Epic fantasy book review

This was my “To Be Read” pile not so long ago. I’d been carelessly piling up holds in the library and then a lot of them came in at once. You’ll notice that at least two of the books you can see are epic fantasy, something I don’t often dip into because…well, you’re not SUPPOSED to dip into it, are you? You’re supposed to dive in, headfirst, bring a sleeping bag and stay for a quest or two.

I picked up “The Sword of Shannara” on the recommendation of a patron, who assured me that it would make me forget all about that Lord of the Rings nonsense. After all, it was wildly different, with the story concerning a wandering wizard who seeks out a quiet young individual in a village to tell him that he must defeat the powerful evil growing once again in a distant but somehow threatening land. This unassuming individual takes his best friend (who happens to be his brother, and they set out, but the wizard is delayed and they are accompanied by a dark and brooding warrior type, who turns out to be destined to be a king, but has been cast out of his kingdom. Soon they gather a company around them that includes a dwarf and at least one elf.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t thought about “Lord of the Rings” for MINUTES now.

My problem is that, yes I did grow up with Lord of the Rings, but I grew FURTHER up with Terry Pratchett. The straight, solemn pomposity of Shannara was just too grating. And I don’t care how much you love the series, when a character says ‘As you know” and then continues to talk for two pages in only four paragraphs, the editor fell down on the job.

Because of this unpleasant experience (I had to finish the book because the patron was going to ask me about it), I rather bounced off the better written but incredibly dense ” The Unbroken”. I could see it was setting up for a great sweeping series of volumes, and I couldn’t clear the mental space to get involved.

And then last week another hold came in. This was the third in a series. Well, the second FULL book, though there was a short story in between. Novella, maybe. Anyway, I’m not going to name it because the author fell out of favour due to reprehensible conduct, and though he has made no reparation or changes, he’s crept back onto social media and his books are out there. I had liked the characters in the first book, so I bashed on.

This book takes the “two streams” approach. The action begins in timeline A, what we could call “The present”, and between chapters it switches back to a point int he past that will lead to the present. The view alternates, moving the moment of The Present forward, even as The Past account catches up to where we came in. Confused? Don’t worry, it’s worse if you read the book. You see, the main character is also wanting revenge for something that happened to her way back beyond the point of The Past that we’re dealing with, so in both timelines you get extreme flashbacks. And it’s an ensemble piece. That refers to the previous books. And switches between first person and third person viewpoints.

Naturally, I was a little burned out on epic fantasy, but the latest hold that arrived (no, I haven’t finished ‘The Constant Rabbit” yet, it gets gloomy, but I did get through all of “Doctor Sleep”, and I put aside “The Burning World” for now.) is a much simpler prospect. Just an alternate history of Britain in the early nineteen hundreds after the French captured a steamship that slipped through a time gate and gave away the tactics of Trafalgar and Waterloo. There are tortoises too, but some of them get shot. It’s called “the Kingdoms” and I’m enjoying it immensely, thank you.

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