As you can see, as far as I’m concerned, Book Riot is never going to live down that Urban Fantasy post.
So let’s check out the post!
- Aurora Rising by Kaufman and Kristoff. Well, that one is an interesting choice. It’s SF, not fantasy; the stakes look, to a first glance, small-scale and personal rather than epic; so the only thing this story has in common with TLotR is a “band of adventurers.” While not as wildly out of place as Watership Down, I have to say, so far I am questioning the criteria used by the author of this post. In fact, if “band of adventurers” is enough to get a book into this list, then Watership Down would actually qualify. That right there should indicate that this single criterion should not be sufficient to do the job. Let’s see what else …
- Legend of Drizzt: Homeland, by Salvatore
- A Wizard of Earthsea
- An Ember in the Ashes by Tahir
- The Fifth Season by Jemisin
- Sorcerer to the Crown by Cho
- The Demon King by Chima
- The Deed of Paksennarion by Moon
- Sabriel by Nix
- Dragonsong by McCaffery
- The Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Ogiwara
- The Grace of Kings by Liu
- Graceling by Cashore
- Song of Blood and Stone by Penelope
- Thrown of the Crescent Moon by Ahmed
Okay, of those, I have read five. I have started and DNF … let me see … wow, no fewer than five! That is a LOT of DNF entries for this kind of list! Of those DNF, four were books I just did not think were that good, while one just appalled me with the set up and I could not go on with it. That was Jemisin’s, of course, and WHY not pick ONE OF HER OTHER LESS HORRIFYING BOOKS FOR THIS LIST?
The author of the post says things like: “This one is like TLotR because it has an unlikely hero” and “This one is like TLotR because there’s a journey” and I have to say, throwing books or series on this list for reasons of that kind is ridiculous. Practically every book ever written has SOME characteristic that is vaguely similar to something in TLotR. Saying “The plot involves a journey, so if you liked TLotR, you’ll like this one because they are alike!” is just silly.
To actually qualify for a like-TLotR list, I would say a book needs to:
- Be epic in scope, literary in tone, and not too gritty.
- Have a clear good-versus-evil setup, and good has to win through the heroic efforts of badly outmatched protagonists.
- Be really well written, though not necessarily in a Tolkien-esque style; bad knock-offs need not apply.
- Be set in a sort of vaguely Tolkien-esque setting.
- Have some philosophical depth to it, though not necessarily the same themes that are important in TLotR.
Of the list above, I think one entry qualifies. Wait, two. I’m going to start with those and then go on to build a list of novels that are REALLY LIKE TOLKIEN, as opposed to the list above, where almost none of the entries are remotely like TLotR.
- The Deed of Paksennarion
- The Wizard of Earthsea
- The Longest Road trilogy by Guy Gaviel Kay
- The Shadowed Sun / The Killer Moon by Jemisin
- The Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth Bear
- The Riddlemaster of Hed by McKillip
- The Riftwar Saga by Feist
- …. and I’m running low on good candidates for this list.
What would you pick for a No-Kidding-Like-TLotR-in-Important-Ways list?