So You Want to Have a War?
Starting with Tolkien, it’s become practically obligatory that the epic fantasy saga, somewhere around the middle of book three, feature an Epic Confrontation Between Good and Evil with a Cast of Thousands.
I am, I have to admit, a war buff. I read military histories for fun, the kind with fold-out maps covered in little colored arrows and notations like “Kollowrath (40,000)”. As I am also a fantasy novelist, the nature of war in fantasy fiction has always been fascinating to me.
And there is a lot of war in fantasy. Starting with Tolkien, it’s become practically obligatory that the epic fantasy saga, somewhere around the middle of book three, feature an Epic Confrontation Between Good and Evil with a Cast of Thousands. Various allies, painfully recruited over the course of the hero’s journey, turn up to lend a hand at the Final Battle. Various villains are dispatched, hapless orcs or equivalent humanoids are mowed down by the score, and just when things seem bleakest Evil is defeated forever. A beloved secondary character or two bites the dust, and someone gets to make a Heroic Sacrifice. Afterward, we may be treated to a scene where the hero roams a battlefield strewn with corpses, or visits the injured to bring home the horrors of combat. You know, war, right?
Back before I wrote fantasy myself, my wargamer friends and I used to snicker a bit at this. Most of the fantasy authors wouldn’t know a halberd from a half-pike, and their descriptions of battles were usually heavy on bold strokes and dramatic confrontations and light on tactics and the important of proper reconnaissance. I wouldn’t want to be a poor foot-slogger in either army, given the rate at which they tend to be chewed up by either the hero and his friends or some villain demonstrating the full extent of his power. Continue reading
“Urban Fantasy” is a hot term these days. You hear it used to describe everything from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. It encompasses the work of authors from Patricia Briggs to Kim Harrison, from Ilona Andrews to Kevin Hearne. With such a diverse range of talent, the definition quickly loses meaning. There isn’t a whole lot that’s urban about the sleepy, small town of Bon Temps.
But that’s okay. Because urban fantasy has never been about urban settings. It’s about *contemporary* settings. It does a very simple thing: it takes the modern world, the one we live in every day, and ask the question, “What would this be like if magic were real?”
If the genre’s popularity is any indicator, that question has traction. Fantasy has, for much of its lifespan, been dominated by ancient and medieval settings. Many of the most enduring works in the genre, from Tolkien to Brooks to Feist, are set in pre-gunpowder, pre-industrial revolution worlds. But readers don’t ride to work on horses, hunt deer for dinner, or carry a sword to fend off the occasional Orc raid. Contemporary fantasy’s popularity suggests that many readers like to dream about the impossible right in their own backyard.
And here’s where you can run into trouble writing contemporary stories. The same thing that makes a contemporary setting resonate so strongly with the reader may also piss them off: Ownership. Continue reading
Yay for consistency and impact. I love the progression over the course of the trilogy from the tired-and-overdone hooded figure to this figure, cockiness replaced by ambition and power. Great stuff, and perfect for Lawrence’s trilogy. I still don’t like the title font, but, hey, you can’t win ‘em all, can you?
King of Thorns
By Mark Lawrence
Pages: 464 pages
Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Release Date: 08/02/12
Prince of Thorns, Mark Lawrence’s 2011 debut novel, was not well received in all corners, occasionally offending reader sensibilities. Jorg, the protagonist and narrator throughout the series, is a self interested often bloodthirsty teenager who’s ruled equally by his emotions and lack thereof. Those hoping for a redemptive tale, or an ultimately apologetic tone from the author, found themselves woefully bereft. Deeply disturbing, and written with a haunting elegance, I called it the best fantasy debut of 2011.
Jorg, no longer a wandering prince in search of revenge, has taken a throne. Not his father’s or the Empire’s, but it’s a start. The path he carved has made him visible to those who share his lust for power, and now a six nation army marches toward his gates, led by a man far more suited to rule than he. An honorable man would lay down his sword and join the fledgling Empire in peace, leaving his kingdom whole and his people alive. That doesn’t sound like Jorg, does it?
The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed… but not for everyone.
Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines.
Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier—cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.
Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place—Oscar Britton, public enemy number one…
I still haven’t read Cole’s work, despite hearing great things about it from many readers, but I like this cover, so I wanted to post it anyway. Sure, it’s cheezy and overloaded with testosterone, but it’s great to see Ace Books not shy away from the ethnic diversity in Cole’s novels. Are genre marketing departments finally starting to wake up? Let’s hope so.