the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘epic fantasy’ Category

Epic: Legends of Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams

published November 2012

where I got it: Received ARC from the publisher

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Epic Fantasy requires the story to be bigger, the dragons be faster, the warriors be stronger, and everything generally be more. And Epic: Legends of Fantasy offers up just that – more mythos,  higher stakes, more of simply everything.

Many of the entries are part of the author’s larger work, taking place in an epic fantasy world that the author has already written hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages about. Randomly, the stories I read first happened to be part of larger works, and at first, the lack of stand alone works bothered me, but I quickly came to appreciate it, and to learn the collection had plenty of stand alone stories as well. An anthology like this is a brilliant method of introducing readers to these larger fantasy worlds created by famous authors such as Robin Hobb, George R R Martin, Michael Moorcock, Melanie Rawn, Tad Williams, and many others, and serves as an excellent introduction to the writings of newer authors  as well.

Some works were fairly new, but others were older than I am. the Moorcock for example was originally written in 1961. A pure classic sword and sorcery, complete with sexualized and helpless female, it might be offensive to today’s readers, but I’m happy Adams included it, as what’s the point of talking about Epic Fantasy if we’re not going to touch on the journey the genre has taken?

Clocking in at over 600 pages, Epic: Legends of Fantasy is itself a bit of a doorstopper.  We eat clunksters like this for breakfast, so I was surprised at how long it took me to plow through it. ahh, but spending 600+ pages in one fantasy world is one thing. Try spending that quantity of pages in over a dozen fantasy worlds. More often than not, my brain needed a little break in between.   This isn’t the kind of anthology to gorge on, this is the kind you savor, over many winter evenings.

Here’s my thoughts a handful of the entries:

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Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence

Published August 2011

Where I got it: rec’d review copy from Harper Collins/Voyager

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With an epic, empire-shattering sprawl that brings George R R Martin to mind,  and a quick and snarky narrative style reminiscent of Scott Lynch, yet with a twist unlike anything I’vecome across, Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns is easily the most incredible epic fantasy I have ever read. To drop yet another name,  this is a novel that practically vibrates with deliberateness, making me think of Patrick Rothfuss at times.

Showing a true mastery of foreshadowing, Lawrence drops hints both overt and subtle that creep up on the reader like a path of breadcrumbs that twists and turns through the forest.  I don’t care if this path leads to a witch’s house, Lawrence has completely seduced me to the point where I can do naught but follow. I knew from the first chapter this was a book I’d be devouring.  The plot set-up is fast and clean,  the prose and dialog alive with “show me”, and long before the first twist hits you’ll realize this is nothing at all like your typical epic fantasy.

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The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, book 2), by Patrick Rothfuss

Published: March 2011

Where I got it: the library.

why I read it: the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles, The Name of the Wind, was a game changer book for me.

Plainly said, if you enjoyed the Name of the Wind (reviewed here), you will enjoy Wise Man’s Fear more so. If Name if the Wind didn’t really do it for you, Wise Man’s Fear probably won’t, and more so.

Still on the fence?  It may help to think of The Kingkiller Chronicles as a memoir, not a fantasy trilogy. After all, Chronicler is doing just that, writing down Kvothe’s life, isn’t he?  Kvothe is much more interested in those events, be them mundane or heroic, that shaped him as a person.  And besides, both Chronicler and Kvothe already know the stories and the songs and the legends. This is their only opportunity to get the story right.  Think about what you would put in your own memoir.  You’d put in more than just the “action” moments of your life, wouldn’t you?

Did the book meet my expectations? Yes and more. Was it worth the wait? Yes and even more.

First things first, Rothfuss’s writing is tighter, more mature, and much more polished than in Name of the Wind. The dialog is snappier and funnier.  The plots, subplots, and undercurrents are at the same time both more and less subtle than the first book.

This book is nearly 1,000 pages long.  It took me 5 days to read, and I’m not a slow reader.  And in nearly one thousand pages you can be sure that a lot happens.  But if I made this a plot based review, I believe we’d both be missing the point.

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A riddle:

what tastes bland when consumed quickly
but tastes perfect when savored?
What demands you take the proper time
without making a single request of it?

