I often find myself to be one of the few females who walks into a bookstore and haunts the shelves labelled 'Fantasy'. Most females flock to the romance, chic lit and historical fiction sections (my second favourite genre).
I am not a tomboy, but I am drawn to the whole 'let's-go-on-a-quest' thing. Anything featuring elves, swords, magic, count me in. But I have standards (for example, when it comes to vampire novels, I read Anne Rice's vampire novels, not the Twilight saga). In tribute to my favourite genre, here are three fine fantasy series for Melburnians to read.
Orcs by Stan Nicholls
The cover of the first book, a close-up illustration of an orc skull, leapt out at me. Watching the Lord of the Rings, you may think that you could never sympathise with an orc warband as protagonists. But Stan Nicholls will make you go over to their corner and stay there as the Wolverines pursue a set of instrumentalities ('stars' that have the power to transport one between worlds) and fight evil witch, half-nyadd, half-human Queen Jennesta.
The antagonist, Queen Jennesta, is one of the cruelest female antagonists I have ever read about or seen. There is one scene early on in First Blood: Bodyguard of Lightning which absolutely shocked me the queen sexually assaults her prisoner before stabbing him ('Orgasm and terror came simultaneously' you can imagine the scene). She often gets minions and zombies to do her dirty work, but when she does it herself, she's pretty hands-on.
What's different about the Orcs? Nicholls seems to relish describing battle scenes. Every detail of every duel is given, perhaps to emphasise just how bloodthirsty orcs really are. If you like full-on action, then Orcs is for you. The plot goes hard and fast (despite one review saying that it has no plot). Would you rather the action plod along? To each his own. And I love the way the Orcs swear and curse. The dialogue is sharp and witty. I admit, worlds with various species/creatures are common in the fantasy genre, but by making orcs as protagonists, Nicholls has already done something original.
First Blood Series 3 books, 730 pages (Orbit omnibus edition) Bad Blood Series 3 books, 836 pages
The Dark Tower by Stephen King
The man in the Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.
The first line of the first novel created movement, and aroused my curiosity immediately, made me wonder, Who is the man in black? Who is the gunslinger?'
It had a similar effect to the first line of Benazir Bhutto's autobiography, Daughter of the East:
They killed my father at 5.30 am this morning.
But I digress. This eight-book series, written by the man who scared the hell out of me by creating Carrie, describes a gunslinger, a lone ranger-type and his journey to a tower, accompanied by another man, Eddie, a woman, Susannah and a boy, Jake.
It's not exactly a fantasy novel. It's half-fantasy, half-western. What makes it fantasy is its use of location names like Mid-World and the use of a unique language, High Speech (e.g. ka means fate or karma, and is mentioned rather a lot).
At 8 books, or 4250 pages, it is rather long. It requires serious commitment. While the tone of the series is languorous, this is deceptive as it builds suspense. The ending of the story in the last book, The Dark Tower, left me exclaiming, "What???" in frustration.
However, I don't regret reading it. Unlike the Orcs series, the action is not always at full-throttle, like a drill-bit. As each character goes through inner struggles, themes like sacrifice, overcoming temptation and weakness, and love are tackled. I can't say I supported Roland the gunslinger the way I wholeheartedly supported the Wolverines, the orc warband in Orcs. This is because he ultimately sacrifices his friends for the quest. In a way, this is more reflective of real life (pardon my cynicism). Everyone knows that to get what you want, you have to be selfish. But Roland's cold-hearted ways does not mean you will not read on until the end.
Another good fantasy series - The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
David Eddings died in 2007. But God bless him for writing The Elenium, a good, traditional fantasy series (in comparison to the previous two). In The Elenium, a knight returning from exile must find a magical gem which will help melt an ice-block and rescue the Queen, who is frozen within.
Here I must mention that although most fantasy series naturally appeal to blokes due to the amount of fighting and male characters as protagonists, many of the women are strong-willed (so fantasy novels aren't entirely masochistic or chauvinistic). For example, Orcs features Coilla, the second-in-command in the Wolverines, a fierce fighter in her own right. The Elenium features Queen Ehlana, who, while not a warrior, is decisive and always gets her own way. I found her to be annoying, quite the diva. Thank God she is not the protagonist.
Sparhawk is the world-weary Pandion (a special order) knight to the rescue. He's got companions, enemies and a couple of ex-girlfriends. But his loyalties are clear, or should I say, always point in the same direction Ehlana, whose father he served before going into exile.
For some reason, I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what I like about The Elenium. Most of the characters, down to the pious and celibate knight Sir Bevier, are likeable. The quest is relatable. I'm a girl, and I can appreciate the idea of looking for a gem, or for something sparkly and shiny.
Maybe it's just good old-fashioned fantasy.
PS: Other fantasy series I've read: The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, The Belgariad by David Eddings. I'm currently reading (out aloud to my brother and myself) The Dwarves saga by Markus Heitz.
Tin Tin great article im more of a crime novel fan but do like Harry Potter, but havent read past book 4 but have seen all the films. Ive read steven King and
im always open to suggestions of a good book to read so may check out your suggestions
I also like general novels about people that have a bit of humor