What are our expectations of the fantasy genre? Of course, Tolkien set the benchmark for a lot of what we saw in the 80s and 90s, but more recent fantasy has taken a turn toward normality. Is that what we really want? I’ve picked up numerous books by different fantasy authors over the last few years, and while I’ve managed to appreciate some of them, I’ve found the majority to be lacklustre in comparison to earlier works, particularly by means of adventure.
I’ve browsed the shelves of Waterstones in recent times and found so many thief-related or magician books (some of which I have enjoyed, don’t get me wrong), which have held little in the way of true adventure. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong authors, I don’t know, but what I do know is that I’m now starting to set most of my sights on books written before the 2000s or by authors who were established pre millennium for this reason.
Way back when I read a bit of Dragonlance, and a bit of Forgotten Realms, and other authors like Maggie Furey. I’ve found myself re-reading her Shadowleague trilogy after having read her more recent books, the Chronicles of the Xandim, because they have the adventure I need, along with fantastical races and creatures. Some species I’m not a fan of, admittedly, but I’m very much about what they represent. Furey has, at least, remained true to her designs.
I enjoy vast worlds, dragons, elves, ancient civilisations and deities, swords and sorcery, and above all, adventure. It grates ob me when a fantasy book doesn’t have at least one map inside the cover before the story begins. I often look back at maps during the course of a book I am reading to figure out exactly where each group of characters are in the world. Very few books I have read recently have come remotely close to achieving the sense of adventure the genre is so well known for.
I freely admit that I often have a few qualms with books, and that does include authors whose books I enjoy, but we can’t expect perfection across the board. Some of my issues might be down to style, or the fact characters aren’t adequately introduced or described, perhaps there’s little to no description of what the world looks like, or it’s too slow, but if the story and characters are compelling enough, I can usually forgive some of those things.
My own world, Aeldynn, is a big world and after all the years I have spent developing it, I still have a lot of work to do. Like John Gwynne, Maggie Furey and the worlds of older fantasies like Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms, I write the kind of fantasy I crave. I’m all for localised stories, but there just isn’t enough adventure out there these days, or at least, from what I’ve experienced. Correct me if I’m wrong, and feel free to throw as many titles as you can in my direction from at least the last five years that fit my reading desires, and if I’ve read any of them already, I’ll write another post detailing my thoughts.