1. I’m tired of some of the most common fantasy tropes, such as the outcast thief/orphan child who is discovered to be the most powerful somethingrather ever, or the group of three guys—one roguish, one tough, and one magical—who set out from home to rule the world.
2. I don’t think females have to be kept to the roles of dead mother/spunky tomboy/The Girl.
3. I’m not much interested in war and politics. If two kingdoms have been at war for so many thousands of years and only deft political manoeuvring will resolve the issues, I get a little sleepy.
4. I’d rather read a great 300 page book than a so-so 1000 page book. Imagine.
The person shopping with me asked, “Are you sure you like fantasy?”
I do! And these inconvenient truths don't rule all. For example, I’m currently reading The Name of the Wind and enjoying it immensely despite that it's very long, it has the most useless Prologue ever, it includes an orphaned child who grows up to be the most powerful somethingrather, and as of page 180 the only female character is a dead mother. Still, it’s a great book. You can get away with a lot if the story, characters, and writing are good enough. And as we've learend, a well-written synopsis will demonstrate what makes the book unique, not what makes it into a stereotype.
On the other hand, sitting on my coffee table is The High Lord, book three in The Black Magician trilogy. The book has female characters (well, one) who aren’t dead or plot props, it’s the right length, and it’s more about the characters than the war and politics. That’s all good. I’ve read books one and two, and actually read 300 out of 440 pages in book three. And yet I’m not sure I’ll finish it. It has a slow-zombie pace, the plot is predictable, and the characters have a good long think about everything they do, then do it for half a page, then have a good long think about what they’ve done. The best reaction I can have to the most exciting event in the books so far is to shake my head, punch a shoulder and say, “Oh, you.”
There were some synopses that interested me at Foyle's. For example, Blake Charlton’s Spellwright.
Imagine a world in which you could peel written words off a page and make them physically real. You might pick your teeth with a sentence fragment, protect yourself with defensive paragraphs, or thrust a sharply-worded sentence at an enemy’s throat. Such a world is home to Nicodemus Weal, an apprentice at the wizardly academy of Starhaven. Because of how fast he can forge the magical runes that create spells, Nicodemus was thought to be the Halcyon, a powerful spellwright prophesied to prevent an event called the War of Disjunction, which would destroy all human language. There was only one problem: Nicodemus couldn’t spell.I’m hooked. There's someone meant to be the most powerful somethingrather, but it has its own twist, a unique kind of magic. And there's a wizard academy, blah… but he can’t spell, and spelling is integral to the magic. Very interesting.
I was also caught by C.S. Friedman’s Black Sun Rising.
The Coldfire trilogy tells a story of discovery and battle against evil on a planet where a force of nature exists that is capable of reshaping the world in response to psychic stimulus. This terrifying force, much like magic, has the power to prey upon the human mind, drawing forth a person's worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.Here there are battles, but the landscape itself is unique. It's magic, but again with its own slant. Fascinating.
For contrast, here are some synopses that alienated me immediately.
The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen's rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.Bleh.
Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father's gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz's blood runs the magic Skill--and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family.Blehhh.
Thanks to Paks’s courage, the long-vanished heir to the half-elven kingdom of Lyonya has been revealed as Kieri Phelan, a formidable mercenary who earned a title—and enemies—in the neighboring kingdom of Tsaia, where Prince Mikeli suddenly faces the threat of a coup…Blehhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Photo: llibreria by MorBCN on flickr