I suppose acceptable answers could include love, patience, life, learning the shape of the world.

Also, a book called The Wise Man’s Fear. Only 100 advanced reading copies were ever made, all signed for, tracked, and with RFID chips. Reviewers who received these books signed a contract in blood that they would not only buy an Eolian t-shirt, but that they would also have a lute tattooed somewhere on their body in a secret location known only to them and the author. It’s been said the author can change the color of his beard by snapping his fingers. This book is so heavy you could never read it in the bathtub. An audio version would take you the rest of the year to listen to, the rest of your life to understand.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

(by the way, that stunning peice of artwork is by Kim Kinkaid)

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Just so you know, this is a super long post with a funny at the end.  Not unlike an epic quest. . . .

I describe this website as offering Science Fiction & Fantasy reviews.  But going through my list of reviews, I’m seeing far more fantasy than science.  Maybe I should just describe it as a fantasy review site?  Or a gateway to fantasy review site?

When I was a kid, I was an adamant SF fan. Much of my youth was spent building spaceships out of legos and watching PBS shows about astronomy.  I craved scientific explanations for everything.  I wanted to know how everything worked

While my friends were reading Lloyd Alexander, I was reading Interstellar Pig.  As they moved onto Tolkien and Raymond Feist and Katherine Kurtz, I moved onto David Brin and Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert.

To me, Fantasy was wizards with long beards, royals who went on quests where their soldiers and magical armor protected them, and elves and dwarves who spent the first half of the conversation telling you their lineages, and embarassingly rediculous cover art. really nothing else. I had no understanding that “high fantasy” was only the tip of the iceberg of the genre.  My limited experiences with high fantasy let me know quickly that I didn’t care for it.

And then I started reading manga, a form famous for mixing genres. Cyborg mechas using laser guns against a castle and fighting flesh and blood dragons that guarded hoards of treasure? no problem. Kids who get wisked away from their regular life to fight demons and spirits and collect magical shards? piece of cake.  Vampires, martians, aliens, dragons, time travel, often in the same series. And it worked, like magic.

Wait, wasn’t this, um, fantasy?  It sure was fantastical, and it sure wasn’t hard scifi. Read the rest of this entry »

Published in 1996, The Lions of Al-Rassan is not a new book, but it is easily the most moving book I have read this year. If the end of this book doesn’t bring you to tears or compel you to find your loved ones and hold them close, there may be something very wrong with you. That’s a fuzzy photo of my copy. See the bent cover? The stressed spine? I felt it was important to show the how loved this little book has been in my household.

The Peninsula of Al-Rassan isn’t that unusual. In every square, tavern and temple the poets, singers, and clerics tell anyone who will listen of the romance of the battlefield. Of how the gods smile on warriors, of the honor, glory, and spoils of war. But the two most famous warriors of Al-Rassan know better. They know that war provides none of these things. All war does is take.

I better say it early on, this is not a book about war. This is not an action story, it is not epic fight scene after epic fight scene. This is a book about what strained loyalties can force men and women to do. The war is just the backdrop, The Lions of Al-Rassan is a love story. Read the rest of this entry »

 With all the HBO stuff floating around all over the interwebs, I figured it was time I started my own little Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones post series!

I’ve been trying to write a review for George R R Martin’s A Game of Thrones for about two hours now. I keep writing a paragraph, and deleting it. Should I focus on the wonderful characters? The fully realized world and it’s subtle yet increasingly frightening magic system? The ambitious families who will do anything to gain the throne during a power vacuum? The dethroned princess who vows to return as queen and take the throne that is rightfully hers? Children with questionable parentage?

There’s a lot going on, and I don’t know where to start.

So I’ll start here: If you have never read George R R Martin’s A Game of Thrones, you owe it to yourself to go to the library right now and get a copy. Yes, I understand it looks daunting, but the dialogue flows, the plot moves right along, it might not be all action all the time, but there isn’t a slow moment here.

Oh, you don’t read fantasy? Not into dragons and magic and Kings and Queens and Knights? Yeah, I wasn’t either. Game of Thrones was my gateway drug to epic fantasy, and it will be yours too.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.