The most epic fantasy book cycle? (non-Tolkien)

Jordan doesn’t have too many characters, he’s created too few worth caring about.

Salvatore is utter rubbish, a hack pushed onto the genre by TSR. If you want to read decent fantasy pulp try Gemmell (RIP).

Amen to Gemmel, although out of the boundaries of this thread.

Oh I dunno, the original group from Eye of the World was 8, add in a dozen or so Aes Sedai characters, whatever the number of Forsaken and their alternate personalities are, a dozen Ashaman, all the women the men picked up (Rand gets 3), the various Aiel elders (not to mention a few warriors), sprinkle in a few generals here and there… that’s an assload.

— Alan

I think he said “too few worth caring about”

So many of Jordan’s “characters” are basicly red-shirts that have been given names.

No, he said, “Jordan doesn’t have too many characters, he’s created too few worth caring about.”

There’s two different ideas there:

Jordan doesn’t have too many characters.


He’s created too few to care about.

If he was saying what you are implying, he would have said, “Jordan doesn’t have too many characters worth caring about.”

My point is that Jordan does have an assload of characters, and not minor ones, but ones that impact the major characters (let’s just say, the original 8 in the “Fellowship” for lack of a better term). The fact that you may or may not care about them really doesn’t really matter, but could be just another reason why people don’t like Jordan.

— Alan

I cut my teeth in this genre with Jordan and I still do enjoy the first 8 or so Wheel of Time books quite a bit. Book 9 practically nothing of real interest happens until the very end (when something earth-shattering happens and is promptly ignored and/or dismissed as having been made up for the entirety of book 10.). Book 10, fucking nothing whatsoever happened. I quit reading there. If he ever finishes it, and people seem to have gotten interested again, I might pick it back up. Where did the idea that he planned 12 books come from? I’ve never heard that, and given that at book 10 he still seemed to have another 8-10 books worth of plot to go, I find that very hard to believe.

Goodkind I picked up with the first book, Wizard’s First Rule, which gave no signs of being the start of an epic series. Long, but pretty engaging story with a lot of original elements. Satisfactory wrap-up of all extant plot threads. And then there was a sequel. I was slightly startled, but read and enjoyed that, to a lesser extent. And then another one. And one or the other turned it into a full-fledged epic tale with a lot of character torture and a very thinly veiled Stalinist communism as the enemy. The series was already losing me by book five or so, and the symbolism was so heavy-handed in book six I wanted to scream. And then it was, I think, book seven, and there were maybe 20 pages of the characters that were previously driving the series. It was otherwise 100% introduction to a totally out-of-the-blue new character. And I got so fed up that I stopped reading right then and there. I don’t think I’ll probably ever go back to that one. Read the first book, but beyond that…meh.

Martin and Erikson are absolutely the giants of the genre at this point. Martin’s much lower-fantasy with a lot of politics and treachery and bumping off of main characters and outright civil war. With much nastier things gathering outside the borders that really ought to be dealt with by a united kingdom, but… alas. Erikson other folks have described. Huge time scale, lots of gods and other major powers futzing with things. Enormous, dramatic conflicts. I’ve found every book so far to be rough getting into (he sometimes spends 5/6ths of a book building tension and weaving threads before the big shit goes down.) but increasingly compelling to the point of obsession the deeper into them I get. I’m not 100% convinced I like his writing. There’s nagging things that keep popping up and back down again before I can entirely identify them. But he’s telling much too good a story for me to really care.

Brooks…meh. I have distinct issues with a lot of his Shannara stuff, although I was rather captured by The Elfstones of Shannara. I do rather enjoy his Knight of the Word books, but those are an entirely different category of fantasy. And not what he’s turned into some hideous zillion book monstrosity, either.

Definitely also recommend the above-mentioned Greg Keyes series which has a lot of the things I like about both Martin and Erikson, plus his own twists. I really recommend pretty much anything he’s written, which also includes a pair of novels set in a Mayan-influenced animistic fantasy setting and a quartet that’s kind of Renaissance-punk with Newton’s more fantastical ideas actually holding true and turning into all sorts of weird Renaissance super-science. In the first book he slams a comet into Paris. Also there’s “angels” monkeying with things.

I take your point sir - I therefore amend the hypothesis thusly:

“Jordan makes a lot of characters, but there are few you care about.”

Most of the “major” characters that impact on the originals are pretty damned milque-taost.

I have to say…exactly what Erlend said. Except for one thing…I have a lesser opinion of the Wheel of Time which I rename to the Wheel of Complete and Utter Boredom.

Martin’s books are very good reads and highly acclaimed by many. Check them out.

I really, really liked Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders series. It’s sorta epic, great characters and only three volumes.

The Liveship novels were the best of the 9 books set in that world, definitely.

It’s sci-fantasy, but one of my favorites series is Julian May’s Sage of Pliocene Exile. Published in the early 80s (I remember buying the first in paperback and then walking down the mall to see Return of the Jedi and reading the back cover before the lights went out), they’re hard to paraphrase but basically the 21st century discovers a one-way time portal back to Pliocene earth and society decides to use it for social misfits. Unbeknownst to them, those misfits walk into a Europe that’s controlled by humanoid aliens who are basically heavy donators to humanity’s gene pool. Also, the 21st century sees humanity experience an evolutionary leap and a growing # become mentally operant, an addition to our genes from these aliens. The initial cast of characters revolves around one week’s group of time travellers, and of course they’re special and wreak havoc on the aliens.

Anyways, I’m doing a lousy job describing the books. They’re a lot of fun and everyone I’ve ever conned into reading them has agreed.

