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Which fantasy writer do you think has the best prose?


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57 replies to this topic

#1 Sansa_Stark

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 12:08 AM

Not really an experienced reader, but I like GRRM's prose.

Especially things like the TOJ scene

#2 Jiriki

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 12:33 AM

Tad Williams has the best prose. His "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn" series is so well-polished, it's like it was written by an English poet. GRRM is quite gifted with prose, but Williams wins this contest.

#3 Sci-2

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 12:50 AM

Some good ones:

The Vorrh by Brian Catling
The Great Lover by Michael Cisco
Orphan Tales, Labyrinth, Book of Dreams & Deathless by Valente
The Secret Life by Vandermeer
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
In the Palace of Repose by Holly Phllips
Iron Council by China Mieville
Vellum by Hal Duncan

#4 Darth Richard

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 12:52 AM

http://asoiaf.wester...page__hl__prose
http://asoiaf.wester...se#entry4309255

#5 Jiriki

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 01:00 AM

Another good one is Mervyn Peake, although the prose is so thick that it's not for everyone. Sometimes, in the Gormenghast series, the prose is so thick, you could cut it with a knife (if that bastard Steerpike hadn't stolen the knife!). Sometimes, there's so much prose that the plot seems like an afterthought. Not that I'm complaining: it's what makes that series so good.

#6 Ser Scot A Ellison

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 05:56 AM

Pat Rothfuss. GRRM's prose is servicable but you can tell he was trained as a journalist. It's more stripped down than I like. Rothfuss's prose has a poetic beauty that I always appreciate.

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison, 13 September 2013 - 05:56 AM.


#7 Inkdaub7

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 06:03 AM

I would say Gene Wolfe, Guy Gavriel Kay, Felix Gilman and Ellen Kushner all have really great prose.

#8 polishgenius

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 06:08 AM

Gene Wolfe! Gene Wolfe! Gene Wolfe!


Also second the mentions of Valente and Hal Duncan, both of whose prose is fucking spectacular.


Mieville is particularly impressive for the way he can switch things up, from the dense, baroque style of the Bas-Lag books to the stripped-back simplicity of The City & The City to the playfulness of Kraken.



For epic/medieval-style fantasy, second Patrick Rothfuss and also add Guy Gavriel Kay.


Also: Tolkien.

#9 David Selig

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 06:34 AM

Peake, Wolfe and Valente were already mentioned. I'd add Caitlin R. Kiernan - her style is absolutely spectacular, she deserves to be much better known. Quite a few of her short stories can be read for free online, I recommend giving this or this a try.

Patricia A. McKillip's writing is really evocative and just gorgeous. Le Guin, of course.

#10 Cato.the.Elder

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 06:55 AM

I think Tolkien and Ursula LeGuin are very ahead of all the rest (someone has mentioned Italo Calvino: he will be even ahead, but I don't think he qualifies as a fantasy writer. And, if he does, we can also count Borges or Doris Lessing). Gene Wolfe, Roger Zelazny or Neil Gaiman have also their moments.

#11 Captain Sheepf*cker

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 07:05 AM

Felix Gilman, Mieville, Valente, Wolfe, Peake, Vandermeer, K.J. Bishop, Rothfuss, Kay, and Hal Duncan, in my opinion. So, seconding a bunch and putting forth Bishop and Vandermeer.

#12 Myrddin

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 08:42 AM

Pat Rothfuss. GRRM's prose is servicable but you can tell he was trained as a journalist. It's more stripped down than I like. Rothfuss's prose has a poetic beauty that I always appreciate.

Agreed on Rothfuss. He is one author I just love reading for reading's sake.

I think GRRM's time in Hollywood did great things for his prose, specifically his dialog. It resonates. It also has a nice rhythm, with the characters building on each other's words/imagery in a back and forth fashion. Some of it is just good use of repetition.
"You honor me." "Silence or I'll honor you again."
Or
"All dwarfs may be bastards but not all bastards need be dwarfs."

I do think GRRM does go overboard with his descriptions sometimes. I tend to skim some of the lists. I don't like having to sift through the 20 people standing in a room to pick out the important one (that's what this board is for /wink.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=';)' /> ).

