I’m reading Glen Cook’s Darkwar trilogy at the moment. It’s kind of enjoyable so far and I’m willing to see where it’s going.
However, it’s also reminded me of the reasons why I don’t read fantasy more often. I shall now put them in a list.
Now, I know Lord of the Rings was a story spread over three books. I’m going to let it get away with it because a) Tolkien was long dead by the time I read it, so I knew Return of the King was going to be the end of the story; and b) it’s Lord of the fucking Rings.
I would like to draw particular attention to b). I’ll be coming back to it.
Now, when I reach the end of the book, I like to reach the end of the story. By the last page, all major plot elements should be resolved. Quests should be completed, special skills learnt, evil lords defeated, relationships sorted. This is a novel, not a serialised TV drama. I don’t want to get to the end and find out that the demon has been defeated but Glory is still hunting Buffy down.
2) Magical technology
What is this strange ‘talking box’, this device of evil witchcraft?
It’s a TV. You know it’s a TV, I know it’s a TV. If you’re going to take modern technology and replace science with magic, at least be honest about it. Sure, your characters don’t know it’s a TV and may think it’s witchcraft, but don’t describe it in great detail, twisting like a Russian contortionist to avoid the word ‘television’.
3) European Medieval Settings
a) it’s been done; b) our conceptions of medieval Europe–and so most likely your reconstruction of it–are entirely inaccurate; c) I want female characters, not child/mother/whore/ringer.
4) Fantasy Races
Evil, ugly orcs. Pretty, magical elves. Bearded, subterrain dwarfs.
Bored now. Very, very bored now.
There’s millions of species on the planet Earth. Millions of species, each with their own unique characters and qualities. Give me something more than ugly humans, pretty humans and short humans.
(For those of you expecting a discussion of Superman verses The Flash, my apologies. Another time, perhaps. I mean, I know it’s been covered in the comics, but we’ve all got our opinions, right?)
5) Olde Worlde Englishe
Oftimes. Mayhaps. Is it not for this. Whence.
I understand trying to set the scene. But we’re in the twenty-first century. Don’t pretend that we’re not. Don’t pretend we’re in some never-existed deep England where everyone used the most convoluted sentence structure possible and no one swore.
6) It’s a book, not a doorstop
I’m not saying long books can’t be good, or good books can’t be long. I’m saying when each entry in your saga could be used to beat a walrus to death, you’ve got fifty pages to convince me it’s worth investing the significant amount of time you’re asking for.
7) I’ve read Lord of the Rings
In fact, pretty much all of the above can be summed up with that one. The story, the setting, the quest, the characters… it’s all been mined, mined and mined until there’s no creativity left. Give me something new.
Darkwar has been guilty of some minor infractions so far. The language is the one that’s starting to grate on me. However, it wins significant points for having its (so far) only sentient species not humans (either normal, ugly, pretty or short) and having a setting that’s… I don’t even know. I thought it was boarder line iron age, but it turns out I was wrong. Way wrong.
I’m enjoying it and want to get back to it. (Curse this ‘real life’ that intrudes upon my reading!) I just wanted to pause to get all that off my chest.