[thechat] Cadfael

Ian Anderson ian at zstudio.co.uk
Thu Dec 22 17:48:02 CST 2005

Canfield, Joel wrote:

> wanna share some names? I admit I haven't looked too hard, but I've
> tried a handful and haven't found anything close to LOTR as far as
> keeping my interest.

Apologies for intruding on the thread, but my ears prick up at the word 
"Tolkien". I have observed over the years that anything claiming to be 
"as good as Tolkien at his best" or somesuch is not to be touched with 
someone else's ten-foot pole.

e.g. Raymond Feist's Magician (utter sh**e),
Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn quadtrilogy (intentionally 
derivative claptrap)
Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series (actually bloody good 
fantasy, original and superbly written, but completely and utterly 
depressing after Tolkien. Never read them close to each other...)

In case it's of interest to anyone:

I have been very happy to find JV Jones and can recommend all of her 
books without reservation as being enjoyable, high-quality fantasy, but 
not of the calibre of old JRR

Also, the Black Magician trilogy by Trudi Canavan was rather good.

For satisfying bulk, there are a couple of million words written by 
Robin Hobb:
Farseer Trilogy and its sequel Tawny Man trilogy actually finish up 
being quite respectable stories, with genuinely engaging characters.
Liveship traders trilogy is interesting and worthwhile, and tied in to 
the same story cycle as Farseer and Tawny man.

Robin Hobb and Tad Williams started out in more or less the same sphere, 
but I have been massively disappointed with all Williams' work in the 
end, whereas Hobb's writing sustains the interest through more pages 
than it's healthy to contemplate.

But for quality, for sheer storytelling joy, I recommend anything and 
everything ever written by Jack Vance.

In my opinion, few writers of the twentieth century can come close to 
JRR Tolkien for heroic fantasy and the more people try, the worse it all 
gets. Vance is very much of the old-school and has a fifty-year back 
catalogue; his writing has it all. I'm happy to say, none of it is the 
least bit reminiscent of Tolkien, whether at his best or otherwise.

For fans of real classic fantasy, especially anyone raised on Gary E. 
Gygax's Dungeons and Dragons, you must read Vance's Dying Earth books if 
you haven't already. Amongst other things, much of the inspiration for 
D&D magic came from these. Simply sublime.



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