I bought my first adult fantasy novel at fourteen from Waterstones, in Leeds, perhaps. The book was the Orcs omnibus by Stan Nicholls. The heroes, while loyal to each other, generally looked out for themselves and damned the rest of the world – well, you would too if the rest of the world wanted to kill you. The villain was so devious, twisted and sex-obsessed that I prayed for her swift death from the off. That’s something Fantasy has that Teen Fantasy doesn’t. Gratuitous sex and plenty of it. Sometimes it’s weird – Jennesta of Orcs has a very open sexuality in that she seems to have sex with anyone, male, female, human, dwarf, orc, elf, she’s not fussy – and sometimes it’s not.
But the real beauty of a fantasy epic is that it draws you in and grabs you and takes you on its long journey, not letting go until you’ve reached the end – which is often a million miles away. Take my most recent discovery – I say discovery, but nearly everyone will know it.
George R. R. Martin’s epic A Song of Fire and Ice. Make no mistake, I didn’t come to this through the HBO series, though I am now compelled to buy it. No. This was recommended to me by a friend and so I got the series as it stood then – a five book set with the sixth just released. I meant to read it, but since starting my English and Creative Writing course I haven’t read for fun. They sat there for a year. Then, about a week ago I decided, damn it, I have to read them. So I did. Just two or three chapters of A Game of Thrones a night. Then it started to get juicy. One morning I picked the book up and I barely put it down until I went to bed. I had read the equivalent of half the book. My mind was engulfed by it. I found myself saying the character’s names in my head – Tyrion Lannister, Ned Stark, Khal Drogo – and carrying on their stories in tiny snippets I barely knew were happening. I was well and truly smitten. I saw the new instalment in Waterstones today and I knew I had to have it before I’ve even finished the first one. I have ordered Season One of the television series. I am in love with Tyrion Lannister.
Only a handful of books and/or series have ever gripped me like this – the last was probably Harry Potter, before that The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks – but with A Game of Thrones you know it’s going to end badly, but the question is, how badly? Well the only way to know is to read on and then George has you in his grasp and you’re playing the game with Ned and Robert and the Lannisters and you know that winter is coming.