Forums > Off-Topic Discussion > Fantasy Writers and the Worlds They Create

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Compass Rose Studios

Posts: 15979

Portland, Oregon, US

I don't really read much fantasy.  (If TLDR, skip to the question at the bottom)

One of the reasons is Tolkien.  Tolkien's Middle Earth is so multi-dimensional and has so much depth.  It has a geography.  Complex flora and fauna.  Languages.  Songs.  Mysteries.  A deep, deep history.  Entertwined with myths.  Every race has a history and a distinct culture.  Besides the good vs. evil theme, the stories play out less in absolutes and more in subtleties and shades of gray.  It even makes clever ties with our world today.   

When I read something like Harry Potter or the Dark Materials Trilogy, while I enjoyed the stories and parts of those worlds felt real (at times), they fall far short of the sense of awe I get when reading say LOTR.  Things get fuzzy around the edges.  Some things feel clearly improvised later rather than built in from the beginning.  They don't feel like they exist in a real universe. 

Can you introduce me to any fantasy writers who've created worlds as vivid and detailed and deep as Tolkien's?

Oct 03 12 02:57 pm Link

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Ronin_LLC

Posts: 2012

Louisville, Kentucky, US

Jim Butcher's "Dresden files", and Brian Lumbry's "Necroscope" books.

Both very good.

Oct 03 12 03:34 pm Link

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scrymettet

Posts: 32286

Quebec, Quebec, Canada

on the funny side Terry Pratchett.

Oct 03 12 04:55 pm Link

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Lawrence Guy

Posts: 17683

Spring Valley, California, US

Ronin_LLC wrote:
Jim Butcher's "Dresden files", and Brian Lumbry's "Necroscope" books.

Both very good.

Love the Dresden Files, but they still have an improvised feel to them.


For Sci-Fi I'd suggest Dune and the Vorkosigan saga.

Oct 03 12 05:20 pm Link

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Jacob Davis

Posts: 858

Boulder, Colorado, US

As suggested above, Terry Pratchet's Discworld series is funny, and epically huge. The vastness is enabled by its ad hoc absurdity, and in that sense is not so detailed as Tolkein.

The only fantasy series I've read that I feel is on Tolkein's level is Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. It's gigantic and its world at the time of the characters is quite detailed, although it uses the "lost civilization" trope to gloss over some historical details. It still manages to be fairly detailed in its world history though, relying heavily on recorded history after the cataclysm of the afore-mentioned lost civilization. The story is driven with strong character narratives, and the cast is pretty diverse. Jordan passed away while writing it, though, and Brandon Sanderson was picked by Jordan's estate to finish the series. So far, he hasn't disappointed.

Oct 03 12 05:47 pm Link

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Brian Diaz

Posts: 63192

Danbury, Connecticut, US

Yeah, I was going to say Robert Jordan, though it's clearly heavily derived from Tolkien.

I enjoyed reading David Farland's Runelords series.  It's certainly not on the same scale, but it's entertaining without being too insulting.

Oct 03 12 05:57 pm Link

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K Allende

Posts: 14172

Columbus, Ohio, US

Robert Jordan.

George R. R. Martin.

I wouldn't say they are as detailed in exactly the same ways, but the worlds and characters are deep, weaving, and intricate.

I'll be back later with more names unless I totes forget about this thread.
DEBATE TIME. big_smile

Oct 03 12 06:02 pm Link

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Jacob Davis

Posts: 858

Boulder, Colorado, US

Isabel Allende wrote:
George R. R. Martin.

I'm enjoying his writing lately. Only on the second book, though.

That reminds me: Joe Abercrombie. Think of the dirtiest, grittiest TV cop show you've ever watched with characters that are so well written that you have to love them, no matter how gigantic an asshole they turn to be. Cast that into a high fantasy series, and that's Abercrombie. His "First Law" trilogy is interconnected, and the follow up books build on the world with familiar but unexplored characters. The scale and detail aren't nearly comparable to Tolkein or Jordan, but his writing style is great if your into that sort of drama. Game of Thrones kind of reminds me of it, but lacks the deeply flawed (but lovable) characters of Abercrombie's series.

Oct 03 12 06:55 pm Link

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K Allende

Posts: 14172

Columbus, Ohio, US

Jacob Davis wrote:
I'm enjoying his writing lately. Only on the second book, though.

