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


Calibandar
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I enjoyed the Licanius trilogy by James Islington - kind of old school (a bit of a Robert Jordan vibe to me) though sometimes I had trouble keeping the different places straight. I thought the Poppy War by R.F. Kuang was really good for more of an oriental setting, haven't read the whole series yet. But the fantasy field has really evolved over the last decade or so and I don't think there is as much of the "traditional" epic fantasy leading the market.

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Two recent epic fantasy series I read were the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks and the Licanius trilogy by James Islington.

I absolutely loved the first book of the Lightbringer series (The Black Prism) and enjoyed some of the middle books, and I was soo excited for the final book in 2019...and it really ruined the entire series for me. He took it in a very unexpected (and very explicitly Christian) direction and the whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth. It's been 2 years and I still get annoyed when I think about it.

The Licanius trilogy actually landed the ending. Not perfectly, but not so much I'd find the whole thing unreadable. Would recommend for someone wanting a fun "traditional" fantasy series. Okay maybe fun is the wrong word, but you know...

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On 1/27/2022 at 9:21 AM, Werthead said:

It's an older series, but Janny Wurts's enormous Wars of Light and Shadow series is finally getting its last volume published, hopefully this year, but if not next year.

Wow that's a blast from the past - I left that behind over a decade ago. With it all said and done maybe I should read it again through to the finish once that comes out.

On The Fifth Season trilogy, I loved it but I agree it doesn't really slot into the epic fantasy genre - at least not in tone even if it does in content. Her previous trilogy is probably much closer to that though and I also really enjoyed it.

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I've been enjoying the shit out of Will Wight these days.  The prose is very much action oriented and feels like it's always moving forward, but so far everything has been a really fun read!  Some dark themes without going full grimdark.  Reminds me a lot of the Shattered Sea Trilogy.  I'm reading his first trilogy now, The Travellers Gate which has some problems, but is definitely getting better as I cruise through it.  Next will be a set of two trilogies which chronicle the same events from two different viewpoints.  I've heard it's done really well.  I also just finished his progression fantasy series (well, through the 10/12 books that have been released) that I got through in about 3 weeks and will be doing a re-read after I finish these other series' of his.  19 books in the same multi-verse feels epic enough to be added to this convo.

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On 1/26/2022 at 2:11 PM, 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 think this is somewhat a restraint of the most popular fantasy setting i.e. the Middle Ages.  Of course its the author's discretion to do whatever they want, but societies that had power concentrated around skilled swordsmen don't tend to favor forms of government that include more inclusion of the wider populous.  You really need further innovation either in military tech (for example, look how firearms were mostly rejected in Sengoku Japan because it gave unskilled peasants the ability to take out a trained warrior) or in terms of a blooming middle class trade economy resulting in merchants with the financial power to challenge the monarchy (e.g the guild democracies like the Venetian Republic).  Of course that is a simplification of a more complex set of dynamics, but overall, consider how many times power changed hands in different countries across the dark ages and how many ended up with a more popular form of government being established.

Most of the fantasies that I've read that do explore those technological/economic changes, tend to flirt with other forms of government.  Abercrombie's latest series being a good example. 

Edited by horangi
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20 hours ago, horangi said:

I think this is somewhat a restraint of the most popular fantasy setting i.e. the Middle Ages.  Of course its the author's discretion to do whatever they want, but societies that had power concentrated around skilled swordsmen don't tend to favor forms of government that include more inclusion of the wider populous.  You really need further innovation either in military tech (for example, look how firearms were mostly rejected in Sengoku Japan because it gave unskilled peasants the ability to take out a trained warrior) or in terms of a blooming middle class trade economy resulting in merchants with the financial power to challenge the monarchy (e.g the guild democracies like the Venetian Republic).  Of course that is a simplification of a more complex set of dynamics, but overall, consider how many times power changed hands in different countries across the dark ages and how many ended up with a more popular form of government being established.

Most of the fantasies that I've read that do explore those technological/economic changes, tend to flirt with other forms of government.  Abercrombie's latest series being a good example. 

