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Epic fantasy the last 5-6 years, nothing great?


Calibandar
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9 minutes ago, williamjm said:

Another series not mentioned in the thread so far that I liked a lot was S.A. Chakraborty's Daevabad trilogy.

I think it's out next month? I'm definitely interested to see how it turns out, I think The Long Price Quartet is one of the best fantasy series of the 21st Century so far and The Dagger and the Coin was good as well so it's good to see him go back to epic fantasy.

It's not a debut, Shannon previously had a YA fantasy series. I did enjoy the book although I agree it felt like a trilogy's worth of material squeezed into one, admittedly long, novel.

Ah. My bad!  But the point still stands as to length and such.

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The Ash & Sand trilogy by Richard Nell is probably the most novel/interesting fantasy series of recent years.  The first volume was published in 2018, and the series only concluded last year.  The characters, setting (unusual combination of cultures), magic system and motivations were all quite good.

Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy was very well written, although ultimately a very contrived political analogy.  That’s going back a bit further though, and it’s already very well known.

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35 minutes ago, williamjm said:

a YA fantasy series. I did enjoy the book although I agree it felt like a trilogy's worth of material squeezed into one, admittedly long, novel.

She still has a YA fantasy series, in fact - The Bone Season. She's written four books of a planned seven, I believe. But, somewhat annoyingly, she seems to be neglecting it in favour of other projects. I think she mentioned that her next book is also going to be in the Priory universe. 

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I haven't read it (yet), but would Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse count? It's going to be a trilogy. 

 

I'll third the Daevabad Trilogy as well! 

 

I do think a lot of recent fantasy has been stepping outside the "traditional" and epic trappings of series like LoTR and WoT and the now neo-traditional? grimdark vibes from authors like GRRM Abercrombie. It's a new generation with new - and more diverse! - voices, and the feel does seem different. 

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12 hours ago, Leofric said:

This is the one set in the same world as Thorns of a Black Rose?  

I certainly have high hopes for it, as well for the third book in your Glasgow series. 

Yes, Thorns is a prequel. The new one is almost double the length.

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I think one of the big things is how popular Game of Thrones made fantasy, thus creating a saturated market and dividing up fan bases/theorizing.  Before, you had Wheel of Time or ASOIAF leading the charge in a market with less static and less social media.  This allowed for theorizing to be more concentrated.  Now you have various camps of people interested in a variety of series.  The only series that seems to get a bunch of posts in subreddits seem to be Malazan, First Law, and Stormlight Archive (the latter is very frustrating because I find it very pedestrian). 

 

For my money, series that are on the level of ASOIAF that have theorizing and/or discussion available include:

The Dark Star Trilogy by Marlon James (1 book out with plenty to chew on...book 2 in April)

The Fire Sacraments by Robert V.S. Redick (2 books out with a lot of interesting world building)

The Darkwater Legacy by Chris Wooding

The Empires of Dust by Anna Smith Spark (think Cormac McCarthy writing about Alexander the Great in a Tolkien-like world)

The Sun Eater series by Christopher Ruocchio (Book 1 was good but had potential, books 2 and 3 have been stellar)

Finally, for my money, the best series on the market right now is The Last King of Osten Ard series by Tad Williams.  Unfortunately, you have to read the original trilogy which is good for sure but this is on another level. 

I'll shout out the Terra Ignota series by Ada Palmer as well but I think that's quite different from ASOIAF.  

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Quote

Could it be that because the Abercrombie/Lynch/Rothfuss premiere boom of the mid 2000s; publishers are casting a wider net hoping for the next big thing and therefore they are publishing more average authors in an attempt to find one great one?  Ultimately making it hard to sort out who really stands out?

 

I definitely feel this is true. The field has gotten very diluted and there is *so* much subpar stuff being published. I do think they just publish an enormous amount and hope for a winner.

22 hours ago, Joe Abercrombie said:

I am still a fresh new voice in this goddamn genre.

You are Joe ;) Anything you can share with us about what The Devils will be about? It sounds intriguing, especially coming from an author already known for devilish characters.

20 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

The Ash & Sand trilogy by Richard Nell is probably the most novel/interesting fantasy series of recent years.  The first volume was published in 2018, and the series only concluded last year.  The characters, setting (unusual combination of cultures), magic system and motivations were all quite good.

Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy was very well written, although ultimately a very contrived political analogy.  That’s going back a bit further though, and it’s already very well known.

I've tried that Fifth Season book years ago when it came out because I liked the premise and it was getting so much praise, I believe all 3 books won Hugo's and Nebula's? I struggled to get into but have now decided it needs another shot.

Wary as I am of self published books, I am gonna give your Ash & Sand trilogy a go and try some sample chapters.

19 hours ago, Underfoot said:

I haven't read it (yet), but would Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse count? It's going to be a trilogy. 

