Tolkien is too big, and too well-known for a simple review. For me, he is the god of the genre, chief of the pantheon, and I don’t accept dissent here. What irks me the most, is any criticism of LotR as not being realistic. It’s not Stendhal, people… But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
Tolkien mythos is way more than Hobbit and The Trilogy, published before his death in 1973. They were finished and polished (almost) to their creator’s satisfaction, but there was so much more. And Christopher Tolkien might not be a giant of his father’s calibre, not even Guy Gavriel Kay, who helped to prepare The Silmarillion for publication, is, but we would be poorer if they didn’t prepare and publish it. And the rest of it, it’s actually quite interesting when we get all the unfinished and lost stories. Children of Húrin might have been a step too far, but even of that I’m not sure. It’s not Tolkien at his best, it’s only partially J.R.R. Tolkien at all, but it might be a nice supplementary reading for someone who’d shy away from The Silmarillion.
A successful lawyer, a philosophy student who helped Christopher Tolkien in The Silmarillion edits, a reasonably well-known author of award-winning fantasy novels, Kay is a veritable jack of all trades. He prefers to set his novels in historical periods, but in imaginary settings, which allows him to create interesting parallels without the burden of fact-checking ;). Although it may be a bit unfair to judge him so harshly – I think that writing responsible historical fiction is a very difficult task and I’m the last to blame anyone if they prefer to concentrate on character development or creating worlds of their own.
And Tigana is set in such a world: one strikingly similar to Renaissance Italy, called Peninsula of the Palm and divided into nine separate provinces sharing a long, not always benevolent or peaceful history. Tigana is the name of one of the provinces; when two warring tyrants with magical powers conquer the subsequent pieces of land, Tigana is the last one to be subdued. In the battle there the son of one of the tyrants, Brandin, dies. Stricken by grief, Brandin decides to erase the name of Tigana and all of its history from the human memory. But there are survivors. One of them is Alessan, the last prince of Tigana. The others – Catriana, Dianora, Devin and the duke Sandre d’Astibar – he gathers around himself as he prepares his vengeance against Brandin.
Happy International Women’s Day everybody 🙂 It was not my plan to prepare a special post, but I’ve come upon something very good recently and since it combines the women question with genre literature… a link to one of the most interesting analysis of women in Middle Earth I’ve read. Women in Middle-Earth, and how bad being one would be by Barbara from Fandom Following .
I don’t care much about the amount of feminism in the culture I consume. Politically, I’m pretty liberal, at least on cultural and societal issues. Although I generally support most of the aerial bombings going on around the world… Still, art that offers painfully stereotypical vision of women is becoming harder and harder for me to enjoy – as is often the case with otherwise cool anime. Sigh. Boobs the size of one’s head and brains the size of a peanut… why? The problem of sexism in genre media was explored by Ola in one of our early posts, but it’s in Polish.
Ola: It’s been a while since Abercrombie wrote his first grim dark trilogy – and yet it still reads like something new. Why? Abercrombie did something seemingly unusual: he took most of the major tropes of epic fantasy and put them on their heads. He infused his books with a such an overwhelming dose of cynicism, bleakness and grimness that was rarely seen before.
A very good actor who not only played in genre movies, but also enjoyed fantasy literature, horror movies and even symphonic metal. He actually met Tolkien, and claimed to re-read Trilogy every year.
Now Aragorn prequels and my Galadriel movie will have to do without Saruman…
Magician is the first installment in Feist’s highly popular and lengthy Riftwar Cycle, a 30 (!) -book saga that has its own, hard-earned place in the annals of fantasy. Riftwar Cycle had been only recently – in 2013 – ended with, nomen omen, Magician’s End. A fantasy cycle written over a period of 31 years… well, we’ve already seen something similar, even more than once, and I guess we should just be very thankful Feist is still in a good health.
Magician’s End has met with less than a hearty reception, and in this aspect is no different from several other recent Feist’s works. Magician, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish. It is THE book in Riftwar Cycle: the book which had started Feist’s career, which had introduced readers to the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan (apparently, there are even computer games set in Midkemia, which Feist then novelized and incorporated into his cycle), and last, but not least, the book which has become a fantasy classic and has inspired many other writers.
To be fair, Midkemia was not created by Feist alone – it was a product of many Thursday and Friday nights spent by Feist on RPG gaming with his university friends. Feist claims the inspiration for their imaginary world came mostly from D&D, but for me, a non-gamer, Midkemia smacks mostly of Tolkien’s Middle Earth (just as D&D does, actually). Here we have a world on a curiously medieval development level, hardly aware of its ancient history, but at the same time filled with magic, elves, dwarves and goblins, last dying dragons and feisty magicians (yes, I had to use this pun!).
Raymond Feist is a fantasy author best known for his Riftwar saga – an epic fantasy cycle telling the story of a war between two worlds. The saga is set on Midkemia – a world very much like medieval Europe, or, to be more precise, like Tolkien’s Middle-earth. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Midkemia is a brutal rip-off of Tolkien’s world, but Middle-earth is definitely a very strong inspiration for Feist. The world of Midkemia is basically feudal Europe, with plenty of castles, keeps, villages and cities, but most of all full of forests and roads – long and winding – leading through them. It’s populated mainly by people, sure, but also by dwarves and elves, trolls and goblins, dragons and magicians.
My first encounter with Feist was, paradoxically, not through any installment in the original Riftwar saga (starting with a classic Magician), but with a spin-off of sorts, a trilogy set on the other side of the magical rift – on the world of Kelewan. The Empire Trilogy, as it’s called, was the effect of collaboration between two writers: Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts. Wurts is a fantasy artist (she makes covers for her own books) and a writer in her own right, albeit much less popular than Feist – the Empire Trilogy remains her most popular work to date.