The book you don't like that most everyone else seems to like ...

Maxal

Drinks Elfbark tea with FitzChivalry
Seriously, WoT has the most brilliant, deep and enthralling world-building spanning across millenniums I have ever read. Nothing can compare to the richness of this world and even if some characters can be tiring, even if it does play around with classical tropes, just the world by itself is worth the read. People will generally praise Tolkien for his world-building skills, but Jordan's work doesn't pale in comparison, it shines. While Tolkien managed to pass most of his world-building through cumbersome and hard to read Silmarillion and/or his Appendices and/or sometimes hard to appreciate songs, Jordan push it through within his main narrative.

The Age of Legend, an Utopian technologically advanced age where people's worth is determined based on their accomplishments, their service to the society and not their possessions. Human life span has increased to unseen levels, war is an odd concept only found in dusty old books about an age which has come to pass (our own), sickness is forgotten and people live long fulfilling life up until an experiment goes bad and a dark entity is allowed to leave its prison. Then, it starts to play onto the weaknesses of the system as when worth is praised, there will be those who'd fill they aren't appreciated enough. It played on those feelings, magnified them up until the perfect world collapsed onto itself in a nearly endless war which accumulated into the world's complete destruction. I would have read 14 books just onto the Age of Legend. They had planes, cars, elevators and everything our modern day has to offer, only it isn't powered by electricity, but the One Power, a clean source of energy. We can imagine how the transition from our world to this world happened. There too, I would have taken a whole trilogy.

And then the world collapses, mountains arose where lakes once where, oceans dried out and what lay where changed. From its rumble, arose a new one where women were in charge, where men were hunted for the destructive powers they sometimes possessed. Women had to become hard, fierce, demeaning towards men even because allowing one man to roam free with his powers would mean another breaking of the world which nobody thinks humanity can survive twice.

The only small consolation is they managed to seal of the dark entity back in its prison, but it weakening... 3000/4000 years later, nobody truly thinks about it anymore, until the Dragon is born again and the Wheel starts weaving again. Those 3000/4000 years could house several trilogies....

The concept of the Wheel which always turns, which always go back to where it was is fascinating. Seriously, authors could write dozen and dozen of books within this one world and never get repetitive. Never.

Also, unlike LoTR, WoT doesn't really end. Oh the series has an ending, but so much is left open, one could write a few more books to see where it goes from there. It would have different characters, different narrative, but it doesn't end into the old king being back on its throne which magically solves all problems as the right blood is now in place. And everyone is fine and happy about it.

Thus skipping WoT simply because some are given it a bad reputation because 2-3 books, after waiting two years (two years, not four years, we have gotten much more tolerant on series speed release as even sick Jordan never delayed his book by more than 2-3 years), were disappointing. They were more so disappointing one of th books didn't feature one of readers favorite character which caused a ruckus within the fandom. However, if you aren't waiting for the next book, the middle books are fine to read. I never got the recommendations to skip them and just read the description onto Wikipedia: those books are good, they just do not focus on what readers wanted them to focus on.

The WoT story just spans so large in so many plot arcs it is truly incredible and the world... The various lands, the cities, the cultures, the people: so much imagination and thought went into it. Jordan also got his characters moving around a lot, so you aren't stuck getting glimpses of his world through interludes via unknown minor characters, you see it from the main protagonists eyes.

It is great, Jordan puts the E into Epic Fantasy. Sure, it isn't perfect, but it is definitely worth giving it a try baring in mind it was written 30 years ago, so it doesn't follow the most recent trend. It is a slow burner, no avalanche nor non-stop action nor grimmest for the shake of being grim.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
but Uprooted was a let-down. I did manage to finish it, but it felt like two different books that don't like each other were forced into the same binding....
Noor, what a great description that is. You're quite the wordsmith and a welcome addition to our already impressive group of excellent writers.

