Quiet moments in epic fantasy

Here is a post by Beth Bernobich at Fantasy Book Café.

Beth says:

I love epic fantasy. I love the drum roll of its vast armies, the crescendo when kingdom battles kingdom for the fate of the world. I love its thousand­-voice chorus of political intrigue, secret agendas, of heroes and heroines. I love its quests and sweeping drama of events writ large. It’s the 1812 Overture with extra cannons.

But you know what else? I love the quiet moments in epic fantasy too.

In between the explosions, I want to catch my breath, to absorb what all that action means for the characters. Most important, I need to connect with individual people, and not nations.

I agree. I would go further than that, because I don’t think I’m all that big a fan of epic fantasy, actually, so I’m not too keen on the vast armies. I want to connect to one or a few main characters and follow them; once we get past, say, four pov protagonists, I generally become less involved in the story. (I say four because I’m currently working on a book with four pov protagonists, so that limits my ability to stomp my feet and declare I dislike multiple pov.)

While I do appreciate quiet glimpses of daily life in an epic, I also appreciate books that are quieter overall — more intimate, less epic. Here The Sharing Knife series comes to mind, for example. So does Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn. In books like that, stuff may happen, but there is a gentler pace for much of the story and a definite focus on the day-to-day life of one or a few pov characters. I like that a lot.

Anyway, Beth offers a good handful of examples of the kinds of moments she’s talking about.

I have her Passion Play on my Kindle, incidentally, but I haven’t read it.  The whole trilogy is complete, though.  I’m certain I picked up Passion Play because of a recommendation from Liz Bourke, not that I can find that right now.  It was probably on Twitter. Here’s a snippet from Liz’s review of the second book of the trilogy:

The prose is strong, expressive, rising occasionally to understated elegance. Bernobich has a good hand with a descriptive turn of phrase, and a robust grasp of characterisation: for the most part, everyone in this book has reasonable, internally consistent motivations for the secrets they keep and the actions they take. With intrigue and machinations and danger around every corner, secrets are understandable. The rare moments of trust are startling by comparison.

Also, just FYI, Beth Bernovich is running a Kickstarter for a novella that’s connected to and takes place after the trilogy. I kicked in, just on the weight of Liz Bourke’s opinion and a general desire to be helpful. I guess that will probably make me read her trilogy a bit sooner. Maybe this year.

The list of Books I Really Want to Read This Very Year is getting uncomfortably long, and it’s not even April. Well, I will soon finish my current project — I’m thinking I will be able to tie a bow around it over Easter weekend — and then I will be able to take off a few weeks. But I better not take too long a break: Saga is expecting a full ms from me by mid-May, so I will need to revise that, too.

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2 thoughts on “Quiet moments in epic fantasy”

  1. I was interested in PASSION PLAY so I read an excerpt online. Unfortunately, I ended up in an extended scene in which the heroine is forced into unpaid prostitution. It seemed to go on and on and thoroughly put me off purchasing the novel…

  2. I’m prepared for something of the kind, because I saw an interview with Beth Bernobich that made it clear there was some kind of significant sexual coercion in the book. That’ll mean not picking up the book if I’m in the mood for, say, a comfort read. But I also know from the interview that the protagonist gets out of that situation — the strong implication is that she winds up in a good place by the end. Being confident of that matters a lot to me as a reader.

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