Friday, March 21, 2008

Fantasy Series

As a small preamble, el Cliff posted in the comments of my last post something to the effect that fantasy authors never finish their series. I realize there is a lot of rambly fantasy that seems like it never gets finished but I felt the need to defend my chosen genre and come up with a list of completed fantasy series that I have really enjoyed. I was going to leave this as a comment but it makes more sense here. Also, the best fantasy ever written, The Wheel of Time, will be complete by Christmas 2009.

Robin Hobb has a fantastic character-driven fantasy. It's actually split into three trilogies. The first trilogy is the Farseer Trilogy which comprises Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin and Assassin's Quest.
The second (and far less necessary - since it doesn't deal with the main characters from the first one) is the Liveship Traders. I call it less necessary since I haven't read them yet. Those ones are Ship of Magic, Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny.
The final (and maybe best) trilogy is the Tawny Man trilogy. It's got Fool's Errand, Golden Fool and Fool's Fate.

The Deathgate Cycle is a really well-done fantasy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. There's seven or nine books in that one.

Terry Goodkind finally finished off his Sword of Truth series, though that's not a very notable accomplishment considering the last four weren't very good.

Stephen King's Dark Tower series is amazing and complete.

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is amazing and complete.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling is finished.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis are very good.

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander have been around forever. That doesn't necessarily recommend them but they're finished. And I like them a lot (despite the fact [or maybe because of the fact] that they're aimed at a younger audience).

There are at least two complete Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson.

There are a couple of series by David Eddings: The Belgariad, the Mallorean, the Elenium and the Tamuli. Probably it would be best to read them in that order (definitely Belgariad before Mallorean and Elenium before Tamuli). Raymond Feist has written a few dozen books as well and while he's still putting words to paper in the same world as always, they're generally closed series so you can read one and get closure.

L. E. Modesitt Jr. has a series that he's been working on forever, the Recluce saga. It sounds like an interminable series that will never end but the first five (is it five?) are their own contained series. Let's see: The Magic of Recluce, The Towers of Sunset, The Magic Engineer, The Order War, The Death of Chaos. I think that's all of 'em.

John Marco wrote a series called something like Tyrants and Kings. It's a little simplistic but reading his battles was fun. It's pretty good and complete.

So, yeah. There are a lot of series in fantasy that don't seem to be going anywhere. But there is a lot of good, some great, and some that has changed the way I looked at the world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Sometime in December, I heard about a newsletter that Tor was going to publish which featured free e-book downloads. As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows (are there even any of you who regularly read this blog?), cheap books drive me, probably more than anything other than free food. And free books are just that much better.

The first book I received, and the book that I have been looking forward to and dreading all at once was Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Both of these feelings are inspired by the fact that Brandon Sanderson is going to be writing the final installment of the Wheel of Time series: A Memory of Light. I was looking forward to Mistborn because Harriet Rigney (Robert Jordan's wife) obviously liked what she read by Brandon enough to sign him to the job. I dreaded reading it because, hey, what if it sucked? Then, not only was I on the hook for a crappy original book, I was going to have to deny the existence of the final WoT book. Not a promising prospect.

Consider my fears allayed.

Mistborn has all the elements of a great epic fantasy book. It has good fast-paced action, an enemy that seems invincible, a cast of heroes who are noble (if flawed), powerful and diverse, both in history and function within the team. The end also hinted at a greater danger to come, and what epic fantasy first novel has ever ended without hinting at something like that?

It also featured one of the most unique magic systems I've ever read. I like reading explanations of magic systems, especially when the explanations don't take away from the story and Sanderson wove the ideas into (unsurprisingly) training sessions between the main character and her various mentors.

My major gripe with the book isn't much of a gripe at all. Things seemed to come too easily to the main character as she developed. Both with her power and socially, as she is pulled from the streets and put into gowns to emulate nobility. As I said, this isn't even a real gripe since she is the main character in a fantasy novel and if I can suspend disbelief enough for Talon of the Silver Hawk then this isn't even a stretch.

I'm looking forward to the second installment of the Mistborn series, but more importantly, I'm still looking really forward to reading the end of the Wheel of Time series. Good luck, Brandon Sanderson.

Monday, March 03, 2008

On Writing by Stephen King

Okay. I am so far behind on the books that I’ve read over the last three years that I’m just going to try to finish the ones that I’ve read this year.

The first book I finished this year, surprise, surprise, is On Writing, by Stephen King. In it, he switches back and forth between a biography and his writing process. It’s pretty interesting for both parts. I like to think that someday I will be a wildly productive (if not commercially successful) writer and it’s nice to see that humble beginnings like King’s are not the death of creativity.

Throughout the book he stresses that in order to write, you have to actually, well, write. His style is a little fast and loose for me. I like a good plan in place before I dive head-first but who can argue with the success that King has had, following his own way?

One thing that surprised me was that there was no mention of the Dark Tower anywhere in this book. For something that has shaped King as a writer, that has been the biggest struggle of his professional career, you would think that there would be at least a footnote in this one about it.