Oh, and I want to add my view that WOT is quite the opposite of misogynist storytelling. It actually raises the importance of women in epic fantasy and by quite a lot.
 
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Anti_Quated

Journeyed there and back again
Fair enough mate, even I'm not averse to the odd shame-spiral or decadent throwaway popcorn indulgence. I draw the line at The Fast and the Furious, mind ;)

Seriously, WoT has the most brilliant, deep and enthralling world-building spanning across millenniums I have ever read. Nothing can compare to the richness of this world... It is great, Jordan puts the E into Epic Fantasy. Sure, it isn't perfect, but it is definitely worth giving it a try baring in mind it was written 30 years ago, so it doesn't follow the most recent trend. It is a slow burner, no avalanche nor non-stop action nor grimmest for the shake of being grim.
As I hope my egregious exhortations encourage pursuit of The Black Company series, this post has changed my mind about WoT. I was going to skip it purely in favour of getting to Malazan sooner. Now I'm not sure which to tackle first. I suspect I will enjoy Malazan more, but that may be worth holding off on as I have done... delayed gratification, if you will.

Between the two, and my extant TBR, I expect to have reading material for the next three to five years at least.
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
The Wheel of Time is so far the only fantasy series I've seen accused of both misandry and misogyny. I think those sort of accusations just come with the territory when an author tries to look unflinchingly at gender relations and power-dynamics on both sides of the fence. There's something to saying Jordan shows a somewhat stereotypical, old-fashioned understanding of gender relations... I think my response these days is "And?". Some people have them. Some cultures still live by them. A world where we only consume art from those who hold our values is, personally, a sad one and a dangerous one. Consumption does not have to imply agreement. Go and write your own Epic about your own your view on gender relations if you really disagree that badly.

Yeah, there's a bunch of storytelling choices that turn people off. I think that happens with everything but the length of WoT means there's more of them. I think personally of all the things I like about Wheel of Time, actually reading them comes fairly low down the list. As and when I possess the magical ability to resurrect authors then make them work in teams, I'd love to pair Jordan's Big Ideas with someone with a surer hand for storytelling and prose.

And stuff. Main point, as made by others - there's a lot of reasons to dislike Wheel of Time, but I do not believe misogyny is one of them.
 

Darwin

Journeyed there and back again
As a youngish California liberal, I think the old-fashioned setting in WoT is one of the most brilliant things about the series. Egwene is one of my favorite characters, basically tied with Mat. From the moment she leaves Emond's Field, she's eager to break free of the role expected of her. She's a strong female character throughout the entire series. Each of the other main characters have their eyes opened as well. Perrin consistently just wants to go home, to be a small town man again. Back to the old-fashion, conservative utopia of the Two Rivers, right? But abroad he meets the love of his life, and when they return he's able to bring back outside ideas that drastically alter (and improve) the Two Rivers. Rand is more of a plot device than a character for like 7 straight books, but even then he's extremely progressive as a ruler. He gives rights to the common people and takes them from the nobility, he uses diplomacy and generosity to end generations-old conflict between neighboring countries, he funds public research, etc. And he does all of this in countries that hadn't changed substantially in a generation or more.