 

I'll third the Daevabad Trilogy as well! 

 

I do think a lot of recent fantasy has been stepping outside the "traditional" and epic trappings of series like LoTR and WoT and the now neo-traditional? grimdark vibes from authors like GRRM Abercrombie. It's a new generation with new - and more diverse! - voices, and the feel does seem different. 

I'm definitely gonna check out this Daevabad series. I couldnt get into Black Sun by Roanhorse.

45 minutes ago, mix_masta_micah said:

 

For my money, series that are on the level of ASOIAF that have theorizing and/or discussion available include:

The Dark Star Trilogy by Marlon James (1 book out with plenty to chew on...book 2 in April)

The Fire Sacraments by Robert V.S. Redick (2 books out with a lot of interesting world building)

The Darkwater Legacy by Chris Wooding

The Empires of Dust by Anna Smith Spark (think Cormac McCarthy writing about Alexander the Great in a Tolkien-like world)

The Sun Eater series by Christopher Ruocchio (Book 1 was good but had potential, books 2 and 3 have been stellar)

Finally, for my money, the best series on the market right now is The Last King of Osten Ard series by Tad Williams.  Unfortunately, you have to read the original trilogy which is good for sure but this is on another level. 

I'll shout out the Terra Ignota series by Ada Palmer as well but I think that's quite different from ASOIAF.  

Some comments on those...

Yes, Last King of Osten Ard is on my list and I have very high hopes for it, especially now that its about to be concluded this year. I have his standalone novels in this world too and enjoyed them.

From your list I did not care for Terra Ignota, Darkwater Legacy  , Sun Eater and Empires of Dust. The Redick I am gonna try, the Black Leopard Red Wolf book is on my shelf awaiting a chance.

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On 1/25/2022 at 7:28 AM, Calibandar said:

I do still find lots of great new reading all the time, just not in this genre anymore, I wonder why.

 

I've asked myself the same question in the past, and what I've finally settled on is that it's me, and the fact that I'm getting older. I think quite a bit of traditional epic fantasy is geared to appeal to young men, a group of which I can no longer count myself as a member. (more's the pity)

I'm a bit unique in that while I've been reading epic fantasy since forever, for some reason I didn't read LotR until I was in my 30's. And although this is sacrilege in the genre, I didn't think it was very good at all. When I compared it to things that I read when I was young that I had fond memories of (Terry Brooks, for example) it was clear that something just didn't add up. 

I went back and read the Sword of Shannara, and while I can recognize that it's not very good - I still liked it. 

My conclusion? Nostalgia and age-at-entry play big roles in this genre and fandom. I find less and less that I love, but it's not the books, it's me.  

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The Blacktongue Thief, which Paedar mentioned, is one that's got the lads over on the Malazan forums talking, and even before that it'd caught my attention but I've not started it yet. Maybe one for the quarantine blues, and actually I should get a few off my backlog in the next few days thinking of it.

A bit older but I've also heard big things about Michelle West's series but also not started it yet. 

Ones I have read and enjoyed the first books of in the last two years or so:

AJ Larkwood's Unspoken Name. The setting isn't particularly traditional - there's a bit of a Planescape Torment vibe, also some Indiana Jones derring do- but it's got the epic questing and big magic, I'll allow it. Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot and am happy to see the sequel is out next month.

Isabelle Steiger's Paths of Lantistyne. Chucked together all the familiar fantasy tropes in ways that were slippers-and-cocoa comforting without feeling like a retread. This one's got the second book already out so I should get on that, the third comes out soon it seems.

Rook and Rose by MA Carrick (iirc, actually a pen name for two people). This one's more in the vein of a Lies of Locke Lamora, thievery and conwork in a fantasy city, but hey, if Lynch counts, and it often is, this can too, especially since the books are pretty long. And I really enjoyed the first one. Also: I am not myself at all a fashion guy but the book was so enthusiastic about nice tailoring that I could not help but be drawn in.

One that I've actually read the first two of but hey it's under-discussed let's talk about it, if you want a bit more lower-scale, Abercrombie-and-Gemmell-influenced type stuff, try The Lot Lands by Jonathan French. It's about a band of orcs trying to survive in not ideal circumstances in lands biased against them and big things going on, and it's written with an energy and knack for action you don't often find. 


Beyond that, I'd suggest that part of the smaller selection might be that where previously everything big, epic and magic was being channeled into epic fantasy series, there's firstly generally more outlet for that kind of scope in different forms (things like RS Belcher's Golgotha series and Max Gladstone's Craft series wouldn't be considered epic fantasy but they both share at least some of the appeal), and secondly and more specifically, in recent years magic-influenced space opera has taken some of the story-space that medieval/pre-industrial fantasy always dominated. 