#13 Sci-2

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 08:55 AM

http://asoiaf.wester...page__hl__prose
http://asoiaf.wester...se#entry4309255


I'd forgotten about that thread I made. Need to add some of those homies to my TBR yo.

#14 thistlepong

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 10:05 AM

My first thought was Valente.

Pat Rothfuss. GRRM's prose is servicable but you can tell he was trained as a journalist. It's more stripped down than I like. Rothfuss's prose has a poetic beauty that I always appreciate.


Really? I've been down a rabbit hole of criticism lately and his prose is favorite target. I've read the books... a couple... times. I've never tripped over a phrase, but I keep wondering if I'm just inured.

#15 Myrddin

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 10:24 AM

Really? I've been down a rabbit hole of criticism lately and his prose is favorite target. I've read the books... a couple... times. I've never tripped over a phrase, but I keep wondering if I'm just inured.

I praised GRRM above, but there are several things about his prose that I find annoying. Maybe distracting is a better word.

I've noticed that each book seems to have a few odd phrases or words that become his favorites and he throws them in every where he can. "Niello" is one, which funny enough is so rare that Google thinks I mis-spelled it here. Now, the first time he used it, I liked it because I had to actually look it up. Cool. New word. Then he used it again. And again. And again.

If he have changed it up and used "dark silver" or "black copper", it wouldn't have stood out for me.

Just a minor example for me. There are a few other odd phrasing that stand out when I read him, but I can't think of them now. (And I'm not even talking about things like "pink mast" or something)

#16 Migey

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 02:34 PM

I find it hard to tell, but my measure of good prose is how much I want to continue reading based not on specific characters or the events that are unfolding, but on how fun the thing is to just read. Therefore, winners for me are Scott Lynch and Pat Rothfuss.

#17 Francis Buck

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 02:51 PM

Out of all the fantasy writers I've read in the last, say, three years (which is basically when I started reading fantasy period, aside from Harry Potter and Tolkien), if I had to choose the best...I guess I'd say Guy Gavriel Kay. But that's very tentative. I mean he's very good, but there's a certain "LOOK HOW MOVING MY PROSE IS" quality to it that kinda grates on me after while. Under Heaven, my favorite book of his, seemed to have the least of this. Lions was loaded with it.

GRRM is "good". He has moments of greatness, and his dialogue and characterizations are stellar, but there are a lot of goofy little quirks and some stuff's just kind of embarrassing. I also feel this way about Bakker, but more-so with this earlier stuff. His most recent short story was almost flawlessly written in my opinion.

I've read maybe two shorts by Valente. Both had phenomenal prose, but I wasn't taken with the actual storytelling. I need to read more of her though before assembling a legitimate opinion. I've also never read Wolfe, Rothfuss, or Peake, all of whom I intend to catch up on in the near future.

Although it's technically science-fiction (though I think there's a definite fantastical undercurrent), I'm now in the midst of the sixth Dune book, and I think Herbert's prose is fantastic. It doesn't feel outdated at all to me, aside from the occasionally clunky transitions into different POVs mid-paragraph. His writing has that sort of loose, effortless feel to it that I love. He makes it seem easy.

#18 First of My Name

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 03:00 PM

Besides everybody already mentioned, I feel obliged to mention Matthew Stover. He's relatively unknown, but he has some brilliant books out there. IMO, he does magic with words.

#19 Captain Sheepf*cker

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 03:09 PM

Besides everybody already mentioned, I feel obliged to mention Matthew Stover. He's relatively unknown, but he has some brilliant books out there. IMO, he does magic with words.


"Well fuck me like a goat" and "Fuck me like a chicken pot pie" Stover? Yeah, he's awesome. Just finished a re-read of Heroes Die and his obscenity mixed with his prose is fucking spectacular. But I'd argue that he's not relatively unknown. Most decently-read people in the scifi/fantasy society know of him.

#20 williamjm

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 04:11 PM

I sometimes have mixed feelings about some of M. John Harrison's storytelling (I liked some of the Viriconium stories a lot but others I didn't understand at all) but his prose is excellent.

I really like Roger Zelazny's prose as well, particularly in Creatures of Light and Darkness even if it isn't the most coherent of stories.

I think Kay probably has the best prose of the modern Epic Fantasy authors.