I want to preface this post by saying I adore the genre of fantasy. Give me magic, sword fights, knights and princesses over any other genre any day. But I notice, whenever I try to read epic fantasy novels, it takes me so long to finish them. Or, I don’t even finish them at all. I’m really into young adult fantasy and paranormal/supernatural media, but give me something like Lord of the Rings and I just….can’t.
I’ve been reading a more modern epic fantasy series lately, The Riyra Revelations by Michael J Sullivan. It grabbed me from the Audible preview, with how quirky the characters were, and how life like they were just from the 1 minute preview. It seemed like it would have fun characters to follow, and a plot that would be interesting, as we followed two thieves – and they both don’t have a heart of gold, they both have really differing, dynamic personalities, and complement each other perfectly. So I picked up the first 2 books in the series, and really liked the writing. The usual high fantasy books read like a different language to me, it’s just so hard to follow. But this one, that wasn’t the case at all! The first five chapters of the first book, I was enjoying thoroughly. The characters were amazing, and the preview I heard met every expectation I had for the series so far.
Smack dab in the middle of the book, we get a huge lull in the plot progression. Random out of the blue backstory for the world just thrown at us as a certain character is met. I got so tired of hearing the backstory that took up an entire chapter, I stopped reading for a few days.
Next chapter, story picked up again, hurray! I was so happy to be back to the central plot with the characters I loved and…oh here’s a monk spewing a ton more exposition about the religious structure of the land, why?
Don’t get me wrong: I know world building is important, and a poorly built world isn’t fun to visit in books. But the tonal shift between the expositional backstory and the actual present place adventure was so jarring, and the chapters are very long in length. So when I felt like we’d get back to the main story, only to have an hour of exposition dumping, it turned me off so much so that I read another book, came back to this one and wound up enjoying it a lot more because of that.
The exact thing happened to the second book in the series. Good beginning, but then we’d get sent off to a completely different, very long section of the book that would show us all the politics going on with the kingdoms and sniz and it took me days to go back to the book. It took me 2 months to get through both of these books, and both of them are ten hour reads so…I kept on asking myself, why? I do enjoy the series, all be it winding up to be a church system wanting power being corrupt plot in the end but there should be no reason that I can’t get through a book I enjoy easily.
So that got me thinking, is it something about epic fantasy in particular? About this book series? This series is self-published, and at times it shows: there are sections that really should be trimmed immensely, if not all together omitted because they add no real weight or interest to the story. But that aside, I think I may have figured out why epic fantasy has never been a sub genre of fantasy I can get into.
That would be, the pacing. I’ve tried to read other epic fantasy books, like the big greats: Lord of the Rings, is a prime example. I know there’s a good story buried under the mass amounts of travelling, story lulls, and immense world building, but for the life of me, it’s just so slow paced with it all, I can’t get through the first few pages. When something like say, The Lunar Chronicles series, is fantasy that has a good world, characters, and backstory, but is able to balance keeping a decently consistent pace in its plot and storytelling, that even if it had a more extensive exposition dump somewhere down the line it would feel more accessible to me than the abrupt stop and go of exposition that happens in epic fantasy settings. Even with how modernly written Riyra Revelations is, whenever it would get to those sections of backstory my brain would just check out.
It’s really a shame, because I’d love to read more epic fantasy. I know there are good stories in the genre, but it’s just so difficult for me to get through them. Though maybe reading them slowly isn’t a bad thing, and I just need to accept that that’s how I have to read epic fantasy if I want to read the genre.
All that being said, I’d love to hear your recommendations for good epic fantasy novels! I’m willing to give the genre as many tries as I have to, if it means I get to enjoy even more stories. Would love to hear your thoughts on epic fantasy as a subgenre of fantasy, as well!