The traditional, old-fashioned gender roles and societal norms are the starting point, and several of the characters shrug them off and find something better. And that's what being progressive is all about: change. WoT manages to tell a progressive story in a way that is inoffensive to readers regardless of political allegiance. That's pretty rare and valuable for any type of entertainment, not just fantasy literature.
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
The biggest that comes to mind is The Hobbit. I really, really didn't like it. I keep meaning to get around to Lord of the Rings just because I feel like I should read it. I read about half of Fellowship years back and felt about the same as I feel about The Hobbit and put it down. I respect Tolkien a ton for what he did for fantasy, but his work just doesn't hold up super well to more modern fantasy authors, imo. His characters are paper thin and his plot is simplistic and has been copied by others so much at this point that it feels cliche beyond belief. His setting also feels painfully generic at this point. I tend not to read much fantasy that takes place in those generic medieval Europe-esque worlds, and I hate long travelling the countryside plots with a passion. Most of my favorite fantasy books take place entirely in one location, often a weird and interesting city that has a lot of political and cultural depth.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
The biggest that comes to mind is The Hobbit. I really, really didn't like it. I keep meaning to get around to Lord of the Rings just because I feel like I should read it. I read about half of Fellowship years back and felt about the same as I feel about The Hobbit and put it down. I respect Tolkien a ton for what he did for fantasy, but his work just doesn't hold up super well to more modern fantasy authors, imo. His characters are paper thin and his plot is simplistic and has been copied by others so much at this point that it feels cliche beyond belief. His setting also feels painfully generic at this point. I tend not to read much fantasy that takes place in those generic medieval Europe-esque worlds, and I hate long travelling the countryside plots with a passion. Most of my favorite fantasy books take place entirely in one location, often a weird and interesting city that has a lot of political and cultural depth.
Just out of curiosity; which fantasy franchises do you like? You disqualified a rather large segment of fantasy lit by those statements.

Ever read the Gentleman Bastards Sequence by Scott Lynch? Judging from what you said in that post you'd really like it.
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
Just out of curiosity; which fantasy franchises do you like? You disqualified a rather large segment of fantasy lit by those statements.

Ever read the Gentleman Bastards Sequence by Scott Lynch? Judging from what you said in that post you'd really like it.
I did read the first one, Lies of Locke Lamora, and liked it quite a bit. Haven't gotten around to the second one yet. Fantasy is far more varied than you're giving it credit for, I think. You can find pretty much every other genre that exists inside the overarching branch of fantasy. It's like a spice rather than a main ingredient. There's plenty out there that eschew the Lord of the Rings-esque book-length travelogue.

For instance, pretty much anything Brandon Sanderson has ever written. Elantris takes place in two cities which are right by each other. Mistborn takes place primarily in one city. Warbreaker takes place in one city. Each of his three Reckoner books take place in a different city. The Emperor's Soul takes place entirely in the same couple of rooms in a palace, etc.

Some other favorites that come to mind are The Broken Empire trilogy, Alphabet of Thorn (among other McKillip books), The Queen's Thief series, Shades of Magic, etc. And then there's all the fantasy that takes place in a contemporary setting like The Dresden Files, most of Neil Gaiman's novels, Garden Spells, The Magicians, etc. Then there's just straight up weird stuff like Perdido Street Station. I love it all, just as long as multiple pages are not spent uneventfully travelling through a faux English countryside with far too many words spent on descriptions of scenery and far too little on dialogue, plot, and conflict of some kind.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
I did read the first one, Lies of Locke Lamora, and liked it quite a bit. Haven't gotten around to the second one yet. Fantasy is far more varied than you're giving it credit for, I think. You can find pretty much every other genre that exists inside the overarching branch of fantasy. It's like a spice rather than a main ingredient. There's plenty out there that eschew the Lord of the Rings-esque book-length travelogue.

For instance, pretty much anything Brandon Sanderson has ever written. Elantris takes place in two cities which are right by each other. Mistborn takes place primarily in one city. Warbreaker takes place in one city. Each of his three Reckoner books take place in a different city. The Emperor's Soul takes place entirely in the same couple of rooms in a palace, etc.