That reminds me: Joe Abercrombie. Think of the dirtiest, grittiest TV cop show you've ever watched with characters that are so well written that you have to love them, no matter how gigantic an asshole they turn to be. Cast that into a high fantasy series, and that's Abercrombie. His "First Law" trilogy is interconnected, and the follow up books build on the world with familiar but unexplored characters. The scale and detail aren't nearly comparable to Tolkein or Jordan, but his writing style is great if your into that sort of drama. Game of Thrones kind of reminds me of it, but lacks the deeply flawed (but lovable) characters of Abercrombie's series.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tales_of_Dunk_and_Egg

For when you get through the rest of the books and are like the rest of us waiting desperately for him to finish the next installment. It takes place in the same world.

That is, as long as you keep enjoying his writing of course. tongue

Oct 03 12 06:59 pm Link

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immateria

Posts: 15446

Brooklyn, New York, US

I'm writing a fantasy novel. I could never pretend to rival the works of Tolkien: they are awe-inspiring. But reading his works helps me structure my writing. I have a creation myth, a general history, and a sociopolitical layout for the world in which my story is set in.

Oct 03 12 07:41 pm Link

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Compass Rose Studios

Posts: 15979

Portland, Oregon, US

Thanks for the suggestions (and keep 'em coming if you have more!), I'm definitely going to check out Robert Jordan. 

I'm a bit hesitant with George R.R. Martin because I've heard over and over that as the series goes on everybody you grow to like DIES. 

Immateria, keep working on the novel!  I'd love to read samples (and am an editor fwiw, albeit a marcom editor).

Oct 03 12 08:47 pm Link

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Calypso Moon

Posts: 848

Banning, California, US

If you try to find a fantasy writer as good as Tolkien, you're going to have a bad time.

Oct 03 12 08:49 pm Link

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Compass Rose Studios

Posts: 15979

Portland, Oregon, US

Emily Archer wrote:
If you try to find a fantasy writer as good as Tolkien, you're going to have a bad time.

http://southparkstudios.mtvnimages.com/images/shows/southpark/vertical_video/import/season_06/sp_0603_03_m4.jpg?width=200

Oct 03 12 08:51 pm Link

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Through Elizabeths Eyes

Posts: 4916

Yelm, Washington, US

Robert Jordan makes me want to punch kittens, but I can't stop reading the books anyway.

I love the Game of Thrones series, but yes, while everyone dies, it's also very realistic in the sense of this is actually shit that would have happened. It's not all rainbows and kittens, and he reminds you of that while still bringing forth a great story.

Oct 03 12 09:07 pm Link

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K Allende

Posts: 14172

Columbus, Ohio, US

Compass Rose Studios wrote:
Thanks for the suggestions (and keep 'em coming if you have more!), I'm definitely going to check out Robert Jordan. 

I'm a bit hesitant with George R.R. Martin because I've heard over and over that as the series goes on everybody you grow to like DIES. 

Immateria, keep working on the novel!  I'd love to read samples (and am an editor fwiw, albeit a marcom editor).

There are tons of characters in the Game of Thrones story that I like and are still alive. But he does kill off characters without any concern for if they were a fan fave or not, it is all about the story and the story is huge.

Oct 03 12 09:14 pm Link

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Jacob Davis

Posts: 858

Boulder, Colorado, US

Isabel Allende wrote:
There are tons of characters in the Game of Thrones story that I like and are still alive. But he does kill off characters without any concern for if they were a fan fave or not, it is all about the story and the story is huge.

Part of the hook is in wondering if those characters you love will survive, or how they might drastically change.

Oct 03 12 09:45 pm Link

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Compass Rose Studios

Posts: 15979

Portland, Oregon, US

Through Elizabeths Eyes wrote:
I love the Game of Thrones series, but yes, while everyone dies, it's also very realistic in the sense of this is actually shit that would have happened. It's not all rainbows and kittens, and he reminds you of that while still bringing forth a great story.

I respect a good story.  And can see Thrones appeal.

But I'm reminded the world's not all rainbows and kittens when I read the news.  I'm looking for a little escapism in my escapism.

Oct 03 12 10:34 pm Link

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DHayes Photography

Posts: 4854

Richmond, Virginia, US

While not exactly fantasy, Cherie Priest's "Clockwork Century" steampunk novels and short stories set in that world are fun.  The American Civil War is still raging after 20 years, Texas is an independent nation and European powers have taken sides and are lending support.  Technology includes airships, submarines, steam and diesel powered mechs and other Jules Vernesque marvels.  Toss in a drug-addiction fueled "zombie" outbreak and stand back!  All the novels are loosely interconnected.  Read "Boneshaker" first and then perhaps "Clementine" which is a ripping yarn about fugitive slaves turned air pirates out to recover their stolen airship (which they stole first).  And stay one step ahead of Confederate and Federal authorities, not to mention a pesky female Confederate spy who has stowed away on their airship.

