Why Orphans Are So Important in Stories

Oliver TwistFrom Charles Dickens to countless modern works, including some of my own stories, orphans are among the most common characters in fiction. I find this especially true in fantasy – so much so that The Orphan might have its own place among the pantheon of other iconic fantasy figures such as The Soldier, The Peasant, The King. But at what point do these figures become bland labels that define the character more than his or her actual traits?

Fantasy, a genre that so often pulls characters from the grab bag of tropes on display in either The Lord of the Rings or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, has received countless literary complaints over its apparent lack of variety. When a book’s first act describes a backwoods young farmer – unwise to the ways of the world (and obviously having some convenient prior experience with weapons via hunting) – I automatically assume that said farmer will be sitting on a throne before the end. Continue reading

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The Thousand Names

The Thousand NamesWell, I only read one of the books I said I was going to this summer, apparently because I can’t tie myself down like that. But it was quite a book. Although mildly escapist, Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names is a page-turner. That’s what summer’s about anyway, right? Beach reads.

Easy to get into and easy to stick with, The Thousand Names holds a captive audience by means of some of the most riveting battle scenes I’ve ever read. Wexler is gifted in this aspect. Battle is something I’ve always struggled to write because of the sheer amount going on and the significance of all of the details.

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A Second Walk Through the Wheel Of Time

The Eye of the WorldThis is my second time reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel Of Time series. The first time it held me entranced through most of high school, but I only read the first nine before I got side tracked. (Not to mention, Jordan passed away around then, just before I had caught up to him). Not familiar with Brandon Sanderson’s capable and strangely similar style and talents then, I decided to delve further into fantasy with different authors.

Years and countless writing lessons later the Wheel of Time has turned, and I’ve come back to this classic series to discover it’s just as entertaining as it was before. Yes, I’ve read stronger authors including mega-series-world-creator Steven Erikson, but a broader perspective has given me the chance to view Jordan’s storytelling with a different sort of fascination.  Continue reading

10 Fantasy Books I’d Like To Read This Summer

I’m not sure how I’ll get to all of these this summer, but I can always hope, right? On this list are mostly newer fantasy novels primarily because I want to know what’s happening in the industry right now. What’s big? What are we talking about? What am I writing that’s being done right now? Hopefully that’s not a conclusion I close a book to. Hopefully I just enjoy the heck out of these.

18404312Alias Hook: This might be the newest book on the list, but I haven’t taken the time to verify that. I read the synopsis and that was all I needed. I don’t usually go in for the retelling of old stories gig, but there’s that to a degree in every book, and I’ve always thought Hook needed a second chance.

Words of Radiance: The only book on this list (and one of the only books period) that I’m reading for 11543195the soul purpose of finding out what happens next. There will be speed-reading if I want to get to any other summer goals, and I don’t feel too bad about that since Sanderson’s other novels have offered little more to me than enjoyable escapism. As great a storyteller as he is, there’s not much edifying here, so I won’t linger.

13569581Blood Song: I really have no idea about this book. The synopsis is curious, but enigmatic, and I’m prepared to drop it if the faith aspect gets too weird. The main character seems interesting, but this doesn’t look like anything new, which is part of why it drew me, oddly enough. I want to read a story that’s not tripping over itself to point out all the tropes it’s avoiding (ahem, Rothfuss). I just want to read a good epic fantasy with startling characters, and I hope this book provides. Continue reading

The Scar: New Weird

ScarThe literature of China Mieville has become recognizable to many fantasy fans as the icon of the strange, often dark, wave of avant-garde fiction popularly branded “New Weird” or “Slipstream.” Historically, the broad term (weird fiction) is most often associated with H. P. Lovecraft, and if you’re familiar with his work, you might get an idea of how this category of fiction deserved these names. If you’re not, well, you’re probably a much saner person for it.


Seeing as how sanity doesn’t alway describe me, I was enthralled by the last Mieville book I read: The Scar. It’s a curious blend of Slipstream fiction (Slipstream usually combines elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror) and Steampunk era speculative fiction that, like its companion novel, Perdido Street Station, refuses to be pigeon-holed into a specific category. With Perdido, I felt like the novel got under my skin with a greater use of horror than anything else, but The Scar is a more balanced piece. Continue reading

Earthsea: An Overview

earthseaHaving finished the third installment and halfway point of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series, I feel I should look back through the books and record my thoughts. There are few fantasy books that have the same moral and philosophical horsepower, so the temptation to reflect is just too great.

The Farthest Shore (#3) is not as atmospheric and charming as A Wizard Of Earthsea, but neither is it as dark as the second book, The Tombs of Atuan. It lies somewhere in the middle. More adventurous, perhaps, than its successors, but the adventure is not the purpose of the book. Le Guin is often vague on details, and there’s hardly the suspense you’d normally associate with a fantasy like this. Rather, the focus is on the discussions of the characters and the sum total of their experiences that lead to a feeling more of spiritual/mental journeying than of physical, though I don’t think an allegorical hypothesis of the book would hold water. Continue reading