Now that the eighth season of Game of Thrones is hitting the channel, maybe it’s time for a confession – or rather: a few.
One: fantasy fiction is one of my guilty pleasures. Two: apart from season 1 many years ago, I haven’t watched any GOT (I did read most of the books though … and yes, they are amazing!). Three: fantasy books have the power to make me cry (I never cry!).
I came to fantasy late in life, which is unusual. As a university student, I guess I looked down on the genre (I mean: those covers!). Luckily, I came to my senses later in life, as one usually does.
When I was 30 or thereabouts I decided, in a fit of boredom, to tackle The Hobbit. That was, much to my surprise, a really enjoyable read.
After that, for a year or two, I read fantasy and fantasy only. It was a great time. Fantasy gave me a pleasure of reading that, to be frank, I hadn’t experienced since I was a teenager.
Every evening, after work, I just got lost in weird worlds and stranger stories. And although I consume fantasy in much smaller doses now, I keep coming back to it in times of need (it helps me escape life for a bit) or just when I’m in for a great read.
The trouble is: there’s a lot of dross, so you need to do some research. Most of the artwork, sadly, is not in any way helpful: even the greatest books have the silliest covers.
So here’s a recommendation, a trilogy – or rather 2 of them – that fantasy veterans will surely know about: The Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest) and the follow-up, The Tawny Man Trilogy (Fool’s Errand, The Golden Fool and Fool’s Fate) by the great Robin Hobb.
I rate the work of George R.R. Martin highly, but Hobb is up there with him. And although her books are gritty, there is a very subtle female touch in them that I think is rare in the genre.
The story starts out as a classic one (orphan is sent to a castle and treated cruelly, bonds with a wolf, turns out to have magical powers blah blah blah) but it quickly leaves the well-trodden paths.
And while I’m not hugely keen on magic, Hobb keeps it very palatable. The characters feel ‘real’ and many of them are truly unforgettable. It’s more than 15 years ago I read those 6 books now, and although I have forgotten many details, there’s still a lot I remember.
The Golden Fool is one of the most enigmatic figures I have encountered in any piece of fiction. I still think of Nighteyes, the wolf, regularly. He reminds me of my first dog. The scene where he dies – as yes, you know he must – is so beautiful, breathtaking and original, it reduced me to tears.
And although the story gets stranger as you read along, Hobb manages to keep you totally involved. It’s a pity summer is coming, for it’s a perfect winter read!
PS: you need to read the 6 books in the right order, as listed above