Oct 04 12 03:59 am Link

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Drew Smith Photography

Posts: 5210

Nottingham, England, United Kingdom

Yes, yes I can. smile

As somebody has already recommended - The Disc World series from Terry Pratchett: imo one of the best observers of the human condition currently writing. He reach his zenith (imo) with Night Watch and Going Postal.

But my all time favourite: The Dark Tower series (7 books) by Stephen King.

Oct 04 12 04:09 am Link

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Ronin_LLC

Posts: 2012

Louisville, Kentucky, US

Anne McCaffrey and Tom McCaffrey have some really good books


The Heroes of Phlan Trilogy is also pretty good, and really any of the Forgotten Realms novelizations are pretty in dept if you like that D&D kind of thing. I never got into the game but I did like the books, the "Songs and Swords"  series being my favorite.

Oct 04 12 06:34 am Link

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SME

Posts: 21055

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US

Through Elizabeths Eyes wrote:
Robert Jordan makes me want to punch kittens, but I can't stop reading the books anyway.

lol

Why does he make you feel like that?

(Can't wait for January.  So close!)

Oct 04 12 06:38 am Link

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SME

Posts: 21055

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US

Drew Smith Photography wrote:
But my all time favourite: The Dark Tower series (7 books) by Stephen King.

I'm still traumatized by the lobstrosity.  yikes

Oct 04 12 06:39 am Link

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normad-moth

Posts: 468

San Diego, California, US

Mistborn trilogy by Sanderson?

Pros: Better magic system. Not as slow.

Cons: Less language. Less flora but the world construction requires it.

Oct 04 12 06:45 am Link

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DivaEroticus

Posts: 14721

Fayetteville, Arkansas, US

Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time"

Anne McAffrey's "Dragons of Pern"

Piers Anthony's "The Apprentice Adept"

And lest we forget...

C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia"

Oct 04 12 06:49 am Link

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DivaEroticus

Posts: 14721

Fayetteville, Arkansas, US

Sita Mae wrote:

lol

Why does he make you feel like that?

(Can't wait for January.  So close!)

They can be a little...slow.  I can understand Liz' frustration...LOL.

Oct 04 12 06:49 am Link

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SME

Posts: 21055

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US

DivaEroticus wrote:
C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia"

Oct 04 12 06:50 am Link

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SME

Posts: 21055

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US

DivaEroticus wrote:

They can be a little...slow.  I can understand Liz' frustration...LOL.

Oh, is that what she meant?  LOL.  Yeah, I get that!  I just finished Book 12.  The writer who took over is doing a great job!  It felt seamless.

Oct 04 12 06:51 am Link

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RichardH

Posts: 42

Shepparton-Mooroopna, Victoria, Australia

I would recommend the "Winter of the World" series by Michael Scott Rohan.  Great read.

Oct 04 12 06:54 am Link

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Jacob Davis

Posts: 858

Boulder, Colorado, US

Sita Mae wrote:
Oh, is that what she meant?  LOL.  Yeah, I get that!  I just finished Book 12.  The writer who took over is doing a great job!  It felt seamless.

I thought there was a notable difference in pacing. Jordan was sometimes frustratingly patient; Sanderson's style fits pretty well, but sometimes I could pick up a sense of "holy crap I need to finish the story within a decade" when he moved more quickly than Jordan did. That's only comparison to Jordan, though. I might not notice at all if I were reading Sanderson's non-WoT books.

Oct 04 12 06:58 am Link

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SME

Posts: 21055

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US

Jacob Davis wrote:

I thought there was a notable difference in pacing. Jordan was sometimes frustratingly patient; Sanderson's style fits pretty well, but sometimes I could pick up a sense of "holy crap I need to finish the story within a decade" when he moved more quickly than Jordan did. That's only comparison to Jordan, though. I might not notice at all if I were reading Sanderson's non-WoT books.

lol

Oct 04 12 06:59 am Link

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DivaEroticus

Posts: 14721

Fayetteville, Arkansas, US

Sita Mae wrote:

I read the series repeatedly as a kid, and loved it.  Does it hold up when reading from an adult perspective?

Indeed it does, Sita.  I recommend doing just that.

Oct 04 12 07:02 am Link

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normad-moth

Posts: 468

San Diego, California, US

The Name of the Wind.

