Although doorstopper fantasy novels can be fatiguing, they’re still good fun—and the hardbacks are useful for self-defense. They also tend to breed, resulting in series whose hypothetical omnibuses would make Ents cry. But, as a devotee of fantasy, there’s also a handful of these guys floating around my reading list.
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
The Wheel of Times turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, and Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
As I listen to Writing Excuses, I often hear Brandon Sanderson talk about his experience with The Wheel of Time series—in respect to that series, Sanderson is a Promoted Fanboy, having been selected to finish the series after Jordan’s death. But I’ve never actually read it, although I eyed a copy of it at the thrift store for a while. (Someone else took it home.) It’s a gap in my education, I freely admit, and someday I’ll correct it.
Aidan Moher at A Dribble of Ink posted a very thoughtful review, praising The Eye of the World for avoiding the bloat Jordan is known for in later volumes (fourteen volumes! fourteen!) and examining it in comparison to the rest of the series. Michelle at my books. my life. hated it, however, citing bloat and unbelievable character motivations—but, as she rightly points out, she’s not a fantasy fan, and Jordan very much meant the initial homage to The Lord of the Rings.
The Eye of the World was published on January 15, 1990.
Shadowmarch by Tad Williams
Shadowmarch: Volume 1 introduces a world conquered by humans, who have driven the Qar, or fairy folk, into the far north. There, the Qar hide behind the “Shadowline,” a mysterious veil of perpetual mist, which drives mad any human who dares enter it. Bordering that mist and named for it is Shadowmarch, the northernmost human kingdom.
Shadowmarch has lately fallen on hard times. Its king has been captured by a rival kingdom, the regent has been mysteriously slain, and the new regents are callow fifteen-year-olds. Moody, crippled Prince Barrick is uninterested in their responsibilities and haunted by eerie dreams. His twin, Princess Briony, takes their new duties seriously, but is hot-tempered and headstrong. How can they defeat the greatest threats in Shadowmarch history? Their nobles plot to overthrow them–and the plotters may include their pregnant stepmother, seeking the throne for her own child. The expanding empire of Xis has sent its agents into Shadowmarch. And, for the first time since it appeared centuries ago, the Shadowline has starting moving. As the maddening mist spreads south over Shadowmarch, it does not quite hide the powerful, uncanny, and vengeful Qar army of invasion…
Shadowmarch is either a title I’ve heard over at Writing Excuses, or I discovered when writing a post on serialized novels. (And it’s going to be featured in a post about bad fantasy covers.) In any case, I’ve heard good things about Williams and I think this is a good place to start.
Jeff C. at Genre Reader praises the worldbuilding, but notes that it gets off to a slow start and the cast can be unsympathetic. Lori at She Treads Softly enjoyed it, but also notes that it gets off to a slow start. Consider me well-warned.
Shadowmarch was published on November 2, 2004.