what I call “Urban Gothic”, or what the industry calls “Contemporary fantasy”, where the story is set in our familiar Earth, and magic, folklore, and the supernatural is injected into what would otherwise be an unremarkable fiction. Often these books are actually romances or mysteries disguised as and marketed as a fantasy. These frequently depict wizards and witches riding motorcycles and using credit cards, or feature a vampire or werewolf as its protagonist, struggling to deal with a xenophobic modern society.

I deplore this subgenre. My tastes in fantasy run towards the Epic (High), Dark, and Heroic (Sword&Sorcery) fantasies. I require complex stories set in completely imaginary worlds, filled with magic and battles of power, peopled by exotic cultures and complex characters struggling against evil and despair.

The short list (which isn’t that short) of my favorite tales includes

(I really could go on, but I’ll stop there. This short list is simply those that are my enduring favorites.)

If you too are a reader of fantasy, you will note that that list is comprised mostly of what is considered all-ages or young-adult fantasy. But now I am looking for more adult oriented fantasy, that are rich and complex, with a darker approach towards power, life, sex, death, and the human condition. I’ve read Jacqueline Carey, Juliet Marillier, Stephen R. Donaldson (another personal favorite, btw) Tad Williams and many others.

But I have not found anything recently that engages my interest. Every time I browsed the bookshelves at the library or bookstore, I saw stories that would be interesting, but turn out to be poorly written, or are contemporary urban fantasies that hold no appeal to me at all. I havn’t read a genuinely interesting new fantasy in over two years.

Until today.


I just finished reading this book, and yes, it is everything I have been looking for: an adult, well-written, engaging high fantasy that left me breathless and wanting more. I wasn’t even intending to buy a book, but with an opening like this:

“Imnea knew when she awoke, that Death was waiting for her. She had seen the signs of his presence for some time now.”

How could I not buy it?

This novel asks the question and seeks to answer what happens to people when they seek power and immortality at all costs, even if that cost includes the lives of others. It is a tale of power, of choices and consequences, of good and evil, and the thin, almost non-existent line that delineates the two. It is a tale of hate–and I hope redemption.

It has been so long since I’ve read anything so captivating, it feels new. And it rekindled my desire to contribute my own ideas, to write again those novels that linger like coiled dragons in my creative spirit.

I dont want to promise myself too much, but this book may just have become my literary muse.

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14 thoughts on “Why I’ve been "out"

  1. Yay for finding new books! I have a few other series to recommend to you and one short story:

    The Iron Tower trilogy, by Dennis L. McKiernan. It’s like a much more reader-friendly version of The Lord of the Rings (in fact, it’s one of the criticisms of the series), but it’s a fun series nonetheless.

    The DragonLance Chronicles published by TSR (the first trilogy was written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman). Epic high fantasy, although it’s EXTREMELY Dungeons & Dragons oriented.

    The Elric of Melnibone series by Michael Moorcock. Worth checking out.

    And finally…if you swing by Perpetual Writer’s Blog, I’ve got a call out for First Readers, and I’m currently sending out an original tale called “What Wizards and Witches Want” in case you’re interested in that.

    Ian

  2. Yay for finding new books! I have a few other series to recommend to you and one short story:

    The Iron Tower trilogy, by Dennis L. McKiernan. It’s like a much more reader-friendly version of The Lord of the Rings (in fact, it’s one of the criticisms of the series), but it’s a fun series nonetheless.

    The DragonLance Chronicles published by TSR (the first trilogy was written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman). Epic high fantasy, although it’s EXTREMELY Dungeons & Dragons oriented.

    The Elric of Melnibone series by Michael Moorcock. Worth checking out.

    And finally…if you swing by Perpetual Writer’s Blog, I’ve got a call out for First Readers, and I’m currently sending out an original tale called “What Wizards and Witches Want” in case you’re interested in that.

    Ian

  3. ian thank you! I’ll check out your short when I get home (your blog is unreadable on my cellphone).

    I’ve actually already read all your suggestions. I’ve been a reader of this genre since I was 11 years old (I’m nearly 30 now!)–I’ve pretty much read or attempted to read everything that’s worth reading. I like the Elric stories a lot, but they aren’t on my favorites list. I sort of enjoyed the Iron Tower trilogy, but I agreed with the critics: it was far too derivative. As for the DragonLance books, I tried hard to read those on several occaisons, since I find the premise of the stories and the world to be interesting, but I just couldn’t get into it. The writing simply bored me.

    My problem is the new stuff–too little of it is appealing to me–either conceptually or stylistically. I think I’ve tapped out the genre, and must now bide my time waiting for those 10-percenters that are actually GOOD.

  4. I loved the Bartimaeus series as well! I also enjoyed the Golden Compass series too. I think you will find it is fairly adult in its concepts and philosophy toward Christianity. I really loved it and was amazed at the depth of the characters and the imagination that must be involved to create various “universes” the series takes place in.

  5. I’ve never been much of a fantasy reader. But (and you’ll probably cringe when I say this) I’ve absolutely loved the Harry Potter books. Like, we’re in the middle of the last book and I’m already going through withdrawl knowing we’ll be done soon.

  6. I’ve never been much of a fantasy reader. But (and you’ll probably cringe when I say this) I’ve absolutely loved the Harry Potter books. Like, we’re in the middle of the last book and I’m already going through withdrawl knowing we’ll be done soon.

  7. Big Momma;
    are you kidding, I LOVE Harry Potter. that should have been on my short list, but that “short” list was getting too long, so I stopped. LOL

    Harry Potter is probably the ONLY contemporary fantasy I have ever liked, and thats mostly because its not a pure cont.fan. Its got a LOT of the feel and characteristics of a high fantasy.

    If ever high fantasy and contemporary fantasy were to meet and blend together, you’d have Harry Potter.

  8. well my comment from yesterday didn’t save. sucky.

    it’s ok, i was just going on about the fact that i can’t get into fantasy with all it’s made up names and non-word words. i get all distracted by pronunciation and remembering who is what and vice versa that it takes away from the story. perhaps that’s just the lack of imagination talking.

  9. I am all for finding a muse. Now, should you see a muse carrying a sign with my name on it, point the muse this way please. I’m in need. 🙂

  10. “It may change your life”. As the literary are so fond of saying.
    I like your blog. Put me to thinking about just what is fantasy.

  11. Hi, Rachel, came over by way of Ian’s recent link. Your list could be mine, except for the newer things. There was a period of a couple of years when I bought no fiction, and I’m just getting back to it. I’m aghast at that admission, as I’m sure you are.

    You have an interesting blog. Good to meet you. 🙂

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