Well, there are two issues with this analysis:

1. Yes, there’s a lot of swords, but there’s also, often, all kinds of magical powers that allow for capabilities well beyond our current technologies. Of course, they often reside in “special” people, but that, too, is a choice, not a necessity.

2. How things played out in our history need not be how they play out in a secondary world. Our own world has seen historical examples of more democratic governments than what was found in Medieval Europe, at times when technology was even more backwards. There’s no particular reason that non-monarchical governments must arise only with advancements in military and other technological areas. Especially not when so much else about these fantasy stories gets changed as required. 

Edited by fionwe1987
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On 1/27/2022 at 7:03 PM, Ashartus said:

I enjoyed the Licanius trilogy by James Islington - kind of old school (a bit of a Robert Jordan vibe to me) though sometimes I had trouble keeping the different places straight. I thought the Poppy War by R.F. Kuang was really good for more of an oriental setting, haven't read the whole series yet. But the fantasy field has really evolved over the last decade or so and I don't think there is as much of the "traditional" epic fantasy leading the market.

 

On 1/27/2022 at 11:09 PM, Starkess said:

The Licanius trilogy actually landed the ending. Not perfectly, but not so much I'd find the whole thing unreadable. Would recommend for someone wanting a fun "traditional" fantasy series. Okay maybe fun is the wrong word, but you know...

I read this last year as well and really enjoyed it.  There were parts where I thought the prose was a bit weak and some of the narrative was a bit contrived in places I thought; but overall it was a well crafted story and I enjoyed the back story and "mystery" of it.  I'm sure the part that was snipped out of the third book would have been unwieldy had he included it, but it really did seem to leave a hole in the story big enough to drive a truck through.  He says he has plans to write it up as a full story of its own, so I will keep an eye out for it.

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On 1/28/2022 at 10:15 AM, aceluby said:

I've been enjoying the shit out of Will Wight these days. 

I think Will Wight's a lot of fun. I don't know if it counts as epic fantasy if op's looking to scratch that itch specifically, but I definitely enjoyed them. 

I did like Islington, Weeks, and Jemisin if we're saying finished in the past 6 years and not started. I thought Evan Winter's Rage of Dragons was a good recent debut, haven't read the second yet though. I think Bone Shard Daughter came out in the past year. Edit: September 2020. 

Edited by AverageGuy
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  • 1 month later...

A song of Shattered Sand was fantastic series

 

marc lawerence last 2 series have been  great 

 

Sun eater has been pretty good so far for epic sci fi

 

Anthony ryans new series is off to a good start and his first one was solid as well

Brian mcllenans powder mage series is fun

 

along with some of the recommendations others have mentioned

 

 

 

 

 

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  • 3 months later...

I was going to joke that you should give me a chance because I'm like Joe Abercrombie meets Patrick Rothfuss meeting an illiterate third grader who met the world's greatest procrastinator, which is why my novel is still only 12k words or so and will never get finished, let alone published ... but then I thought better of it and decided to joke about the joke in a way that makes clear how witty I am while also demonstrating how humble and endearing I can be when a situation calls for it.

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More on-subject, I used to say that the Belgariad by David Eddings was the best series I had read. That was in high school, which at this point is over half my life ago and also falls into the last millennium which might explain why I found the series contrived and nigh-impossible to read when I picked it back up last year. I have different expectations now than I did when I was an almost-a-man. I think that has a lot to do with having read more, grown more as a person and just generally analyzing things through different lens.

On the other hand, I used to say that Drizzt Do'Urden was my favorite character in any series and I recently picked through those books as well ... with much better results. The introspective nature of Drizzt seems to have held up better for me than the overall world building, plot construction and character interactions of most of the series I used to enjoy. I think that's probably telling in terms of why I feel the way I do about books now.