How Jordan compares to Terry Brooks as both seem to be quite stereotypical?

Because I have this first book of Jordan that I may read and I do know Terry Brooks (at least the first two books that I read when I was young and that I didn’t dislike, but without much to compare them to).

I have the impression that people dislike Jordan more because there’s much better and mature stuff than because his series is actually poor.

Somebody made a good pull with Zelazny’s old Amber series. Currently I’m passionate about Martin’s Ice and Fire. I have tried more than once to get going with Erikson’s Malazan and for the life of me I cannot get through the first book. Someone recommended moving on to the 2nd book as they are not strictly chronological or serial and I may resort to that.

Yes so Jordan is actually poor overall–the books are overlong and filled with chapters of gigantic nothingness, stupid characters, little plot movement, etc. That means poor to me. There’s a lot better stuff out there… not just more mature, just better. Lots better. I couldn’t tell you if Erikson would be it or not.

Martin’s works are extremely mature and very adult; the themes it presents are what makes it great, and is one of the reasons why HBO is making it into a series.

BTW you said you stayed away from Eddings because it seemed to be “historical” fantasy–there’s nothing historical (meaning, from our past) about any of Eddings works (except for maybe High Hunt, which is suspense, not fantasy). I didn’t mention his “middle” series, the Elenium and Tamuli, which I think work fairly well but mostly present the same type of themes from the earlier series.

Also of mention is Steven Brust’ Vlad Taltos cycle, which, while they are short books, are mostly pretty good as high fantasy.

I also think Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon and Arthur series are great historical series that are very fantasy-ish and as stories can compete with most of them, hands down.

— Alan

I think David Milch is a fair comparison although the mediums are quite different.

Uhm… the Chronicles of Narnia does take place over a large area (hell, they sail to the end of the world in the third book), and basically tells the history of an entire world from the day it was created to the day it crumbles. That’s pretty damn epic.

Jordan’s books are just filled with filler, and more irritatingly, nearly all his women are the same damn character. If you’re a fast reader, you may find it OK - but wait until the 12th book comes out. If he dies before it’s finished, you don’t want to have started the dmn thing.

Eddings is fairly decent, nothing too special, and all the series after the first 5book one are pretty much him re-telling the same stories with the same characters.

Terry Goodkind… read malkav’s post to get an idea of what I think of him. Good first book, but then it got a little silly.

I suppose technically some of the Pern books qualify as an epic series. Seems like a very-love/hate series though - I didn’t really find it bad, but there are some who don’t like it at all.

So basically, I don’t think I’ve ever really read any good fantasy. Acceptable, yes, but not good. Maybe I’ll look into this Erikson series, because what I’ve heard of Martin makes me disinclined to read his books.

I am reading Malazan (pop into the what are you reading threads sometimes!) and almost done with the most recent. Highly original. Very little of his world-building even reminds me of things I’ve read before.

Wheel of Time I am going to finish as soon as he is done. I’ve read up to the point after they use the statues. I stopped halfway through the next book when realizing that most of the book takes place BEFORE the previous.

Avoid Goodkind. He’s a blatant rip-off of Jordan with even less interesting ideas, and is far more gorey. The first couple books have some bizarre, interesting things in them, but things get more ridiculous and tedious as time goes on.

As I did so recently, I must again pimp the Deverry series by Katherine Kerr. It’s an epic in a way, but more in the classical sense. That is, there is no buildup to one huge clash with a winner and a loser. It tells a very long tale which is full of sadness and brutal realities. It’s not high fantasy, though it does have magic and (later on) dragons. It has Elves, but they are basically nomadic herders who have lost most of their cultures. There are classical style dwarves. The story is told in a non-linear fashion, going back to previous lives in each book. In her world, people are reborn again and again, until they fulfill their Wyrd, which is another term for their destiny. The main arc of the first set of books deals with a man who made himself ageless by promising to do so for the love of his life, who promptly drowns. He spends centuries finding her in various forms. It takes off to other characters from there. The world is inhabited by people that would be a breakoff sect of Gauls a couple thousand + years ago when they were escaping the Romans. Her prose is pretty tight, her world-building is highly realistic and she isn’t prone to wandering plotlines that don’t go anywhere. Definitely recommend starting.

BTW, it’s not precisely “epic”, but I loved Bujold’s Chalion series (well, the first 2 anyway - the third was set in the same universe but a different timeline, so really didn’t feel like part of the same series).

A great setting, interesting religious background, and likable, engaging characters. The first two pretty much conclude a nice story arc - not sure if she’ll continue the storyline in that world, but you could stop after the first two stories and be very satisfied.

Guy Gavriel Kay, Modesitt, Brust, and Mercedes Lackey are the authors who come to mind for epic fantasy.

Though GGK’s trilogy is basically LotR reskinned.

More votes for Patricia McKillip and Guy Gavriel Kay. Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry may have been Tolkein-like, but the rest of his work is in his own distinct style. Tigana is one of my all-time favourites.

I was “meh” about George R.R. Martin. A Game of Thrones It felt like a fantasy novel written by Tom Clancy: lots of politics, lots of people, no real characters. And it seemed that as soon as he created what might be an interesting unifying trope (eg. the direwolf pups adopted by the Stark children), he gets bored and discards it. But I’ve only read the first book in the series, and things might have improved.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series (starting with The Curse of Chalion) struck me as a more successful variation of “epic political machination” fantasy. Mainly because it focuses on the experiences of a single deeply damaged character, rather than a swarm of faceless ones.