Some other favorites that come to mind are The Broken Empire trilogy, Alphabet of Thorn (among other McKillip books), The Queen's Thief series, Shades of Magic, etc. And then there's all the fantasy that takes place in a contemporary setting like The Dresden Files, most of Neil Gaiman's novels, Garden Spells, The Magicians, etc. Then there's just straight up weird stuff like Perdido Street Station. I love it all, just as long as multiple pages are not spent uneventfully travelling through a faux English countryside with far too many words spent on descriptions of scenery and far too little on dialogue, plot, and conflict of some kind.
You are correct. It's just that a lot of fantasy series tend to take place in a Medievalesque world and/or contain lots of traveling (especially books in the epic fantasy segment). In recent years this has gotten better I think. You name some good examples.
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
You are correct. It's just that a lot of fantasy series tend to take place in a Medievalesque world and/or contain lots of traveling (especially books in the epic fantasy segment). In recent years this has gotten better I think. You name some good examples.
It did take the entire world quite a while to escape the genre-creating influence of granddaddy Tolkien, but we've pretty much been right there for the past decade. Most new fantasy novels I come across tend to have a somewhat interesting setting and have a decently complex plot that's more involved than travelling from point A to B. I honestly can't remember the last time I came across a fantasy novel that at all reminded me of LoTR, not counting the rare times I go to used book fairs and happen upon dusty fantasy tomes from the 70s and 80s.
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
I don't think its all Tolkien to be honest. I think the journey/medieval pastiche things owe fairly big debts to Conan and D&D, not to mention the huge number of quests and journeys in the historic European epics.

Well, that and publishers pushing various things and not understanding how to market others.
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
I don't think its all Tolkien to be honest. I think the journey/medieval pastiche things owe fairly big debts to Conan and D&D, not to mention the huge number of quests and journeys in the historic European epics.

Well, that and publishers pushing various things and not understanding how to market others.
D&D would straight up not exist without Tolkien and LoTR. Basically every creature and race in original D&D is ripped straight from Tolkien, and it wasn't invented until 1974, long after the genre was established. D&D was influenced by things. It wasn't itself an influence on much of anything. Well, except video games. Conan did come first, I'll grant you, but it's also not really the same thing, is it? It was sticking far more closely to the the arthurian style of low-fantasy, takes place on Earth in a "lost age," afaik it's all humans, etc. The only reason it's not pure historical fiction is because it was too hard to do the research, so he kept it vague and placed it before the recorded history of the oldest civilizations. That sort of secondary world creation thing with elves and unique creation myths and such hadn't really happened yet.
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
D&D took in a *lot* of different fantasy influences and gave most of them twists. The fantasy of D&D is substantially different to that of Tolkien's in tone and I would argue, a lot more influential on the authors of the 80s and 90s. Tolkien is at best an aesthetic influence.

Conan established the travelling hero before LotR did. Although, again, the travelling hero is a feature of the oldest epics.

And I'm very curious as to how you define low fantasy if you think the Arthurian cycle is low fantasy.
 

ExTended

Journeyed there and back again
What you are describing right now is more commonly known as "The Hero's Journey" and it's not Tolkien's invention the same way a guy using river stones to build his house hasn't invented river stones.

The Hero's Journey have been around for as long as there was written literature in our world, probably even before that. Hero goes on a journey, hero accomplishes the quest, hero comes back to his home bringing in gifts or wisdom.

The other big story-telling approach is The Three Act Format, which is 1. Put your characters on a tree, 2. Throw rocks at them, 3. Cut the tree down.

Those are very, very common ways for structuring a riveting story. What Tolkien did is combining this with compeling world-bulding, innovative at that time premise, and beautiful prose. And at his time - it was genious.

The thing is - those super fancy fantasy series that we all hold dear today weren't written pre-2000. So they couldn't have been published pre-2000, could they? It's just ridiculous bashing the older generation of fantasy writers and publishers for not evolving beyond the most wide-spread story-telling structure in the history of humanity in a more timely manner.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
I do see where Vasher is coming from though. When you read books like Eragon and Sword of Shannara you can't help but see they're derivative from the Lord of the Rings. Of course not everything can be attributed to LOTR (like Extended says, the format has been around since the time of Hamurabi), but there are a lot of Tolkien copy-cats. Same happened after ASOIAF got successful. All of a sudden the fantasy world was inundated by writers trying to piggy-back ride on the success of GRRM.
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
D&D took in a *lot* of different fantasy influences and gave most of them twists. The fantasy of D&D is substantially different to that of Tolkien's in tone and I would argue, a lot more influential on the authors of the 80s and 90s. Tolkien is at best an aesthetic influence.

