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The author that introduced me to an ongoing love of fantasy books, David Eddings, passed away on Tuesday 2 June 2009, at the age of 77. Eddings’ two most popular series, the Belgariad and the Malloreon, are still two of the most popular bildungsroman series written, and haven’t been out of print since they were first published back in the early 1980s. The series is still one of my favorites, and holds a very special place in my heart.

[David’s publisher, Jane] Johnson said he would be missed “tremendously” at HarperCollins, which published his last title, The Elder Gods, in 2006. “He was a towering force of modern commercial fiction, a master of the epic, and a delight to work with,” she said. “The Voyager team and I were immensely sad to hear the news.”

My condolences to David’s family. The world of literature is far, far poorer for the loss.

[Link: The Guardian – Fantasy master David Eddings dies aged 77]

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It seems they’ll make a musical out of anything these days, and so of course there’s a Lord of the Rings musical that I had known nothing about. I hadn’t realized that this had finished its run in 2008, but I would have loved to go see this if only because it’s a form of the Lord of the Rings. Apparently, the team behind the show is gearing up for a tour in 2010, so I hope I’ll be a place to catch the show. I’m not sure I know what more to say here; LotR is one of my favorite high-fantasy books ever, but I’m still dubious about the addition of music to it. The idea of singing dancing orcs…frightens me. Still, I listened to the sample track, and I still maintain that Tolkienesque Elvish is still a lovely language; it’s good to hear it sung. Surprisingly, it’s easy on the ears. Anyhow, you can check out more photos of the show at the main site.
[Link: The Lord of the Rings On Stage]

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inkheart

In Inkheart, Brendan Fraser plays Mortimer Folchart, an antique-book collector (or maybe bookbinder), who is journeying to find that one special book. He is accompanied by his daughter, Meggie (Eliza Bennett), to Italy. And that is where Folchart’s past, in the form of Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), confronts him. Ten years ago, Folchart read the book Inkheart aloud, with the result that three of its characters, one of them Dustfinger, were pulled out of the book and into the real world. And in exchange, Folchart’s wife, Theresa, was trapped in the book. Folchart tries to run away from his past, but he is soon forced to reveal his secret to his daughter – that he is a Silvertongue. Adventure ensues.

And this is where it all starts to fall apart. Inkheart is based on the book of the same name by Cornelia Funke. I haven’t read the book, but I hope it doesn’t have the gaping plot holes that the movie does, as I am not at all inspired to watch or read the rest of the series. The story has a good premise – some people have the power to bring things and people out of books and into the real world. They don’t have much control over what comes through, though, except for their choice of passage. Sounds interesting, right? Imagine the possibilities…

But what constitutes a story? Must it be published? Must it be in a book? Who counts as an author? What if a Silvertongue writes his own story? These, and other questions, are not really addressed in the movie. The other thing that I found frustrating about this film is that there are so many opportunities for the protagonists to take control of events, but somehow these opportunities get missed. Besides that, the acting in this film leaves much to be desired.

Eliza Bennett turns in a delightful performance as a teenager wanting to be told the truth for a change – a performance that puts Brendan Fraser to shame. Like many other actors in this film, his overdramatic acting is made more stark by the few good performances, such as that of Bettany. Helen Mirren bravely takes on a comedic role as Meggie’s great aunt, but it just can’t save this film. This story has so much potential; it’s a shame it’s been wasted like this.

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I’m a huge lover of fantasy novels. My personal library at home is stuffed to the gills with them, so it was with great interest that I read a post at List Universe about 10 great fantasy series. The rules of the list were that the series must be complete (there’s one cheat in the list because of one book to be released in 09, but we can probably let it slide), which is to say, no further books must be forthcoming in the series, and the series must span more than one book. So this eliminates Pratchett’s Discworld series quite neatly, as brilliant as it is. Because it’s a list of fantasy novels, it also eliminates Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series and Herbert’s Dune series. (In case you’re interested-and to prevent you from shouting at me for missing a series-the list covers the following series: His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman; The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; The Belgariad and the Mallorean by David Eddings; The Riftwar and Serpentwar sagas by Raymond Feist; Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony; The Saga of Recluse by L.E. Modesitt, Jr; Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling; The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis; The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan; and the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.) So, without further ado, here’s my own list that adds to the list at the List Universe.

10. The Elenium and the Tamuli

The EleniumThe Tamuli

David Eddings’ second series was never quite as popular as his groundbreaking Belgariad/Mallorean series, but that was most likely becuase people were expecting another Belgariad. The Elenium (comprising The Diamond Throne, The Ruby Knight, and The Sapphire Rose), and its sequel series, the Tamuli (comprising Domes of Fire, The Shining Ones, and The Hidden City), however, stood up as excellent reads in their own right. The series follows the adventures of a knight, Sparhawk, as he tries to cure a poisoned Queen Ehlana. The Tamuli continued the adventures of Sparhawk and his friends into the Tamuli kingdom. The series mythos is built around that of the medieval church, and makes for some fine reading. If you’re not comparing this series to the Belgariad/Mallorean, you’ll like it just fine.

9. The Dark is Rising

Dark is Rising

Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series (comprising Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree), although published back in the 1960s and 1970s, still stands as an excellent series of books based around the Arthurian mythos. The books introduce a series a children who are caught up in the fight between the Light and the Dark. The key character, Will Stanton, only makes his first appearance in the second book, but the series is well written, and an enjoyable read. A film version of the second book was created, but many of the events therein were changed significantly from the books. My suggestion is to stick to the books for now!

8. The Braided Path by Chris Wooding

Chris Wooding’s Braided Path series (comprising The Weavers of Saramyr, Skein of Lament, and The Ascendancy Veil) follows the adventures of Kaiku as she tries to understand the reason why her family was murdered. The series feels as if it were set in a fantasy version of feudal Japan, and it’s clear that Wooding has done his homework. The books are compelling fantasy, and I found it hard to to put the series down until I was done with it.

