How many times have you read "Lord of the Rings"? If your answer is, "Read? I thought they were movies" then you can skip this review right now and move to another one. The books I'm discussing today are for people who already like books about swords and magic and epic battles between good and evil. They are entertaining reads, but not great enough to convince someone new to the genre to start reading fantasy.
I'm in the middle of two different fantasy series right now. The first is the Fionavar Tapestry, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Last year I read his books "Sailing to Sarantium" and "Lord of Emperors" which take place in a fantasy world based on the Byzantium empire. This gave the books an original and interesting setting, since so many fantasy books are based on medieval Europe and its folklore.
After enjoying those books, I decided to go back and read Kay's earlier books. "The Summer Tree" is the first book of the the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy. Five college students meet a mysterious stranger who pulls them into another world which seems very similar to...Lord of the Rings! Not surprising, since Kay helped edit Tolkien's The Silmarillion, but at times it seemed less like an homage than a copy. Dwarves, wizards, an evil enemy trapped in a mountain, even elf-like creatures who do not age, but sail across the sea to an unknown destination...haven't I read all of this before?
However, I kept reading and found enough of interest to keep me going. I liked the second book, "The Wandering Fire," better than the first book, despite the addition of King Arthur. No, not an imitation of King Arthur, the man himself. But there is plenty of war, magic, sacrifices, and sex to keep the reader interested. I'm looking forward to reading the last book, "The Darkest Road." Unfortunately the library has the first two books, but not the last book in the trilogy. Huh? Guess I'll be heading to the bookstore.
The other series I'm reading started with "The Wayfarer Redemption," by Sara Douglas. Paul started me on this one. Now I've read the first two books and am waiting impatiently for him to finish the third one. These books, unlike Kay's, are big, fat fantasy novels. So far, the plot and characters are propelling me through. It helps that the books focus on a small enough group of characters that I can keep track of them. I remember loving Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series when it first came out, but after a few 700-page books I started forgetting who some of the dozens of characters were. Then came the fifth or sixth book, which had 700 pages of nothing really happening, and I gave up on that series. I'm hoping Ms. Douglass can wrap her story up while I still care. Even after just two books, I'm starting to get slightly irritated by the constant foreshadowing of The Prophecy. But apparently I'm a sucker for a long, highly detailed description of a battle between good and evil, so I'll keep reading. But the good guys had better get this battle won in the next 700 pages!