Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Problem with Fantasy (courtesy of 'a Song of Ice and Fire')

As is remarkably obvious from the blog I am a massive fan of the series, a Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin. Unfortunately this has caused me some problems with reading other fantasy novels. Another one of my favourites is the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. Since finishing a Song of Ice and Fire for the third time (and Mistoborn for many more, I can no longer remember!) I have read several different fantasy books and been disappointed, none quite live up to the grittiness, description and depth of either of the two above authors (and yes that even includes the occassionally painfully dull A Feast for Crows). Here's a run down:

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

I will admit when I picked this up I was worried, I mean this is one of the books by one of my favourite authors, the author that made me realise that as much as I enjoyed the Sword of Truth series (Terry Goodkind, I won't go into it here as that was actually the first fantasy series I read and if I re read it now I'm worried it wouldn't live up to standard) there were much much better books out there (read: Mistborn). I am pleased to say that Warbreaker did not disappoint, it had all of the character development, elaborate and original magic system, and fast paced plot that I would have expected from Sanderson, and despite it being a happy ending, actually a very happy ending by fantasy standards, that lack of realism didn't matter. I would still put Mistborn above Warbreaker, but then it would be hard to replace Vin (the main character from Mistborn) with anyone, and despite being fictional, she still holds a place for just being too damn extraordinary! Well and the ending of Mistborn (Hero of Ages) moved me to tears (this is the person that didn't cry when Dobby died.)

The Empire Trilogy (Daughter of the Empire, Servant of the Empire, Mistress of the Empire) by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts

This I only finished last week (as in the trilogy) and I must admit I was impressed, there were faults in the books for me, for example Kevin got on my nerves towards the end of book 2, what happened to Ayaki at the start of book 3 seemed unnecessarily cruel to both him and Mara, and despite me wanting a happy ending (rare enough) I didn't get the happy ending I wanted, though the part with Justin, Hokanu and Mara made me actually cry (the opposite + a little bit would have been my happy ending of choice.) For the first 2 books all I could think was that the books were tragic true but at the same time all of the good guys seemed to have an infinite amount of luck (which I guess was the point but still) and then the third book, up until then I'd been glued to my kindle wanting to know what was happening, but in that I kind of felt like there was a bit of rambling and not much point to what was being told. I'd recommend it though, not as tragic as some but the blend of politics, thought and fantasy does work well.

A Dance of Cloaks (Shadowdance Book 1) by David Dalglish

I think the first thing to say is that I won't be reading book 2. The book was good but not mind blowing, people seemed to get life ending or at least severely crippling injuries and then just get up a seek revenge/move around still. Now I'm not saying I have a problem with people dying (anyone who has read a Song of Ice and Fire will know that you just have to get used to it!) or being crippled (ditto, even if Bran bores - and annoys - the hell out of me) but it just frustrated me that everyone seemed to stay fine. Add to that the whole confusing Hearn/Aaron dual personality confusion (I couldn't actually tell the difference in places), people's seeming obssession with an evil God, Thren's one dimension personality (cruelty, death, revenge, more death, richness, war etc.) and it just didn't do it for me. At all. It wasn't so bad that I put it down, I finished the book (and found an acknowledgement to a Song of Ice and Fire at the end, like the true geek I am I did pick up on the 'winter is coming' reference) but it didn't have the depth I needed. There was tragedy but then when you've read the Red Wedding its just not tragic anymore. There are much better books go read them. Oh also, Aaron/Hearn, he's 13 throughout most of the novel, it didn't tell you that til 3/4 of the way through so I'd still been imagining him as the 8 year old from the prologue (and that's just disturbing).

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas

For a first novel I was impressed, it had a good storyline which seemed original, though again there wasn't quite enough depth to it, or death for that matter, which is strange in a book whose main character, Celaena, is an assassin. Again I blame a Song of Ice and Fire for that, despite being 9 years younger, Arya Stark could be a match for Celaena! It seemed a little bit predictable too, which annoyed me slightly, but if another book came out (which it is rumoured to do), then I would probably read it.

Blood of Requiem (Song of Dragons Book 1) by Daniel Arenson

This is the book I am currently reading (according to my Kindle I am 80% of the way through). It doesn't have much of the depth, tragedy or character building as either a Song of Ice and Fire or Mistborn but what cannot be denied is the beauty of the writing, it is so elegant and the style is almost like a poem or song (Song is the right word for the trilogy!) and I find myself wanting to consume the rest of it just for that. The characters are sometimes one dimensional but you do sometimes get a sense of that, and almost as if the younger characters are growing into who they will be. I'll read them all, just because they are so beautifully written, but this book certainly wouldn't go on my list of favourite books, though at a push Agnus Dei may make it onto my top heroine's list (mostly aSoIaF dominated that one!).