Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Epic Fantasy

Stardate 06-24-2008

Even for a nerd, I have hit rock bottom. I am currently reading or listening to 3 different epic fantasy series. For those who don't know, epic fantasy is a genre of fantasy where the stories are epic in scope and deal with themes of grand struggles against supernatural, evil forces. Typically, these stories are full of fantastical elements such as elves, dwarfs, magic, wizards, invented languages and are usually multi-volume stories. The best example and the one that just about every fantasy author lists as being a major influence on their work would be The Lord of the Rings. I've done some research and there currently about 4 very popular epic fantasy series that were either finished recently or are currently being written. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.

In all honesty, I've turned to epic fantasy to fill the void in my life that came as a result of finishing all the Harry Potter books. I'm sure that many fans of epic fantasy would turn their noses up at me for saying that. In fact, my good buddy who was the first to tell me about The Wheel of Time series told me that he refused to read Harry Potter and that he doesn't consider a book to be true fantasy unless its full of chics in iron clad bikinis. With that in mind, here is a little bit about each of these epic fantasy series in case you would like to start reading one. At the end of each brief review, I will give a ranking of Wizard's Wands on a scale from 1-10, one being the least and ten being the greatest for numerous categories which could help you decide which you would or wouldn't like to read.

The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. I just finished listening to the first book, Wizards First Rule. It is the only book that I have read or listened to in this series. I really enjoyed it. The narrator wasn't the best, but it was a good listen. This book examines themes such as truth and the powers of love and hate and how they can be used by both good and evil people. Though a bit cheesy at times, the violence and creative wizard magic made up for it. I am excited to read the next book in this series. There are 11 books in this series and it has been completed. The first book is currently being made into a TV series for ABC. Sam Raimi the director of the Evil Dead series and Spiderman 1, 2, & 3 will produce and oversee the show.
Wizard's Wands:
Use of Magic: 8
Was it written well?: 5
Violence: 6- My favorite violent act was when one of the characters uses magic to force a pedophile to cut off his own testicles and eat each them before she kills him.
Sex: 1- This book is very clean and has no sex.
Language: 1- There are only a couple of swear words

A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. I've read the first book and I'm about a 1/4 of the way through the second. So far, this is my favorite series. I really enjoy it because it tells the story from the good guys and the bad guys perspectives and gives almost equal time to both. Also, you never know who is safe and who is going to die because the author does not shy away from killing main characters off. So far, the use of magic in this series has been very limited but I can see that it is being set up future books. The characters in this are excellent. Its full of both very likable and hateable characters. My favorite character is a midget who has a sharp tongue and who adds great intelligence and humor to the books. So far, there are only 4 books in the series. The fifth comes out in a couple of months and then the author has plans for 2 more. HBO is currently working on turning the books into one of its TV series.
Wizard's Wands:
Use of Magic: 3
Was it well written?: 8
Violence: 9- Lots of Braveheart type violence. The description of the overall battle strategies and individual violent acts are incredibly detailed and very bloody.
Sex: 6- Unfortunately there is a lot of sex and even some incest in this book.
Language: 8- Lots of swear words. Even the really bad ones.

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I've read the first two books and really enjoyed both of them. The twist or the difference between this and the others is that The Dark Tower series takes place in a time that is similar or the same as ours. So far, it ranges from what feels like the old west to modern day 1980s. Its interesting how King blends fantasy and magic in a modern day setting. It took King over 30 years to create this story and put it to paper. He considers it his greatest work.
Wizard's Wands:
Use of Magic: 4
Was it well written: 7
Violence: 6- Lots of shoot 'em up old west type violence
Sex: 3- Some sex. Not too bad.
Language: 10- Lots and lots of swear words. Even the really really bad ones.

The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Perhaps the most popular epic fantasy series out there right now. I've heard so many people tell me how much they love this series, but I am hesitant to read it. I've also heard that the author died before he finished the last couple of books. His son took up the task of finishing the story based off of his father's notes and journals. I've heard that the last couple of books fall way short of the others and it leads to a disappointing end. I will probably read them but its quite a commitment to read a 10,000+ page series all for a measly end.