• By Lara Luck
  • Posted Friday, November 9, 2012

Books We Like

Rural Hall branch supervisor Lara Luck is this month's guest book reviewer. If you're a fan of epic fantasy or just would like to know more about the genre then you'll want to check out her selections.

I have to start out by saying that I love to read, well … everything. I have never been one to find a specific genre or subject and stick with it to the exclusion of everything else. I realize that some people are like that, they just read mysteries or biographies or romances, but to me that would be like eating just one food for the rest of your life. And you could never know if you got steak or liver. So, I never stick to just one thing. When I get bored with reading true crime I’ll switch to romantic suspense for awhile, or, more often, I’ll read several genre books at once and switch back and forth between them. Sometimes that’s the only way to satisfy the craving.

But, having said this, there is one genre I keep coming back to, over and over again that I truly never get bored of - epic fantasy. I discovered fantasy in the fifth grade when I read an excerpt in our literature book from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Of course I was hooked, what child wouldn’t be? Fantasy novels have the ability to open up your imagination and explore endless possibilities, the ultimate rush for a child. I read everything I could get a hold of, and soon I discovered epic fantasy. Quests, adventure, suspense, mystery, magic, romance, and good triumphing (usually) over evil all rolled into one package, what’s not to love? I started reading books like David Eddings’ Belgariad series, Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, some of the grand masters of epic fantasy.

I think it is films and TV series like “The Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter…” and “Game of Thrones” that are finally showing how ‘fantastic’ this genre can be to people who might never have discovered it on their own. But I want you to know the books are so much more complex and engaging than the movies, and there are so many great epic fantasies out there that will probably never see a TV screen.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

I think this is the best start to a fantasy series I’ve ever read, and that’s saying a lot going up against writers like Tolkien, Jordan, Martin and Goodkind. Really I love all of Sanderson’s work, but The Way of Kings shows just how epic, epic fantasy can be. He starts by creating Roshar, a world that in a way he has made into a character of its own shaped by a cycle of Desolations that destroys life on Roshar over and over during these periods. Everything and everyone on this world is driven by the need to create a place of shelter and sustenance and then keep it or fight to take another’s. However, it has been millennia since the last Desolation and the only reminders are the terrible storms, the harsh landscape that people have forged into various kingdoms and the few invincible weapons and armor left behind by the Radiant Knights who once protected the world as best they could from the evil of the Desolation. The book follows several characters as their stories slowly come together and reveal a classic story of intrigue, war and magic characteristic of epic fantasy. Kaladin, a gifted young soldier is defeated in battle, enslaved and now fights to regain his freedom. Elsewhere in the world, Shallin, a young noblewoman who’s not exactly what she seems, seeks to regain her family’s fortune. Their stories intertwine with other characters and create a world that is so intricate and detailed you get caught up in it and don’t want to come back. Sanderson has a real talent for description that makes you feel like you see, hear, smell, touch and even taste the surroundings and the action. I highly recommend this book, but be warned, it will make you use your brain, you will be hooked, and you won’t care one bit.

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher, author of the amazing Harry Dresden series, entered the realm of epic fantasy with this stunning debut quite different from his fantasy detective series, but equally well written. There are six books in total to the Codex Alera series, but this is the first (and all are now out). Butcher combines ancient Roman culture, magic, and some very hostile species (native to this world so not exactly aliens) and flawlessly weaves them together to create a world where humans have carved a place for themselves on an alien world using magic. Several thousand years ago a Roman legion found themselves on this world of Alera. Finding the world already occupied with several other sapient races, humans had to fight to make a place for themselves. They found that they could call upon and bond with furies, elementals associated with earth, air, water, fire and metal to manipulate the world around them. Some Alerans were much stronger in furycrafting than others and these men and women became High Lords who ruled the population with the First Lord being the most powerful of all. Thousands of years later an uneasy truce has held for almost two decades between the native Marat and the Alerans. However, the High Lords are ruthlessly jockeying for position to take over for the ailing First Lord whose heir died in the last battle between the two species. A young boy, Tavi, who lives on a steadhold distance from the capital and seemingly far from all of these political machinations, has problems of his own. Tavi has no magic, no furies to control; only his courage and wits to help him survive on a world where magic is not only the key to power but to survival itself. And yet the fate of his people and even the world of Alera end up on his shoulders. Butcher blends political intrigue, war and magic and melds in a coming of age story that shows sometimes your differences can be your strengths. Fans of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones will love the conspiracy, fighting, and the twist and turns that leave you guessing as to who is allied with who. Really, all this book lacks is a dragon or two. Or does it?

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

Weeks’ Lightbringer series starts with The Black Prism, and the second book, The Binding Knife, has just been released. This is another fantasy series with political rivalry and strife that is causing neighboring nations, called satrapies, to rebel against the lands’ ruler, the Prism, Gavin Guile. The Prism has the ability to manipulate light from all spectrums to create things or destroy them, and Gavin is the most powerful Prism in generations. However, Gavin, despite being the most powerful man in the world, Emperor of the Seven Satrapies, has very little real say in governing the world. And he has a secret, one that he would do anything to protect and one that could bring chaos to the land again after sixteen years without civil war. The reader enters the story at the point where Gavin finds out he has a fifteen-year-old son, Kip, conceived before the battle where Gavin defeated his brother to become the Prism. Kip’s very existence can unravel the plans Gavin has made and reveal the secret he’s desperately trying to hide. Meanwhile Kip is offered the opportunity to develop his own powers that manifested while he was trying to escape from the rebel king who destroyed his home. Weeks does a great job creating this world and its compelling magic system based on using the light spectrum. The fact that using magic slowly drains you and can drive you insane or eventually kill you makes the magic that much more plausible. Gavin knows he has only five years left to accomplish his plans, so he is driven to act fast, and the pace of the book reflects this. Also, Weeks really has a way of keeping you guessing. Just when you think you have the whole thing figured out and know Gavin’s secret, the story twists and leaves you incredulous over the ending. But no spoilers, you’ll just have to read it yourself.

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