Conan established the travelling hero before LotR did. Although, again, the travelling hero is a feature of the oldest epics.

And I'm very curious as to how you define low fantasy if you think the Arthurian cycle is low fantasy.
Well, genres are a sticky business, but seeing as how the myth of king arthur is literally about our real world history and people who supposedly existed, I don't really consider it high fantasy. This is just something I lifted from the wikipedia article on high fantasy, not that wikipedia is the end all be all.

"High fantasy is defined as fantasy set in an alternative, fictional ("secondary") world, rather than "the real", or "primary" world. The secondary world is usually internally consistent, but its rules differ from those of the primary world. By contrast, low fantasy is characterized by being set in the primary, or "real" world, or a rational and familiar fictional world, with the inclusion of magical elements."
 

Vasher

Helped Logen count his fingers
What you are describing right now is more commonly known as "The Hero's Journey" and it's not Tolkien's invention the same way a guy using river stones to build his house hasn't invented river stones.

The Hero's Journey have been around for as long as there was written literature in our world, probably even before that. Hero goes on a journey, hero accomplishes the quest, hero comes back to his home bringing in gifts or wisdom.

The other big story-telling approach is The Three Act Format, which is 1. Put your characters on a tree, 2. Throw rocks at them, 3. Cut the tree down.

Those are very, very common ways for structuring a riveting story. What Tolkien did is combining this with compeling world-bulding, innovative at that time premise, and beautiful prose. And at his time - it was genious.

The thing is - those super fancy fantasy series that we all hold dear today weren't written pre-2000. So they couldn't have been published pre-2000, could they? It's just ridiculous bashing the older generation of fantasy writers and publishers for not evolving beyond the most wide-spread story-telling structure in the history of humanity in a more timely manner.
Who's bashing? I'm just saying that I PERSONALLY do not like old fantasy that is derivative of Tolkien, because I also don't like Tolkien. And it is derivative. The hero's journey is a very loose structure that does not necessitate a medieval england esque world full of white englishmen. It doesn't, strictly speaking, necessitate a physical journey at all. I have no problem with the hero's journey. I have a problem with the Tolkien-esque trappings that other fantasy copied for a long time, namely the exact same boring setting, the same paper thin characters, and the same travel to get macguffin plot without any twist on it at all.
 

Theophania

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
And, of course, there's the standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants thing: everything we do, everything we are, is the sum of not only our own experiences but of the experiences of everyone who came before. I don't like Tolkien's writing either - but one can't deny that his books kick-started modern fantasy the way we see it now. Yes, there was fantasy before that - but not in quite the same way.

Chap called Dalton wrote a little book on the development of the various sub-genres of fantasy (here).

So, once you've got someone who's made a big advance, you'll get other people building on it. There'll be some who are basically re-hashing the same thing without adding anything new, and then you'll get the ones who make their own incremental advances. And, of course, changes in society dictate changes in writing style - in the 70s, when it was all hippies and flower-power, you get stuff like The War for the Oaks. Nowadays, we've got grimdark... say no more.

You could probably write something psychological about whether we have grimdark fantasy because that's what we want, or because that's what we think we deserve...

But the bottom line for me is that I don't think we could have the range and depth of fantasy stories that we have now, without everyone who came before adding their bit to the supporting structure, just like you start building a house from the bottom and work your way up.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
in the 70s, when it was all hippies and flower-power, you get stuff like The War for the Oaks.
I like that book a lot. But its imagery is nothing of flower-power. It was also published in 87, and the atmosphere of it is pretty much 80s, not 70s. Also the Unseelie Court is fucking terrifying. The book has quite a lot of dark moments in it.
Interesting you mention it since it was a pioneering work of urban fantasy, just like LotR was for epic fantasy.