From my perspective, epic fantasy is always alive and well, but there was a time when science fiction ruled speculative fiction. Back when brick and mortar stores were more relevant than they are now, I would go into a Borders bookstore or the like and browse, only to discover that “fantasy’ as a section within fiction didn’t exist. Well, it did, but all those books were shelved in the section labeled Science Fiction, and unless I’d asked, I would have passed them by.
Then along came Harry Potter. And The Lord Of The Rings movies. Suddenly epic fantasy was relevant again, though it soon turned darker in the form of horror or urban fantasy or dystopian. Thankfully a number of Christian writers—Jill Williamson, Patrick Carr, R. J. Larson, and others—cracked the epic fantasy ceiling in traditional Christian publishing. In the general market Brandon Sanderson built a solid and growing following of his more traditional Mistborn series.
Now Tor Books, the general market publisher known as the go-to place for speculative fiction, has announced a new epic fantasy:
Tor Books is very excited to reveal the first two chapters of The Ruin of Kings, the start of a new epic fantasy series by debut author Jenn Lyons, coming February 5th, 2019.
From the blurb, it seems as if the author has included some of the usual fantasy tropes, but she’s actually turned them on their head.
My question is about the heart of fantasy, which has always been a struggle between good and evil. Will this new series hold to that aspect of what epic fantasy has been in the past?
Apart from that, the story idea intrigues me:
There are the old stories. And then there’s what actually happens.
Kihrin is a bastard orphan who grew upon storybook tales of long-lost princes and grand quests. When he is claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds that being a long-lost prince isn’t what the storybooks promised.
Far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He also discovers that the storybooks have lied about a lot of other things things, too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love, and how the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe he’s not the hero, for Kihrin isn’t destined to save the empire.
He’s destined to destroy it . . .
Turning the expected on its head is definitely a great way to capture readers. That’s why Wicked and Maleficent became so successful: the showed a familiar story in a way that most people hadn’t thought about it before.
But my question is simple: since epic fantasy is a good vs. evil struggle, and good wins in the end, how far can an author flip the script without making evil come out on top? Or without making evil looked better than evil and good look worse than good? In other words, are we so anxious for something new, something fresh, something different, that we are willing to forsake good and embrace evil?
Of course I haven’t read The Ruin Of Kings yet (not surprisingly, Tor did not offer to send me an advanced reader’s copy for my review or endorsement), so my questions may not relate to this particular book. But I tend to think they are legitimate. After all, our entertainment has become more and more “politically correct,” so it seems logical that epic fantasy produced by the general market might become more closely aligned to what 21 century western culture considers “good” than any thing the Bible would call good.
But for now, I suppose I must wait and see.