This one is not quite like that, but IMHO is also worth reading for general magic system goodness and just good storytelling.
Again, in my ignorant opinion.

Oct 04 12 07:05 am Link

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Jacob Davis

Posts: 858

Boulder, Colorado, US

DivaEroticus wrote:
C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia"

Oct 04 12 07:05 am Link

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DivaEroticus

Posts: 14721

Fayetteville, Arkansas, US

Sita Mae wrote:

Oh, is that what she meant?  LOL.  Yeah, I get that!  I just finished Book 12.  The writer who took over is doing a great job!  It felt seamless.

Well, I can't be certain that's what she meant, but that would be my guess...LOL.  I was completely enthralled in book 1, but struggled after that.  I may pick them back up and start over.

Oct 04 12 07:05 am Link

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normad-moth

Posts: 468

San Diego, California, US

DivaEroticus wrote:

Well, I can't be certain that's what she meant, but that would be my guess...LOL.  I was completely enthralled in book 1, but struggled after that.  I may pick them back up and start over.

I heard the following suggestion:
ditch all the Jordan ones, read the summary of those in wikipedia, and start with Sanderson's books.
But I dunno, I'm wary of series that are more than 4 books.

Oct 04 12 07:07 am Link

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Jacob Davis

Posts: 858

Boulder, Colorado, US

normad-moth wrote:
I heard the following suggestion:
ditch all the Jordan ones, read the summary of those in wikipedia, and start with Sanderson's books.
But I dunno, I'm wary of series that are more than 4 books.

I can't imagine caring much about the characters after doing so. The narrative is so focused on the characters and the way they grow over time, that's part of the strength of Jordan's/Sanderson's styles, and what makes the stories so enjoyable.

Oct 04 12 07:13 am Link

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normad-moth

Posts: 468

San Diego, California, US

Jacob Davis wrote:
I can't imagine caring much about the characters after doing so. The narrative is so focused on the characters and the way they grow over time, that's part of the strength of Jordan's/Sanderson's styles, and what makes the stories so enjoyable.

My friend, who is a Jordan fan, and was thoroughly frustrated with the state of affairs before Sanderson's takeover suggested that. Said something along the lines of "I wish it was this guy writing it from the beginning".

I have not read much (any?) Jordan, but so far I've liked most of what I've read of Sanderson.

Again, just a comment I got.
And it might be easier for people to think of "reading 3-4 books" than "reading 15 books" smile

I think smile

Oct 04 12 07:25 am Link

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The Original Sin

Posts: 13894

Louisville, Kentucky, US

Jacqueline Carey's Terre de Ange books.  I tried to read her other stuff and it sucked, but the Kushiel series and the Naamah series are both really good.

Oct 04 12 07:30 am Link

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Jacob Davis

Posts: 858

Boulder, Colorado, US

normad-moth wrote:
My friend, who is a Jordan fan, and was thoroughly frustrated with the state of affairs before Sanderson's takeover suggested that. Said something along the lines of "I wish it was this guy writing it from the beginning".

I have not read much (any?) Jordan, but so far I've liked most of what I've read of Sanderson.

Again, just a comment I got.
And it might be easier for people to think of "reading 3-4 books" than "reading 15 books" smile

I think smile

I did find myself wondering sometimes if Jordan was going to be able to finish the series. He always talked about his plans to do so and it seemed like he had every intention of doing so... but then I would find a whole fucking chapter devoted to Matt measuring horseflesh and declare Jordan to be an insufferable liar.

So yeah, I can understand the frustration. Still, I don't think I would care so much about the characters if I hadn't read through the entire series, and I don't think the pacing was so much of a negative as to warrant another writer... except I guess it did literally warrant another writer in the end.

Oct 04 12 07:37 am Link

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SME

Posts: 21055

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US

Jacob Davis wrote:

I did find myself wondering sometimes if Jordan was going to be able to finish the series. He always talked about his plans to do so and it seemed like he had every intention of doing so... but then I would find a whole fucking chapter devoted to Matt measuring horseflesh and declare Jordan to be an insufferable liar.

So yeah, I can understand the frustration. Still, I don't think I would care so much about the characters if I hadn't read through the entire series, and I don't think the pacing was so much of a negative as to warrant another writer... except I guess it did literally warrant another writer in the end.

lol

When talking about it, it does sound crazy.  But his character development is so good that invariably when a chapter shifts to someone else, I'm all, "No!  I want more of that!"  But I'm one of those people who LOVES the idea of a series and world that goes on for tons of books.  Haha.

Oct 04 12 07:44 am Link