Those of you who have been paying particularly close attention to the little Amazon plugin on the right hand side of my blog navigation will have noticed the veritable slideshow of books that I’ve been burning my way through recently. This is partly due to having been holed up in bed with a cold, and partly a renewed passion to extend my “research” into literary styles in a bid to improve my own writing capabilities.

Have just finished a fantasy series by Ian Irvine, which I actually had the good fortune to discuss with his editor at Orbit Books in London (an imprint of Time Warner) a few years ago. Whilst I hadn’t even heard of Mr Irvine at that stage, Tim Holman recommended him strongly and passed me the weighty “Geomancer” tome, which I duly proceeded to not read for three years – and just as well, as it is the first volume of a second series of books…

Anyway, I eventually got around it, reading both the “View from the Mirror” and “Well of Echoes” stories (about 5,000 pages of small print fiction!). Having got past the needlessly flowery language (why, oh why, do Fantasy authors feel the need to write in pseudo-Shakespearan language? Verily, it is tedious), I was struck by how deeply imaginative and courageous a piece of work it is. Particularly given that it is part of a genre which thrives on repeating staid formulas with new characters — and with a readership who are generally looking for nothing more than that.

The first story is more conventional, borrowing (I gather) from Feist in talking about different worlds separated by a barrier and a ‘void’, but the second – the “Well of Echoes” series – is truly different (erm, IMHO). Building on the story of the first trilogy, but wholly changing tack and tone, with no single valiant sword-carrying or magic wielding hero (but rather a collection of flawed misfits)… it is brave, and I felt ultimately successful. Frustrating that the last few pages of the books set up yet another series, which even the prodigious Mr Irvine must take a few years to complete.

As an aside, Holman and I had a long chat about the necessity of the highly stylised artwork that adorns the covers of much contemporary fantasy, and Tim (IIRC) was arguing that it wasn’t necessary and made the genre more niche in its appeal than it needed to be. Possibly this was my line of argument – in any case, that was the conclusion we reached… The “Well of Echoes” beautifully published, but highly generic cover art makes for much better book-shelf-eye-candy than the gaudily painted “View from the Mirror” series.

Not sure if I’ll ever end up writing fantasy. The amount of planning that has to go into a 2000 page story arc is extensive, and whilst I’d like to think I’ll be capable of it, I’m not sure I have the patience right now. And I need to develop a less concise writing style – but all interesting food for thought.

2 thoughts on “Chimaera”

  1. Heh. I recently read Feist’s Rise of a Merchant Prince, for no reason other than I’d been encouraged by friends to steal it from a pub because it looked terrible. Having done so, I felt the least I could do was read it.

    I was actually going to start writing a sentence-by-sentence review of the book, explaining in great detail the deep and painful issues I had with the prose style. But that would have been uncharitable – there were some engaging enough characters, some plot elements that were more than just Revenge Of The Archetypes, and it wasn’t Dan Brown levels of bad.

    Still don’t think I’ll be reading any more, though.

  2. I’ve found that once you get past the terrible writing style that pervades most modern fantasy, a lot of it has these nuggets of merit – often character or story-arc led.

    I’d also say, with Feist and with most authors in this genre, that you have to read their books in sequence. I’ve just finished Magician, Feist’s first novel, and its actually not too shabby – I will be reading more.

    As with all things, I suspect many of the sequels leave something to be desired…

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