I'm lucky in that I didn't read much for many years. I probably stopped reading heavily in 1998 or so. I discovered GRRM in 2006 and then didn't read much again until I found Rothfuss in 2017 or so. Those two set a high bar, being the only things I read in ~20 years. Having those two (exceedingly excellent but) unfinished series sparked me back to wanting to read but I'm now almost entirely on audiobooks, which gets expensive, so my pace was still fairly slow until I got a Scribd membership and forgot to turn off a free Audible subscription around the start of Covid. Now I "read" a lot more.

I don't think I ever thought about what I wanted to read when I was younger but it was probably based around fun and powerful characters. What I'm looking for as a ~40 year old has a whole lot more to do with realism in character interactions, gritty conflict > action and characters that have depth. I despise inconsistent characterization / forced plotting and surface-level interaction. I have a better appreciation for the complexity of the human experience, the uncertainties of life and the many-layered nature in which we all filter the world. I want characters and worlds that reflect this ... and that's admittedly really, really (really) hard to pull off.

I've said it in other threads but Abercrombie fits that bill far better than anyone else I've found since I started reading again. There are a number of other enjoyable books and series I've consumed but few felt as consistent and complete; few hit as many of the notes I want to hear. With that said, many of you probably read his stuff before me.

As I said, I'm lucky that I didn't read as much for many years. I've quite the backlog of stuff to discover. Your wait for more and different is a bit more fraught than my own.

Edited by Ser Not Appearing
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3 hours ago, Ser Not Appearing said:

 

I don't think I ever thought about what I wanted to read when I was younger but it was probably based around fun and powerful characters. What I'm looking for as a ~40 year old has a whole lot more to do with realism in character interactions, gritty conflict > action and characters that have depth. I despise inconsistent characterization / forced plotting and surface-level interaction. I have a better appreciation for the complexity of the human experience, the uncertainties of life and the many-layered nature in which we all filter the world. I want characters and worlds that reflect this ... and that's admittedly really, really (really) hard to pull off.

I've said it in other threads but Abercrombie fits that bill far better than anyone else I've found since I started reading again. There are a number of other enjoyable books and series I've consumed but few felt as consistent and complete; few hit as many of the notes I want to hear. With that said, many of you probably read his stuff before me.

 

I always feel a little odd commenting on Abercrombie since he lurks around here but...I largely agree with you. Where he sets himself apart IMO is that he's managed to strike the right balance between gritty realism and injecting levity. The character voice that he employs for the northmen I find hilarious. This keeps the books from taking themselves too seriously and descending into the 'I'm so dark' masturbation that makes those Batman movies so unwatchable.  

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46 minutes ago, Ninefingers said:

I always feel a little odd commenting on Abercrombie since he lurks around here but...

That's actually Abercrombie!?

In that case, I suppose I'm relieved that I enjoyed his books and praised them instead of crapping on them.

Edited by Ser Not Appearing
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2 hours ago, Ser Not Appearing said:

That's actually Abercrombie!?

In that case, I suppose I'm relieved that I enjoyed his books and praised them instead of crapping on them.

Yeah, we used to have a pretty good collection of the grimdark folks that would poke in around here.  Scott Lynch, Mark Lawrence, Dan Abraham, Abercrombie, and even Bakker have had accounts here where they interacted with posters.

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15 minutes ago, Rhom said:

Yeah, we used to have a pretty good collection of the grimdark folks that would poke in around here.  Scott Lynch, Mark Lawrence, Dan Abraham, Abercrombie, and even Bakker have had accounts here where they interacted with posters.

Pat Rothfuss, Leigh Bardugo and Chris Wooding as well.

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Richard K. Morgan, too!

The days when Reddit was a small niche site and Westeros.org was one of the main places online to talk fantasy and publishers and agents were pushing authors to come over here to promote their work.

Times have changed, but it was nice. And sometimes an author may pop in at random.

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10 minutes ago, Ran said:

Richard K. Morgan, too!

The days when Reddit was a small niche site and Westeros.org was one of the main places online to talk fantasy and publishers and agents were pushing authors to come over here to promote their work.

Times have changed, but it was nice. And sometimes an author may pop in at random.

Not a revert of Reddit popularity but I'll be interested to see how much more this place pops again once the new show drops.

Get your servers ready!

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