One of the core elements of fantasy is that it contains the fantastical. What could be more fantastical than the inhuman powers of magic wielded by the denizens of the universe? Magic is often found in fantasy books, although its provenance varies widely. In some universes, magic is an innate ability of certain people; in others it is merely the ability to bend wild forces of the universe to one’s will. What cannot be disputed is that magic has a significant effect on the worlds in which it exists.
When authors write magic into their books, they have to make a choice about how much of a factor it will be. Whether this choice is made consciously or not, it must be made, and it can make a big difference in how well the universe holds together. Magic, poorly incorporated, can result in instances of the Superman Problem, and, in doing so, cheapen the quality of an otherwise good book. I’m not bashing magic here. I’m saying that the way an author treats magic makes a huge difference in how well the constructed world holds up.
I have often been criticized for my near exclusive preference towards the literary genre of fantasy. The most criticism occurred during my recent 13 month stint reading through all 13 Wheel of Time books. I’ve been accused of being obsessed with dragons (guilty), escaping reality through fiction (semi-guilty), and reading crappy literature (not guilty). So I have taken it upon myself to back up my favorite book genre, and delve into why we (the royal we) read fantasy – what we like, what we look for, and why there is so much value / potential for value within Fantasy as a genre. While I’d like to sum it up with one word – Dragons – I will refrain and attempt a legitimate analysis.
How do you write a review about the 13th book in the largest fantasy epic of all time without giving away spoilers? I think it’s legitimate to ask when a story in any line of media becomes too unwieldy for the average person to engage with. Think starting Lost now, or picking up the Wheel of Time – you can do it, but it does require significant dedication to the cause.
Luckily, I don’t have that problem, so after the break I’m going to talk about why I liked this latest installment, and I’m not even going to give anything away (as long as you don’t mind reading some ridiculously nerdy fantasy names).