Like in recent years we've had Sun Eater which was already mentioned (need to read the rest actually, I agree with the notion of the first as 'good-but-not-great' so I want to see this step up), Yun Ha-Lee's Machineries of Empire (technically not using magic, but they are essentially casting spells via battle formation and all sorts of other crazy space opera stuff), Gideon the Ninth (not really space opera I'd suggest but it's a game of empires in space so... let's go with it), Kate Elliot's Unconquerable Sun, and conceivably you could add Max Gladstone's Empress of Forever (that's a one-and-done, so no series, but it's very very epic in scope). If anything possibly all of them have got as much or more push than any straight epic fantasy in the same time.

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Miles Cameron had some epic fantasy going in the Traitor's Son Cycle (The Red Knight, The Fell Sword, ...)which I liked better than his newer Masters and Mages series.    His newest work is science fiction, not fantasy, but the first book was very good, Artifact Space.

Definitely some series mentioned above I need to check out.

 

 

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29 minutes ago, Leofric said:

Miles Cameron had some epic fantasy going in the Traitor's Son Cycle (The Red Knight, The Fell Sword, ...)which I liked better than his newer Masters and Mages series.    His newest work is science fiction, not fantasy, but the first book was very good, Artifact Space.

Definitely some series mentioned above I need to check out.

 

 

Yes.  I feel bad now for not thinking of Cameron’s fantasy trilogy.  It had a fairly simple Norman-invasion scenario mixed with a bizarre megafauna North America, plus a colorful magic system, and then even managed to incorporate Constantinople later in the trilogy.  It was pretty good fun, provided you don’t get bored by lengthy use of the correct terms for pieces of armor.

Miles Cameron also wrote a lot of military historical fiction as Christian Cameron.  So he doesn’t really count as new, but his pivot to fantasy and now SF is pretty recent.

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2 hours ago, Ninefingers said:

I've asked myself the same question in the past, and what I've finally settled on is that it's me, and the fact that I'm getting older. I think quite a bit of traditional epic fantasy is geared to appeal to young men, a group of which I can no longer count myself as a member. (more's the pity)

I'm a bit unique in that while I've been reading epic fantasy since forever, for some reason I didn't read LotR until I was in my 30's. And although this is sacrilege in the genre, I didn't think it was very good at all. When I compared it to things that I read when I was young that I had fond memories of (Terry Brooks, for example) it was clear that something just didn't add up. 

I went back and read the Sword of Shannara, and while I can recognize that it's not very good - I still liked it. 

My conclusion? Nostalgia and age-at-entry play big roles in this genre and fandom. I find less and less that I love, but it's not the books, it's me.  

For me, it is definitely that I've grown, but it is also how I've grown. I find myself reacting negatively to epic fantasies that simply are about re-establshing the status quo once the big bad evil is destroyed. There are several examples listed here which, on going through, I've come to realize don't fit that bill and therefore deserve a read, but I think it's still a failing that broadly plagues the genre.

The genre has an entirely annoying fascination with monarchy, for instance. It doesn't need to have it, it just fucking does. 

Edited by fionwe1987
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8 minutes ago, Iskaral Pust said:

Yes.  I feel bad now for not thinking of Cameron’s fantasy trilogy.  It had a fairly simple Norman-invasion scenario mixed with a bizarre megafauna North America, plus a colorful magic system, and then even managed to incorporate Constantinople later in the trilogy.

 

It was five books. 
But yeah, I heavily enjoyed it, especially the transformed Authuriana and the Malazan-lite epic scale magic. 

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I've kinda felt the same way, I read the Deavabad trilogy and liked it well enough, but it was also.... lacking? Maybe it's just that I've grown more critical over the years and learned to see the flaws more clearly.

I do find it interesting that I often have an easier tim enjoying bad books with a particular good thing than "good" books that are flawed, if that makes sense? Like if a book is good the way it is bad stands out, while if it is (mostly) bad but has some enjoyable bit, that enjoyable bit is what sticks with me?

 

 

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16 hours ago, fionwe1987 said:

For me, it is definitely that I've grown, but it is also how I've grown. I find myself reacting negatively to epic fantasies that simply are about re-establshing the status quo once the big bad evil is destroyed. There are several examples listed here which, on going through, I've come to realize don't fit that bill and therefore deserve a read, but I think it's still a failing that broadly plagues the genre.

The genre has an entirely annoying fascination with monarchy, for instance. It doesn't need to have it, it just fucking does. 

I have a similar reaction to newer epic fantasy, and this is one of the reasons I hope GRRM does finish ASOIAF, as I want to see how he portrays society's difference After.

Yet I am OK with JRRT's conclusions to LOTR.  Perhaps this is because the conclusion shows an establishment of some order, but also the elimination of an old order in the departure of the Elves?

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