How To Enjoy Epic Fantasy
When I wrote The Unfinished Song series, I wanted to join two literary traditions: the young adult paranormal romance and the traditional epic fantasy. For readers familiar with both genres, the mix is a fun one, but what about readers who find traditional epic fantasy a little intimidating?
1. Wander the map.
The map is there, filled with wondrous names and blank spaces, so you, the reader, can wander around in it. You don’t have to stop traveling where the book ends, but can meander your way around the world on your own, imagining what other nooks and crannies you might find, what creatures and dangers, what adventures and romance. Enjoy!
2. Delight in deep time.
You don’t have to know the names of all the kings of yore. (See below.) But do reflect on the eons past that have gone into the creation of this world.
Pretend you are a visiting another country, a real one, and the guide is telling you about the various epochs as you gaze across the vine-covered ruins, and suddenly it hits you: These stones were built by people who lived thousands of years ago. Whoah.
That’s the feeling of wonder that fantasy seeks to recreate. Whoah….
3. Don’t worry about bit players.
Epic fantasy has a lot of characters. A multitude of men. Gobs of goblins. Everflowing elves. A whole host of heroes and vast numbers of villains. And serfs and slaves and peasants and thieves and assassins and gods and five nation’s worth of royal lineages with fifty dead kings each.
Reading name after name, with umlauts and apostrophes, you may panic.
Does the author actually expect me to remember all these people?
Here’s a secret. Even the author doesn’t remember half of them. The author is scratching his head wondering, “Did I already name an elf Galadrinel or was that Galafalel?
If these characters are not that important, why do they have names? Why must they be dragged through the scene at all?
The joy of epic fantasy is that it immerses you in a new world. Would you believe in a world that had only four people in it? No. Would you believe in a world that had only nameless masses in it? No. A fantasy world invites you to believe that it is like our world, filled with people who have names, histories and desires of their own which you will never know. You don’t need to know them right now… you’re with the hero, saving the world…but you know that they are there, and they are what makes the world worth saving.
Of course this only works if you love the series, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of a fat, juicy epic is that when you re-read it later, you’re certain to pick up a lot of details and subtleties that you missed the first time around. If the writer is any good at all, you’ll find that he or she foreshadowed so much more about the themes and ending of the series than you realized the first time around.
5. Relish your superpowers!
Like all fantasy, the heroes of epic fantasy have fantastic powers. Mighty thews and magic spells and unique destinies! To be truly epic in scope, the stakes usually involve the fate of the entire world—and the powers wielded by the protagonists and antagonists must be equal to that task—vast indeed. And that’s…freakin’ awesome.
A DETERMINED GIRL…
Dindi can’t do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi’s clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.
AN EXILED WARRIOR…
Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn’t commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don’t kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father’s wars and his mother’s curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her… assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.
Tara Maya has lived in Africa, Europe and Asia. She’s pounded sorghum with mortar and pestle in a little clay village where the jungle meets the desert, meditated in a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas and sailed the Volga river to a secret city that was once the heart of the Soviet space program. This first-hand experience, as well as research into the strange and piquant histories of lost civilizations, inspires her writing. Her terrible housekeeping, however, is entirely the fault of pixies.