I grew up on Fantasy novels. When I was in the third grade, my Dad gave my a hardback, illustrated version of The Hobbit, without much preamble. I read it and liked it, but felt I didn’t really understand it. I read it again the next year and fell in love. The following year, the 5th grade, he gave me his hardback Lord of the Rings and asked simply if I wanted to know the rest of the story. I replied increduously, “There’s more?!” And I ate it up, even setting my alarm clock to an hour earlier than normal in order to get more reading time. For a while there, I read it every year.
Then I turned to the DragonLance novels and enjoyed most of those, but there was no denying the qualitative difference. Over the years I’ve read a lot of the big names in fantasy – Jordan, Goodkind, Martin, etc. – and a few of the smaller ones, too. But I’d say most of the fantasy books I’ve read in the past decade have been piss poor. I pretty much gave up. I never finished the Wheel of Time. I agonized over the fact that Martin’s books weren’t finished yet. I devoured Harry Potter just because it was well written sorcery, but I wanted, I don’t know, more adult depth of character. I wanted shit to go wrong, because it does. I wanted to see a character make a poor choice and then have to live with the consequences not get out of it with a deus ex machina. I wanted…more. And no one was giving it to me.
Then I picked up The Blade Itself on a total whim, because I liked the cover and I’d never heard of Abercrombie or his publisher, Pyr. Abercrombie, in a word, delivered. Delivered everything I’d wanted out of my fantasy. He reinstated my love of the genre and my belief that great fantasy could still be written. I think people had to throw off Tolkien, I don’t know. People, for ever in a day, couldn’t write fantasy without thinking of or being compared to Tolkien and I honestly think (as much as I love Tolkien) that kinda killed the genre for a while. No matter what press praised a book on the cover as being “as good as Tolkien,” or, “the next J.R.R.!” the fact of the matter was that it simply wasn’t. Couldn’t be. And didn’t need to be. Thank you Joe Abercrombie!
I’ve read all four of his published novels now and loved them. The First Law trilogy better than Best Served Cold but we’re talking matters of degrees of greatness here, not leaps and bounds. I’ve visited his website and gotten his list of recommendeds. I bought a few this weekend. I stopped reading a piece of shit Eberron novel because I got to the middle of the trilogy and realized I didn’t care. And now, I’m excited and am not looking back. Goodbye, shit fantasy.
Scott Lynch, James Barclay, Patrick Rothfuss, Steve Erickson, Richard Morgan, Alex Bell, R. Scott Bakker, Tom Lloyd and whoever else is putting out great stuff. Basically, if Joe Abercrombie has said on his blog it’s good, I’m going with that. Because right now, he’s the platinum standard.
I’ve started with
and so far, I can’t wait to read more. There’s so much awesome fantasy out there right now. Put down the shit you’re reading and go get some.