The Wise Man's Fantasy

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Good morrow, gentle readers. As some of you know, I have eclectic tastes in fiction, but one rule remains clear: it must be well-written to make my recommended list. I have a particular love for historical fiction, and fantasy (although that word hardly does justice to these authors, as it has such pulp connotations) historical fiction is my favorite. Bookstores, e and otherwise, are clogged with horrid junk when you get to the Sci-fi/fantasy section and sorting through can be a nightmare of wasted time and money, so here's the top of the heap, inspired by

  • G.R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire[/amazon_link] - Game of Thrones and all the rest. GOT was first published back in the late 1990's and the the other three sporadically since, and the first time I sat down and read it, I was hooked, like no fantasy has hooked me since Lord of the Rings. I'd about given up on the genre, it was completely formulaic, uncreative, central casting characters and plots, churned up into a stew of bad writing. GRRM was a revelation. This is imagined historical fiction at its finest, unique characters who mix medieval/modern language, layers of subplots, action, intrigue all served up on a golden platter of imagination and sauced with passion, sex, blood and powertrips. The long-awaited HBO series has done justice to the books, and gotten it nearly 100% right as well.  The only sour note is GRRM's notoriously slow writing, and we've been waiting for Book 5 for years now. Assassins have been dispatched, but cooler heads prevailed, and we have a publication date in July. This has happened before, however. GRRM is a tricky fellow.
  • While waiting, the field was rife with imitators, but none came close. So many writers make the mistake of trying to emulate a winner with little imagination and less talent, I won't even bother to name the worst because they don't deserve mention, simply view the titles at the bookstore (if you can find one) and there they are.  Then, one day, I took a chance after reading the first two pages, on a book titled "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss.  Wow. Not only is he as good a writer, possibly better, than GRRM, he writes faster. Kvothe is a character unique in fiction, and the story of his adventures are just downright wonderful. Followed by "The Wise Man's Fear", this saga will be a trilogy, and I can't say enough about Rothfuss's lyrical writing.
  • Lastly, there's the wild card. "Kushiel's Dart" and the sequels from this book as well as two other series placed in the medieval alternative world of Terre d'Ange (think France) are the work of Jacqueline Carey's fevered imagination and she is a truly unique, talented writer as well.  Phaedre no Delaney's adventures are those of a courtesan/spy, and these books are filled with action, intrigue, beauty and, a healthy dollop of BDSM, so beware, these are not for the faint-hearted or squeamish. That said, most of the stuff that will make readers squirm is in the first series, and not so much in the latter two. Richly imagined world with fascinating characters and plots, truly original. Well worth every minute. Keep in mind, as Stephen King once said, you don't have to be a serial killer to write about one, and reading about more esoteric sex won't necessarily have you jumping off the couch to the nearest dungeon, n'est pas?

So there you have it. I'm fairly sure (maybe) there are other good writers trying their hands at fantasy, but frankly I've not seen any. Most are rife with too much action, not enough character development, trite plots, copied (usually with maps of great detail) settings, and oh please, spare me - quests, or "she was the only one who could save the kingdoms, the bastard daughter of the king with an uncanny ability given to her by the fairies" hero/heroine.

Rule of thumb, if the cover/inside cover or blurbs have anything similar to the above, or a knight on a wild-eyed horse with a claymore, dragons, fire, sorcerers or elves, do yourself a favor and pass on by.

As for the writers on this page, if this is your cup of tea and you haven't read these, grab them, you'll be a happy reader for the rest of the year and then some. Also, you will be eligible for the GRRM I hate procrastinating writers club, populated by thousands, who lurk around his website and sigh a lot, vowing to never read him again, but knowing in their hearts they'll cave.

Winter is coming, Raven

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