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Spoiler Alert!!!:





Dragonlance books are in plentiful supply, not just because the charity shops are full of them, but because there were so many written.  The main ones were done by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, who btw aren’t actually both women.  Tracy as it turns out is a man.

The dragons and the twins trilogies are the best.  I have the collectors edition of both simply because I couldn’t find the normal ones, or even know if they existed.

In these the main characters are the Majere brothers: one evil (but is he?), and one good. 

The name ‘Dragonlance’ comes from the battles between dragon riders, who carry great lances.

The books contain the same creatures for the most part and as Americans always have happy endings.  It was always difficult to get through the forests though, as I recall.  One was full of dead, evil, twisted trees where things tried to pull you underground and kill you.  Another moved all the time, both forests due to some magical tower in the middle; so it was very difficult to find and access - much like any Duke of Edinburgh award ramble or so I’ve been told.  I’ve been rambling myself but not to the same degree.  But magic definitely doesn’t agree with forests.

In some of the books there are magic users graded into three different classes:  Good; Evil; and Neutral.  I find it hard though to believe that someone could be completely Neutral and whether indeed it is even possible.  Take a loaf of bread for example.  Using magic on the bread would result in either one of two possible outcomes: 

1)Making another loaf from it – thereby being good; or

2)Deleting it from existence – being evil.

(The third option – eating it – would not require any magic at all.)

The only way of being completely Neutral is not to do anything to the bread, keeping it in a state of permanent stasis, and at the moment, the science is humanly impossible – doing nothing is impossible, except maybe for Tory MPs.  The moral of the story is that you can’t please everybody and sometimes you can’t please anyone: you have to be Good or Evil (even if you aren’t a wizard.)  Neutral is basically another way of saying you are extremely lazy and don’t do anything.

Their clothes: white, black, and red robes indicate which way the magic users are aligned and they all live in a lovely tower where they learn all their spells (apart from the lazy ones of course.)

Albeit a conundrum at times, all the Dragonlance books I read I have great memories of, for I read them as a child and everyone enjoys the books they read as a child.

There are many characters: A half elf, interestingly called Tanis Half-Elven, Sturm a stern knight, the two Majere brothers - Raistlin and Cameron (as above), Flint a Dwarf,  Riverwind (an American-Indian type character), Goldmoon (his wife), Tika and Laurana (both of whom I don’t remember at all) and a Kender, called Tasslehoff Burfoot.  I have never come across a Kender in any other Fantasy books, so whether this was an original idea or not I don’t know. 

They say there are no new original ideas in writing, which does have some merit, but surely you can just make up a different species of dwarf/hobbit/spaceman and boom you’ve got a new idea.  Trengulabums for example.

These characters are always heroic, apart from when they get fat which happens to Cameron at one point. Even the Gully dwarves, who do try hard but are just too stupid, and who like being stupid, and who do not aspire to anything but having a hat or pulling a stupid expression have their heroic moments.  These dwarves can’t talk properly.  They live in sewers but are perfectly happy about their situation.  Poor and thick headed, they are completely deluded, for even in the utmost peril they are glad and always in a good mood, regardless even of any torture or beatings.  No one much counts on them or thinks of them as heroes and yet there is an entire book devoted to them.  I think they win in the end though and then go back home to have rat supper (which for them is high class cuisine.)


Darksword Trilogy:

These books focus on the holder of the Darksword – a man called Joram.  I don’t recall the sword ever being described as dark, for the sword was not evil or coloured in paint.  Before he finds the sword – or is given it, I cant remember - Joram starts off life as a stone moving quarryman.  He then goes on to battle black robed and always cowled wizards.  He even has a baby at one point, which is against the law in these books, which makes me think he must be some sort of communist; and also how do the peoples propagate themselves?  I don’t even think they have a basic contraceptive system.

Of course he has a hard time of all the fighting and injustice, but in the end he wins.

In so doing, he finds - through a portal at the end - a land of technology and tanks, which asks the question, is there a land out there in our world, through a portal of course, of magic and darkswords?

This question was not really resolved.


Tolkien’s Middle Earth:

As a don of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, Tolkien liked to invent languages, and after he did, he made books just to accommodate them.  These books, of heroic and mythic grandeur, are most famous as ‘The Lord of the Rings.’  Tolkien certainly knew how to imagine worlds of immense high fantasy and of the most vast detail.  His stories have so much detail in fact you could read it all a number of times and still not know it all.  For my part I have decided to read ‘LotR’ every five years just to see what bits I pick up on each time.

Even if he did nick half of the names from Norse mythology - Beowulf, or any of the other old sagas - it is a work I and many other fantasy authors aspire to and to be inspired by.

Possibly, he wanted to continue the names so that people would not forget and to create a proper English mythology – one of old England, before technology and horrible smoke belching factories.

I think he would have been far better off coming up with his names himself and getting people to read those books that he was inspired by, but everyone is influenced by something and I think given the quality of his work, it is a major tip of the hat to those whose names and ideas he used.

Tolkien even has encyclopaedias written about his work (I have three of them – and wonder if there’s a fourth out there somewhere.)  How he created an entire history of this fantasy world, one with dates, names and many places, and how he kept it all together in his mind, I don’t know (his sanity must have been tested at some point.) Certainly though, it must have required much great labour, time and passion and possibly more than some little genius.

