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I have never been a big fan of the fantasy genre in literature. When I was a young girl I fell in love with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but I still consider those books the absolute pinnacle of excellence and everything else that came after seemed kind of lame, like cheap knock-offs of the genuine article. That's the problem with starting off with filet mignon – hamburger never measures up.
My oldest son is a big fan of fantasy novels, particularly if they involve swords, spears, horses, armor, and epic battles. Every so often he will come upon a book or series that he has really liked and will ask me to read it. I try to accommodate him when I can – its a mother/son bonding thing for us. There is a series written by an Englishman that he really likes and that has been made into a series on cable TV. There are 5 or 6 books in the series, all of them extremely long and ponderous, with thousands of characters, more horrifying violence and gore than you can begin to imagine, and explanations of blood lines, blood oaths, and blood grudges that go on for pages, whether you are all that interested or not.
Personally, I don't much care who did what to whom ten generations ago, but the characters in the story care a lot and take every opportunity to remind us that they have sworn revenge that they plan to take sometime in the future no matter what they have to sacrifice or who they have to kill to do it. And everyone seems to have a problem with some other guy that demands carefully planned revenge so they all go around trying to manipulate situations and forge alliances, (mostly with people you wouldn't trust to feed your cat much less watch your back), the result of which are usually betrayal, heart break, and general dissatisfaction. Nobody in these stories is happy for more than about 40 seconds, after which they either stomp around being angry and looking for something to maim or kill, or go find some ale and get drunk and depressed. Its a heart warming tale...
The formula for these fantasy stories is pretty basic; terrible evil threatens the land, obscure young person appears to whom is given a magic sword, or magic flying horse, or magic egg beater or something, and said young person is revealed as person who is destined to rally the people and destroy the evil. There is also usually a dark secret that cannot be revealed or all is lost, but it always ends up getting revealed just enough to make everyone panting to buy the next book in the series. There are variations on the basic theme, of course, but the variations seem to be somewhat limited. It's like having a Barbie doll with only 3 outfits – you can mix and match only so much before you start repeating yourself.
I had to tell my son that I just could not get into the fantasy series he liked so much. I gave it a valiant try, but I really hated it. He found this hard to understand; this series had won all sorts of literary awards and it was considered one of the greatest fantasy novels every written – a huge work in which a complex, very real world is brought to life. I told him that may be, but I didn't care for that world any despised almost everyone in it. Other than one or two, the majority of the zillions of characters were nasty, violent, scheming, ambitious, lying, wretched betrayers, in other words, pretty much like regular human beings who don't have magic swords and flying horses. I disliked them all intensely and could not feel any sympathy for any of them at all., in fact, I kind of wanted them all to die in some typically vicious manner you come across in these books. I sloughed through 2 ? volumes of the series before I just couldn't stand the torture any more. My oldest is, naturally, rather disappointed in me. He is hoping that I will like the television series even though I didn't like the books, because as everyone knows, the movie version of anything generally in no way resembles the original book. I agreed to watch it, but I told him that since everyone in the story was horrible I was going to pick out one bad guy from the thousands of contestants and make him my favorite character. I settled on the worst bad guy that popped up in the first episode. Fortunately, he is played by a tall, gorgeous, blue eyed Norwegian actor who looks like a Viking God, so at least I can enjoy looking at him while he behaves badly and does horrible things to others. I informed my son of my choice.
“I hate to tell you this, Mom,” he said, “but that character has a change if heart in the 3rd book of the series.”
What? He turns good? Impossible! This guy is so deep into evil that he needs a flashlight to find the dark side! There is absolutely no way he could ever turn good! So far he has killed the old king, had intimate relations with his own sister, and pushed a child out a tower window! Are you kidding me? I don't care who you are, nobody's coming back from that kind of mayhem!
Oh well, my son tells me he is redeemed so I suppose I have to believe him. I guess that's why they call it a fantasy novel. I don't care if he turns good, so long as he doesn't turn ugly at the same time. I still have to look at him. Maybe it's his destiny to receive the magic egg beater from the lair of the dragon who has guarded it for a thousand years so that he may spread fluffy omelets across the land. Sounds right.
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