My survey yesterday of a few of the blurbs on Amazon for fantasy novels has rather sent me into a tailspin, I’m afraid. The overwhelming trend in modern fantasy seems to be a toxic stew of fear, rage, and bloodshed. And that’s without even touching on the novels about vampires and zombies.
Why on Earth did I ever think it would be worth my time or effort to contribute to this deluge of sludge?
Today I had a look at a few more blurbs. Here’s how Rise of the Dragons, by Morgan Rice, is described:
Kyra, 15, dreams of becoming a famed warrior, like her father, even though she is the only girl in a fort of boys. [I suspect “even though” is the wrong way to introduce that clause — I would lean toward “in no small part because”. –JA] As she struggles to understand her special skills, her mysterious inner power, she realizes she is different than the others. [Well, yeah — she’s a girl. You just said that.] But a secret is being kept from her about her birth and the prophecy surrounding her, leaving her to wonder who she really is.
Just as Kyra is coming of age, the local lord comes to take her away. Her father wants to wed her off to save her. [This is quite likely a distinction without a difference.] Kyra, though, refuses, and she quests on her own, into a dangerous wood, where she encounters a wounded dragon—and ignites a series of events that will change the kingdom forever.
15 year old Alec, meanwhile, sacrifices for his brother, taking his place in the draft, and is carted off to The Flames, a wall of flames a hundred feet high that wards off the army of Trolls to the east. On the far side of the kingdom, Merk, a mercenary striving to leave behind his dark past, quests through the wood to become a Watcher of the Towers and help guard the Sword of Fire, the paranormal source of the kingdom’s power. But the Trolls want the Sword, too—and they prepare for a massive invasion that could destroy the kingdoms forever.
With its strong atmosphere and complex characters, RISE OF THE DRAGONS is a sweeping, romantic saga of knights and warriors, of kings and lords, of honor and valor, of magic, action, adventure, destiny, sorcery, monsters and dragons. It is a story of love and broken hearts, of deception, of ambition and betrayal….
Doesn’t that just make you want to vomit? Seriously, now — we’re friends, you don’t have to be polite about it. There are so many things wrong with this, either with the novel itself (likely) or with the way it’s being presented to us. A secret is being kept from her about her birth and the prophecy surrounding her. Let’s not worry about how a prophecy could surround a person — that’s just sloppy writing, and I’m not concerned today with sloppy writing. The Trolls (capitalized) want the Sword of Fire too, so they’re preparing for a massive invasion that could destroy the kingdoms (plural) forever. And then we have knights and warriors (vomit dribbling down chin here), not to mention romance and broken hearts (odd when we reflect that the two lead characters are both 15 years old).
Two paragraphs end with the threat of the kingdom(s) being changed or destroyed forever. That’s unforgivably sloppy writing, but also it’s an awful cliche. Who cares if a kingdom is destroyed? The kingdom of Louis XVI was destroyed in 1789 by the French Revolution, but there were still people in France the last time I checked.
Okay, just one more. Here’s the blurb for Book 1 of The Wolf of the North, by Duncan M. Hamilton:
It has been generations since the Northlands have seen a hero worthy of the title. Many have made the claim, but few have lived to defend it. Timid, weak, and bullied, Wulfric is as unlikely a candidate as there could be.
A chance encounter with an ancient and mysterious object awakens a latent gift, and Wulfric’s life changes course. Against a backdrop of war, tragedy, and an enemy whose hatred for him knows no bounds, Wulfric will be forged from a young boy, into the Wolf of the North. This is his tale.
As a blurb, this has the virtue of conciseness, but really that’s about all one can say in its favor. I wonder a little why an enemy would feel unbounded hatred for a boy who is timid, weak, and bullied. I also wonder why the enemy is no more than a backdrop. The question of what happened to all those other would-be heroes — not only why they thought their claims were worthy of consideration but how they ended up dead before they had an opportunity to defend their claims — is left murky. The ancient and mysterious object is another howling cliche, as is the latent gift. (Notice the mention of the “mysterious inner power” in the other blurb.)
Way back in 2004, when I first conceived of my saga, I was looking at it as a sort of take-down or send-up of the epic fantasy genre. That version actually had a cameo appearance by the Three Stooges. When Kyura arrived at the climax of the story, a sword fight with the main villain on the roof of a castle, she was naked below the waist, for reasons that were very silly and would be tedious to reconstruct at this late date. The whole thing had no pants, and my agent was wise to decline to represent it. But in retrospect, I may have been onto something.
Really, how could one possibly take this sort of crap seriously? And why have I been taking it seriously for the last two years? What’s the matter with me?