Sunday, July 10, 2011

In Anticipation of Dragons

I'm  excited about A Dance with Dragons. Like, really excited. Like, I made a completely shallow and empty post just because I'd first heard the release date. Like, I've been thinking of dates for weeks in terms of close to A Dance with Dragons and closer to A Dance with Dragons. Now we've hit closest to A Dance with Dragons, and I won't lie – I'm more than a bit nervous.

I got into Epic Fantasy, as no doubt many people did, with the Wheel of Time, and I read the series back to back up to Knife of Dreams (yes, it was that recent). The very next book I read was A Game of Thrones, and from there I read hundreds of speculative fiction books and eventually started this very blog. In the time since The Wheel of Time, and in the time since I began seriously reviewing, my tastes have changed. A lot. The doorstoppers that were once my meat and potatoes are still present, but in far less concentrated form. I read thin novels, standalones, and short stories, and I read science fiction, and horror, and crime. I did none of these things when I first got into fantasy, when I read Jordan and Martin and Abercrombie and Abraham and Sanderson and Erikson and Bakker and Hobb and Rothfuss (and even a bit of Goodkind) back to back. 

What Epic Fantasy have I read since? Well, in large part due to the length and my relative exhaustion with the genre, it's probably been the least read and least reviewed of the "major" genres I focus on. Most of the books I've read and liked, too, I enjoyed in spite – not because of – the arguably core aspects of the genre, the sprawl and the bloat (or, to put it in less pejorative terms, the epic-ness and the length). Even Wheel of Time, my original favorite from that era, failed miserably to live up to my memories and expectations with Towers of Midnight. That could be in part Brandon Sanderson's fault, but I doubt it's really anything more than a change of taste. The two main Epic Fantasy authors I can think of that I enjoyed in recent years – Parker and Erikson – seem to support this. Parker's books are leaner, while Erikson's, while thick, are certainly not standard fantasy fair. Martin, on the other hand, is an author beyond excellence, but one solidly in the center of the modern Epic Fantasy tradition.

Of course, this is a four hundred plus indulgence in overly personal whining. I'm well aware of that. The whole thing's a tad silly, especially seeing as I just loved Sandkings and Fevre Dream. Still, I can't help but worry: What if Dance doesn't live up?


  1. I'm only now delving into the genre (after generally avoiding fantasy for years, based on a few bad finds), but I'm finding that it's mostly the same names that pop up again and again - Martin, Sanderson, Erikson, Rothfuss and the others. There's obviously a lot more to epic fantasy than these few chunkster men, but I don't think it's gained quite the same reputation yet. Maybe it's the closed-ness, the limited aspect of the genre that's troubling?

    As for length being a prerequisite for epic-ness... I heartily disagree. I think a really tightly written 300-paged book can be as epic as a sprawling, bloated 1000 pager. Not as likely to be epic, maybe, but definitely possible. Even preferable at times.

  2. I worry about that with Dance with Dragons, as well. Personally, I think A Feast for Crows was the weakest in the series. I REALLY hope aDwD gets back to the quality of the first three books. It should, because all the characters I love are in it.

  3. Well, Jaime's my favorite character (in anything), so Feast had that going for it. Generally, actually, I'd say I'm more of a king's landing kind of guy as far as Martin goes, though that's all relative - the other stories are still incredibly fantastic and some of the best I've read. New Tyrion is probably the thing I'm most looking forward to, though - besides what happens to Cersei - I think my biggest question is Davos.