He went regularly to a book writers club, which even boasted the guy who wrote Alice through the Looking Glass (C. S. Lewis.) and eventually at their prodding sent ‘The Hobbit’ to a publishers and after (quite luckily I suppose) one of their children read it, and loved it, they published it - as a prelude to the bigger, more adult and better ‘Lord of the Rings.’

While reading about it on, which has a wealth of questions and answers about Tolkien’s work, I saw a question about eagles and why they didn’t just fly the ringbearers to Mt Doom, instead of having to walk there.  I think the answer was a lengthy riposte about Sauron knowing that they would be coming and stopping them before they reached Mordor.  This most devious of questions marvellously proves there are absolutely no loopholes in his work and even if there was it wouldn’t stop me from enjoying my most favourite of books.

It is remarkable that Tolkien even survived the Great War, where he served as a 2nd lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, and that his writing from those times survived also.  I’m sure if there is a ‘David Beckham’ studies course at Uni, there also should be a Tolkien studies course.  For nerds of course, but everyone is a nerd for something.  I am sure also this would require some serious study and many other loophole questions to ask, and as opposed to the ‘David Beckham’ studies course would require more than two weeks to complete.


David Farland (The Runelords):

This is a long series, 9 books in all - at least for the moment.  I didn’t really want the storyline to move on though, for I enjoyed the first few books immensely.  As the story carries on the central characters die and the books change too much.  Apart from that they’re great.  The original premise of rune giving – with endowments from the poor to those with power – is enthralling and very original.  (Essentially they take an attribute from someone – the dedicate – and with a hot brand that has a rune on it, they endow it to someone else, who then gains that attribute; and in so doing they get, for example, the other man’s strength.)  Taking it to extremes you can have a man with thousands of endowments, thereby becoming ‘The Sum of All Men,’ a Godlike man with the attributes of entire countries.  To destroy them or weaken them, the helpless folk who had given the endowments must be killed, thus removing their endowments.  Or by chopping their arms off over and over.  This premise really makes the series unique.


Raymond E Feist:

His first works that I bought – a trilogy about a merchant as far as I remember - I read while travelling by car up the coast of California.  There they have B&Bs where you can insert 50 cents, turning the bath into a narrow Jacuzzi.  I didn’t actually read them in the bath, but maybe it would have distracted from the whole experience.

His best trilogy written with the co-author Janny Wurts is the Mistress of the Empire trilogy.  With elements of Feudal Japan, and its assassins, its code of ethics among soldiers and the arachnid creatures the Cho-Ja, it has all the elements of a fantastic fantasy journey.  They certainly kept me occupied in America, rather than looking out the window.


Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth Series:

I have only just come across these books, having bought one from charity and having to read the ones that came before.  If you’re into heroism and epic books where the heroes go up against the entire world and defy immense odds give these a go.  The two central characters avoid death on a daily basis, even hourly perhaps, just like they were making a cup of tea, but one that involves swords and magic and even a smattering of torture.  They do succeed of course, but not always in the way that you thought.  A lot of the writing it is about trying to kill everyone who has the gift (magic), but those who have the magic are far too powerful to kill off completely. 

The main character, Richard, progressively gets more powerful as the series carries on, and ends up being able to do anything and kill anyone without even knowing what he’s doing.  He even has a lovely sword, that when he gets angry (without turning into the Hulk) he can use to great effect.  The Truth of the Sword isn’t always obvious though, but this is completely unimportant.


Anne McCaffrey:

Dragons are her watchword.  The first book that I read of hers was called ‘Dragondrums’ and is about singers and drummers communicating various messages.  I know that there is room for creativity and originality in Fantasy, but I think better ideas are out there than this.

She has written many novels so I shouldn’t write her off just yet, but if Dragondrums can get published (I guess because she already has a fan base) any book can.

I have also read ‘Dragonquest’ which sounds exciting but it isn’t always clear what the quest is, and whether or not she should even have written it.  I think McCaffrey has something against battles and excitement, for there are little of both, but this at least is better than ‘Dragondrums.’


Jonathan Stroud (Bartimaeus Sequence):

I found ‘The Amulet of Samarkand,’ the first of four Bartimaeus books, by complete accident.  I bought it because I looked at it on the shelf and it seemed to have an amusing front cover.  So I gave it to my Dad for Christmas.

As far as children’s books go, I haven’t read any since I was a child myself; until these four ones that is.  I haven’t read Harry Potter, which to someone else who likes Fantasy probably seems a little strange if not completely insane.  I will however read them at some point (when I can get them for free.)

These Bartimaeus books however are excellent fun, and for me would be better than Harry Potter as movies.  They are not just about the magic and the battles, they are also about the fun (as I said before.)  The main character – a magical demon (a five thousand year old djinn who knew the ancient Pharoahs of Egypt) really likes taking the piss – usually out of more powerful demons - and makes up for his lackings in magical power by his cunning.

They are also cleverly linked to episodes in the past (be it in London or elsewhere) and explains it all in lovely made-up magical terms.  For instance Stroud includes politicians and prime ministers such as Gladstone and Disraeli, who in the books were actually powerful magicians who save the world (or England in their case.)

A good alternative history with lots of magic, for someone who doesn’t want to be bogged down in all that truth and reality rubbish.

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