Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Just a spoonful of magic helps the fantasy go down...

Raymond E. Feist's Magician has greatly improved my feelings about the fantasy novel genre. I began this reading with trepidation, given my reception of Haki's last recommendation. This novel was worlds better than Legend for me. I compare the two, because they stand as two "great works" in modern fantasy, by Haki's two favourite authors.

What made this more *my* kind of fantasy:
  • The universal fiction entities of the fantasy world (elves, goblins, dwarves etc.) were more complex. I felt Feist had added something to the common currency of fantasy, instead of simply trying on well-worn conjurings of old. Part of why I often resist reading fantasy, is because I feel authors are jumping into something ready-made, and less than unique. I often roll my eyes a little, thinking, "Oh, there are elves with pointy ears in this?! No way!" This time, there was no eye-rolling.
  • There is a more realistic treatment of romance. I'm ashamed to admit it, but pairing-off potential adds to a story for me. /Hanging head in shame. But it can destroy it, if, like Gemmell, the attraction is described in the basest of terms, and sounds eerily like infatuation and the embodiment of the male gaze. Feist's characters and their respective loves are still matters of fiction, but they are less...well...lust-filled.
  • Magic made it better. Legend was about battles, slashing, and manhood...Magician lived true to its name by offering things magical, mystifying, unusual, exciting...and battles, slashing, and manhood. Magic sweetened the pot.
  • The themes of the novel run deeper than "good versus evil" or "what makes a hero". The constructed cultural differences between Midkemia and Kelewan are fascinating. And if I may be permitted to venture, I think fair examination is made into the complicated factors and consequences of assimilation, integration and genocide. Maybe other readers shrug at this, but for me, there's real meatiness to the book, and that makes it better.
  • The characters are awesome. Namely, Amos and Martin. Oh, and Borric. Haki finds Arutha and Jimmy the Hand more to his liking (I suspect the latter moreso due to his role in future works). I really enjoyed the characters, and made comments aloud to that effect numerous times. There was sufficient depth for me to care about them, but not so much that I grew weary of their introspection.
  • The text resounded with "epicness", made up of regular, well-paced micro-adventures. I do not do well with large amounts of build-up, because the anticipation often conjures expectations too great to be satisfied. I like suspense. I do not like suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuspense. Magician has hearty doses of action and development throughout, keeping the line on the plot graph bumpy and climbing "in the most delightful way".

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