7. Mode series by Piers Anthony

 

Piers Anthony’s work is always enjoyable and highly compelling reading, but one series he wrote that stood out for me was his Mode series (comprising Virtual Mode, Chaos Mode, Fractal Mode, and DoOon Mode). The series dealt with many complex issues such as suicide, rape, gender issues, environmental issues…the list goes on. At the center of the complex collection of characters is Colleen, a suicidal teenager who falls in love with Darius, a man from another reality. The series introduces a number of alternate realities and strange characters such as Burgess, a character from an alternate Earth where the bizarre creatures in the Burgess layer had survived evolution. Colleen and her friends make their way across the many different worlds and realities to try getting back to Darius’s home. It gets weird, and the issues might be a little uncomfortable, but it’s an awesome read.

6. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams

Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series (comprising The Dragonbone Chair, The Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower, which was published in paperback as Siege and Storm) follows the adventure of the kitchen boy Simon as the world of Osten Ard is torn apart by war (when ISN’T it?). The series draws upon several types of mythologies from around the world. The title of the series refers to three legandary swords, the only hope that anyone has against the evil Kings bent on destruction.

5. The Farseer trilogy and the Tawny Man trilogy, by Robin Hobb

The Farseer and Tawny man series follow the adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal bastard who is trained as an assassin. The area of the world that the story takes place in, called the Six Duchies, is under attack by raiders from the sea, and it’s eventually up to Fitz to help stop the attacks. Set some years after the first series, the Tawny Man series describes Fitz’s adventures with the new prince, who first is kidnapped, and the who’s betrothed refuses to marry him unless he sets off on a daring quest, assisted by Fitz. Much of the charm in Hobb’s books is due to the insightful nature of her writing. Her characters are complex and multifaceted. The plots aren’t as world-shaking as other series, but the books are highly entertaining nonetheless.

4. The Last Rune series by Mark Anthony

 

The Last Rune series (comprising Beyond the Pale, The Keep of Fire, The Dark Remains, Blood of Mystery, The Gates of Winter, and The First Stone) is about two people from this reality, Travis Wilder and Grace Beckett, who journey, intially independently, to a world called Eldh. There they eventually face off against the Pale King, with Travis and his wild magic, and Grace and her nature magic. The series uses mostly gaelic and northern mythologies, and runes play a powerful part in the story.

3. The Secret Texts by Holly Lisle

 

The Secret Texts series (comprising Diplomacy of Wolves, Vengeance of Dragons, and Courage of Falcons) follows Kait Galweigh, a dplomat in training for House Galweigh. Kait has a secret, that she has an alternate wolf form, and this could cause her to be ostracized. When her family and home are destroyed by rival family, House Sabir, she sets out to get revenge. It turns out, however, that things are more dire than she thought, and eventually she will have to try saving the world. Ms Lisle writes a heart-thumping story, and the fate of the Galweighs and Sabirs makes for a wonderful story with some inventive magics built in.

2. The Quickening by Fiona McIntosh

The Quickening (comprising Myrren’s Gift, Blood and Memory, and Bridge of Souls) is seriously one of the most innovative and brilliant series I’ve read in a long time, and it says something that it’s very seldom that a series take me quite by surprise as much as this one did. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling the twists and turns of the story, but it should be safe to say that it follows the adventure of Wyl Thirsk, the last of his line, as he tries to achieve justice in the most unlikely of ways. It’s sheer brilliance, and McIntosh writes some brilliant plots and characters together. I recommend this series very highly indeed!

1. The Old Kingdom by Garth Nix

Nix’s Old Kingdom series (comprising Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen) deals with the two worlds of Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom. The two are separated by a wall, and while magic works in the Old Kingdom, technology is what drives Ancelstierre. The stories take place mostly in the Old Kingdom, with some forays into Ancelstierre. Sabriel follows the adventure of a girl of the same name, when her father, the Abhorsen-a necromancer-dies and passes on the tools of his trade to her. Lirael, set some years after Sabriel, follows the adventures of Lirael and Sabriel’s son, Sameth as they try to stop an invasion of the dead into both the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre. The final book, Abhorsen, is a direct sequel to Lirael, and completes Lirael and Sameth’s journey. What I found completely brilliant about the series is the nature of Nix’s imagination: he dreams up wonderful stuff, and the books infuse you with a sense of wonder. Rare for a book to do that to me these days, but Nix certainly carries it well. It’s well worth the read, and will keep you entertained for quite a while.

Honorable mentions:

These series aren’t in the main list because they’re incomplete, and if I’d allowed these series in, I’d certainly have to shift some others out, or create a top 20 list!!

1. Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix – only six of the seven books in this brilliant series have been published as yet

2. Exiles by Melanie Rawn – It’s been more than 10 years since Rawn wrote the second book in the series, and has been promising the third one for a while now, but nothing happening as yet!

3. Shannara and Knight of the Word – there are several Shannara series, but Terry Brooks isn’t done, and apparently his new series links the Shannara and Knight series together. I’m keen to see how this all works out!

4. Dragonlance – Dragonlance is still an ongoing series spanning a heck of a lot of books. This series deserves a blog post of its own!

5. Forgotten Realms – likewise with Dragonlance!

So…let me know what you think. What have I missed? Are there any series that shouldn’t be here? If so, why?

[Link: List Universe – 10 Great Fantasy Book Series]

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Cool fantasy images

I was on a quest to find new wallpapers when I stumbled across this lovely site full of images and even tutorials – I am in a sharing mood today so I felt like sharing the find ;)

David Revoy

fantasy landscape

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