Abandoning Reality: My Search for a Good Fantasy

I suspect that there are good fantasies out there, but I’m having trouble finding ones that fit my taste.  Of course, it could be because I’m looking at the local library.  Like I have the money to buy books these days?  Trying to make ends meet is hard enough.  If I’m going to pay the price of today’s paperback books, let alone hard cover, it’s going to have to be a book that I intend to read again and again.

So, far, I haven’t found much to even read in the public library’s collection, although they try to keep up with new purchases, but almost everything seems like a really bad romance novel with witchcraft/vampires/werewolves, or a slog through a graphic, bloody, hopeless conflict with an immense number of exhausted/embittered heroes who are really good at killing things but have rather limited lives in terms of anything but war and killing.

The last really good one I read was Guy Gavriel Kay’s Lord of Emperors, which was a bit slow at first, because it took a long time to get the main players into position and in touch with all the key characters for what was really going on in the story.  Now, the characterization was lovely, but it did take a long time to get to the point. When things finally began to coalesce, I couldn’t put it down–which is saying something these days. I really liked Tigana and A Song for Arbonne, but the truth is, it takes Kay a long time to get the story underway.. (Hey, I can handle it, because I like stories that set things up. Tolkien takes a long time to get underway in the Fellowship of the Ring, but the characters are so delightful it’s worth it.)  Kay has enough lovely scenes, great writing and potential for something to happen that you keep reading . . . .

Right now, I’m trying Death’s Mistress by Terry Goodkind. It’s not riveting to me, but I find the two main characters—the “restored” title character and her companion, a happy-go-lucky young mage—intriguing enough to keep reading, but not racing through it as I do with books I love.  I have always found Goodkind’s writing style a bit detached. I like to go into characters when I read, but while Goodkind’s characters are intriguing, his style of writing about them seems distant, like he’s reporting what they’re thinking or feeling, instead of experiencing it. The mage I find a refreshing counterpoint to the tradition of grim wizards off on dark doings and meandering toward certain (and certain to be unpleasant) death.

And, I gotta say, when I read the MSWishlist tweets from mostly younger agents and what they are looking for, it’s depressing. Especially since everyone is looking for MG or YA, and asking for things like a sex worker who likes being a sex worker and isn’t wanting to leave the business . . . .  (I have to wonder what the heck they’re reading in “middle grade” lit these days. Seriously?)

Okay, call me old school. But I really prefer my fantasy heroic, with people thinking about more than just killing, and/or sex. I’m not all that interested in dragons, trolls, etc. although when they’re well done, I don’t mind them. I’m looking for something that’s character-driven, and sees the world through a larger prism that immediate personal gratification. But then again, I really don’t want didactic stories either

Don’t know if it’s out there, but I keep looking. I wrote my own fantasy in large part because I didn’t see what I wanted out there.  We’ll see if I can find a way to interest an agent in it.  But given what I’ve seen on the “wish list”, I think my quest to find the right agent could be a “good fantasy” in itself.

© Chanda K. Zimmerman, 2017