Influences: Part III – Contemporary Fantasy Fiction Influences

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After a ten-year hiatus, I resumed reading fantasy, but I found the post-Tolkien classics unfulfilling. I enjoyed Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn. The new magic system blew me away, and having the traditional fantasy flipped on its head provided a renewal of interest in what fantasy could do. As I delved into the other Mistborn novels, I lost interest. I also only read a few chapters of his Stormlight Archive before I began experiencing the crushing weight of the 400K word count. I didn’t want to make that investment for reasons I’ve already mentioned, but I may change my mind in the future.

I pulled up more top ten lists and began working my way through them.

Patrick Rothfuss dazzled me with his prose in Name of the Wind and with fabulous storytelling. I believe he created some new tropes, and I can’t wait for the rest of this series. I will say the promiscuity and excessive violence was problematic for me. Before it had blown up, I read a few of the Game of Thrones series in the 90’s, and again, the incestuous relationships, promiscuity, and violence turned me away.

Joe Abercrombie seemed interesting as my first foray into grimdark. While the antihero, Logen, in The Blade Itself was well written, I felt confirmed in my desire to read stories with a message of hope. This was one of the few contemporary series I had completed, though I’ve not read more of Abercrombie’s work.

I dabbled in the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks, and the original magic system prompted several insights. First, the cost of magic was appropriate, and I liked how the magic users turned into wights. While some considered the wights to be monsters and society functioned based on that premise, the norms were being turned on their heads. I had trouble with how the plot bounced around, but that’s for another time.

After returning to fantasy and updating myself on the aforementioned series and titles, I reread a few “classics,” including Tolkien, and I confirmed my preferences. I wanted good to win, and I wanted hope. I also wanted to see what the indie world offered.

The self-publishing world had been portrayed as a conglomerate of crap that wouldn’t pass beyond the slush pile of an editor’s desk. For the last 8 years, the indie world has improved that with some amazing titles.

Two authors caught my eye with a brilliant series that I’ve read more than once. The first is Patrick W. Carr’s Sword and Shield Trilogy that was actually published by a small press (Bethany House) but many consider it to be indie. The protagonist is a drunk who goes through an epic character arc and fights the big evil boss without magic. While there was some redundancy, the characters and plot worked well, and I really enjoyed the setting and how the protagonist saved the day with persistence and skill but without magic as a plot device.

The true indie on my influence list goes to Will Wight with his Traveler’s Gate and Cradle series. The Traveler’s Gate series brings the original element to fantasy with an edge of anime/manga, and in so many ways, the two blend well. His Cradle series is considered “progression fantasy,” and Lindon accomplishes this as he progresses in power development to the point of being near god like. While Will has professed the need for further editing, the story is impressive and is an attestation to the stories self-published writers can produce. (Cradle 8 hit #1 on Amazon.)

I have so much to read, but the theme for my progression as a reader is simple: I don’t need the anti-hero who does the big thing right but chooses evil on everything else. I crave original versions/takes of the classic tropes, and I don’t need political characters or themes shoved down my throat. This doesn’t mean I won’t read fantasy from different perspectives; I read Goodkind. But it also means I know what I prefer to read and write.

There are a lot more books to delve into, but over the last three articles, I’ve provided a sample of authors who have had an influence over my life and how I’ve evolved as a reader and writer. What authors have influenced you?


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