I have just started The Missing Prince, book #4 of the Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger series by John Flanagan.
Hall of Fantasy
- The Spirit of Tolkien
- Types of Fantasy
- The Nine Magics
- I am Ian E.S. Adler
- The Bookshelf
- Hidden Gems
- Triad of Songs
- Riddle Mastery
- Heroes of Light
- Females in Fantasy
- The Role and Proper Usage of Magic Thingamajigs
- GRRM the Anti-Tolkien
- Rumors of the Wheel
- The Final Lesson
- Artist vs. the Art
- Fantasy Book Tiers
- The History (and Golden Age) of Fantasy
- How to make your own System of Magic
- Seas Uncharted
Saturday, November 28, 2020
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Monday, November 23, 2020
Friday, November 20, 2020
Exactly one month ago, on October 20, the Fantasy genre was shaken to its core as an age came to an end for, on that date, The Last Druid by Terry Brooks was published – the final volume of his ominously titled Fall of Shannara series and with it the conclusion of Shannara saga. It sounds simple, just another series completed, but to fully appreciate this one has to go back in time to before the Golden Age of Fantasy and ask how the Fantastic went from fringe genre to a keystone of popular culture. The answer, unsurprisingly, begins with J.R.R. Tolkien. No one denies that Fantasy literature owes its bones to The Lord of the Rings; it essentially swamped all previously written works of Fantasy, and it unquestionably created "Fantasy" as a marketing category. Indeed, all the greats site Tolkien as a defining influence, from GRRM to Jones, from Rowling to Paolini, from McKillip to Gaiman. Knowing that Tolkien came first, you cannot read any other books without seeing his hand-print. Indeed, in the immediate years following LOTR, its popularity created an enormous number of Tolkienesque works, but nothing that quite captured it. People wanted, were dying for, another The Lord of the Rings!
Then, in 1977, Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara came out. Some now call the it a LOTR imitation, but I disagree utterly; it is Tolkienesque, for a certainly, yet is its own story and the Four Lands has a history/lore unique to that of Middle-earth and populated by engaging characters; furthermore, to call the two subsequent books in the Original Shannara Trilogy LOTR imitations is nothing short of madness. Regardless, however, the key fact is that Brooks' was breakthrough success that publishers had been yearning for: the first true master Fantasist since Tolkien, and Shannara became the first Fantasy novel to appear on, and eventually top the New York Times bestseller list. As a result, the genre saw a boom in the number of quite popular titles published in the following years, such as Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Then came The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb (which is one my to-read list) and The Blue Sword and its companion The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.
|The Four Lands|
Facebook post from 9/27/2013: "Just started The Elfstones of Shannara, book two of the Original Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks. It is high time we learned more about the Elves of the Westland."
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Tis common knowledge that in 1937 J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit, followed a little less than twenty years later by The Lord of the Rings. What may be less known is that the Father and Founder of Modern Fantasy was a perfectionist of the both the best and worst kind, the former because that is why his legendarium is the highest of the best, and the latter because it kept him from publishing so much of his work during his lifetime – which is why The Silmarillion, The Book of Unfinished Tales, and much else was later published by his son, the late lamented Christopher Tolkien.
Yet now, still and even from beyond the circles of the world and the Halls of Mandos does the great J.R.R. Tolkien keep giving! For in June next year comes hitherto unseen essays written by him, fitting called The Nature of Middle-earth. What are they about? Elvish immortality and reincarnation (yes, Gandalf is not the only one to return from death), the nature of the Valar, the lands and beasts of Númenor, the geography of the Gondor, and even who had beards. This last may seem odd, but the only Elf known to have a beard is Círdan the Shipwright, and no Hobbits no matter how old have been seen with one, and it is widely believed that Dwarven women have facial hair as well. For myself, I am particularly looking forward to learning more about Númenor and the Valar; the beard question has never interested me much. Regardless, it is clearer than ever that Arda truly is vast beyond the thoughts of Elves and Men.
"The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords." - J.R.R. Tolkien
Saturday, November 14, 2020
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
I have just finished The Red Fox Clan, book #2 of the Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger series by John Flanagan.
The good news is that I am apparently wise enough in the ways of Fantasy to pick up on deceit before the mark, the bad news is that such tricks are often far more effective against castle walls than a dozen battering rams. Maddie thought she was going home for a vacation. Now she has to save it.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Rangers. A well-known Fantasy designation now, an archetype found in many works of literature and role-playing games (such as Dungeons & Dragons), they share many common attributes: Often wise and unfailingly hardy as well as cunning and perceptive folk who are past-masters in the arts of stealth, wilderness survival, and combat with a particular specialty in archery and other ranged weapons. But where did this archetype come from? Two places, the first of comes not from a single Fantasy author but from the ballads and legends of our own world. Namely merry old England for, as I have said in the past and as any Fantasy reader worth the name knows, Fantasy literature draws much of its inspiration from myth and legend, both of which are empowered with wonder and mystery. In the case of Rangers, take a guess. Green clad archers of the forest who defend the common people? If you are thinking Robin Hood and his Merry Men then you hit the bullseye straight on, for from their woodland abode in Sherwood Forest they are fit and basically founded all the key attributes listed above. I say basically because, to start, they were not called Rangers and, for all that stories of Robin Hood are serious in that they face a real tyrant in the form of Prince John, they are more comic in nature; the Merry Men are called such for a reason.
Today, however, the most common form a Ranger takes is a cloaked, grim-faced woman or man with an aura of mystery about them and who tends to be something of a loner, making them similar to the Merry Men, but different enough to be notable. Which brings one back to the question of where did this archetype come from. Two places, the second being where, also as any Fantasy reader worth the name knows, the Fantastic draws much of its inspiration: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. More directly from the Rangers of the North (who are the last remnant of the Dúnedain of Arnor) and their leader Aragorn son of Arathorn who in the town of Bree is known as Strider; and their southern Gondorian Dúnedain cousins the Rangers of Ithilien under Captain Faramir. Often grim, particularly the Northerners, and garbed camouflaging browns, greys and dark greens, the Rangers of the North protect the lands they wander although their secretiveness made other peoples look upon them with wariness and distrust. Whereas the the Rangers of Ithilien were a Gondorian special operations force that routinely harass and ambush Sauron's forces from several secret retreats. As one can clearly see, this covers all the bases – the Rangers of the North exemplifying the noble community of mysterious loners type of Ranger, while the Rangers of Ithilien operate in a more official capacity in that they are an military unit within a larger country.
Of course, it is hardly a coincidence that I am writing about all this shortly after beginning The Red Fox Clan, book #2 of the Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger series by John Flanagan, and indeed I have thought and known all of the above for years. But it was only late last week that I realized with shock that I had not written it down. Which brings us to the glorious topic of Rangers in Fantasy literature, or rather what would be a glorious one if it was used enough to even be deem a topic. Strange at it is to say, while other Tolkienesque tropes and elements have been harvested and employed almost to the point of exhaustion in some cases, only John Flanagan took the Rangers and built something of them: his Ranger’s Apprentice books being an international bestseller and the Ranger Corps of the Kingdom of Araluen a flawless combination of both the Rangers of North and Ithilien in how Araluens view them and their official function in service to the Throne. If Halt is not based off Aragorn and Gandalf I will eat my quiver.
(On a side note, today is a most apt day for this post because today is the day that book #4 of the Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger series comes out!)