A New era of fantasy novels

Posted: April 16, 2011 in Books, Reviews

Generally I read a lot , and by a lot I mean a lot… and in that lot a certain good fraction belongs to the mainstream Fantasy Novels, be it Harry Potter, LOTR, Wheel of time or beowulf… Fantasy novels are like third on my “genre in order of priority list”, the first two being History and (Auto)biographies. I love literature, and certainly i do find an internal satisfaction with every new leap in the field. Anyways, i just wrapped up The Briar King and yes, it’s good and different, won’t write any review though :)but yeah one thing i can assure, the Fantasy world is changing, changing for the good.
The days when village boys and dark lords chase each other endlessly across a landscape may be at an end. There’s a new type of fantasy that’s taking the fantasy world by storm.

The Fantasy genre has historically been a very static one. We have the classics like E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros, arguably the prime contender for the work that laid the foundations of the fantasy archetypes, and Tolkien, who pretty much single handedly laid out the foundations of modern fantasy.

We’ve seen a variety of subgenres birthed the past few decades: urban fantasy, Celtic fantasy, romantic fantasy, gothic fantasy, etc. But by and large, the most popular fantasy has always been the fantasy that followed Tolkien’s example (epic fantasy). Yes, in some of the more obscure subgenres of fantasy, we’ve seen some interesting things being done. Writers like China Miéville (The Scar) and Neil Gaiman (American Gods) have been cloaking some fascinating ideas in the robes of fantasy, but the main vein of fantasy – epic fantasy – has remain unchanged for nearly fifty years.

However, in the past several years, In whatever I’ve read I’ve seen a new type of fantasy coming to the fore of the genre . This new Fantasy has been gaining swift momentum. This new style of Fantasy takes the old staples of Fantasy and remakes them into something more sophisticated. Strong, witty writing, dry humor, twisted plotting, and full of contrasting elements, this new style makes for some intelligent reading. In this new world of noir Fantasy, shades of grey are the new black and white. Gone are the hopefully optimistic village boys wielding magic swords on a quest to defeat the impossible; in their place, a gritty fantasy has arisen; a stark genre where the very conventions of what it means to be a hero are challenged: worlds are made of gray not black and white; heroes may be both a villain and savior; love is powerful, but ultimately ephemeral; heroes die and villains live.

Many fantasy readers are becoming more astute in their fantasy choices. Gone are the days where Terry Brooks and David Eddings topped the fantasy lists. The quality level demanded of a good Fantasy novel is now much higher. No longer satisfied with the dark lords versus farm boy conceit, readers are demanding fantasy novels that don’t follow the normal fantasy vein; they want something completely new.
There are several authors pioneering this new wave of fantasy: George Martin, Joe Abercrombie, R. Scott Bakker, Patrick Rothfuss, and Scott Lynch(yet to read him but have heard a lot…) to name a few.

Have we seen the end of farm boys and dark lords? Who knows, but right now, I’m enjoying the dramatic increase in the quality of fantasy writing today…

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