I never check my Goodreads Inbox* because I honestly forget it’s there. So for two months I missed the very well-written and thoughtful message from a woman in Pennsylvania who wants to know if she should start reading Fantasy and if so, why. I still haven’t heard back from her after my apology for dunderheadedness so I don’t know if she got an answer. Still, though, it’s a good question and I think I ought to answer it for myself.
So, why should a person read fantasy–or, better, why might a person be interested in starting to read fantasy? I’m not big on telling non-writer people what they “should” read once they’ve made it through High School because reading for pleasure is a highly subjective exercise. For decades my pleasure reading stayed far away from anything fantastic. The very mention of princessess, elves and spectacular jewelry sent me into fits of eye-rolling and lather. It’s only been in the last five years that I’ve revisited the Fantasy section of the bookstore.What sent me away from Fantasy? I suppose the easiest way to describe it is that so much of what Fantasy was for so long just felt like it was written by people who were so out of touch with this world that they buried themselves in writing up Tolkien-inspired doorstops full of stilted dialogue and ridiculous names. It all vaguely sounded like Lisa Frank’s teenage diary and felt to me like a chore.
Ultimately, though, Fantasy and I both changed a bit and met one another halfway. Epic Fantasy–which I prefer**–deals with alternate worlds.
You know all those movies where teachers try to reach a room of disinterested kids that are supposedly unteachable? There are a few scenes where you see what human flotsam the kids are and then the teacher decides to rap Shakespeare or talk about how Mayans invented the zero and all of a sudden the kids are “Liek Whoa!” and turn into people who can pass standardized tests.
Fantasy is how storytellers rap the Shakespeare. It’s a way to look at history, metaphysics, and philosophy while being engaged in a narrative that compels you far beyond anything else. The true storytellers, the descendents of Homer and Shakespeare and seanachies are writing epic fantasy now.
Before I came back to this genre I was reading mysteries, thrillers, horror, family sagas and romances. Everything I got from those books is found in the stories these new bards tell. While Kellerman, King and Cruisie are all very good at what they do, Epic Fantasy is a genre where you can find everything packaged the way stories have been packaged for centuries.
Read fantasy because it’s the way we have of sitting around the village fire and listening to the griot.
What Fantasy novels and series do I like to read? I’d recommend:
A Song of Ice And Fire (Series) George R.R. Martin
-Game of Thrones
-Clash of Kings
-Storm of Swords
-Feast For Crows
-A Dance with Dragons
The Kingkiller Chronicles (Series) Patrick Rothfuss
-Name Of The Wind
-The Wise Man’s Fear
The Demon Cycle (Series) Peter V. Brett
-The Warded Man
-The Desert Spear
The Acacia Trilogy David Anthony Durham
-Acacia: The War with the Mein
-The Other Lands
-The Sacred Band
The following books are parts of series where I have only read one of the series books so far.
*I honestly am kind of ticked off, because Goodreads emails me whenever someone likes a review, comments on a thread, sneezes. They don’t email me when I have, you know, email.