Epic Fantasy: Lighting The Path

The best epic fantasy novels take us on a voyage of the heart toward a treasure trove of self-discovery.
on Apr 17, 2015 · 15 comments

After the digital information revolution, you’d think the world would have a better handle on living, but reading the news reveals a grim truth. Knowledge can’t save us.

In an era where the very fabric of morality stretches thin, our souls cry out for sanity. Give us truth to light the path, and in a thirsty land, rain from heaven. Help us to escape.

Reading separates us from the cares of a troubled world. It informs our lives and influences our thinking. On deep levels, it changes us. Speculative fiction engages our imaginations and draws us into landscapes of the mind. Here delightful creatures dwell but also monsters, the worst and the best of us.

The best epic fantasy novels take us on a voyage of the heart toward a treasure trove of self-discovery. Although fantastic, these tales brim with the stuff of life. When Samwise Gamgee in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, refuses to abandon Frodo and accompanies him all the way to Mordor, we learn about self-sacrifice. When Frodo becomes ill and Sam proclaims that while he can’t carry the ring, he can carry Frodo, we understand something about love.


DawnSinger, my epic fantasy novel, evokes medieval Europe in the 13th century, a time when chivalry reigned. The story pits Shae, a spirited princess, and Kai, her sworn guardian, against their own desires. At stake is the greater good of Elderland, a divided land in need of a Savior. As the story unfolds, Shae and Kai must choose whether to accept the call to an impossible quest. Failure will cost them everything, but so also will victory. Sometimes, as the book’s tagline declares, victory comes only through surrender.

The idea of honor at all costs speaks to with me, but how would epic fantasy readers respond? I have to admit to being a little nervous about launching a story with honor as its main theme into a world where clarity of mind and self-sacrifice seem in short supply. Interestingly, writing this novel required me to exercise these same characteristics.

Sometimes a story takes hold of an author and demands to be written, no matter what, and that was the case with this book. I thought my novel would find readers, but I wasn’t prepared for overwhelmingly favorable reactions. I can only conclude that the medieval concept of honor resounds within the human spirit still. To illustrate this point, here are some comments from reviewers:

“Ms. Voigt used her story to show, in a way, the foes we face, the heroes we can be, and the adventures we can make of our own lives.”1

“The author’s use of life’s paradoxes is integral to the story. Serving rather than being served, surrendering to Lof Yuel [God] in order to gain victory, and commitment to the journey despite the hard times, to name a few. 2

What does it mean to live life as a quest adventure, to serve rather than be served, to surrender to God? This is what Christians are called to do. Coming to grips with this reality truly changed my life. DawnSinger and Wayfarer, the first two books in the Tales of Faeraven epic fantasy series, exist because I answered my calling to write novels. I’m just putting the finishing touches on Sojourner, book three in the series and plan to write DawnKing, book four, this year. I won’t say the way is always clear or the path easy, but the journey is always worthwhile.

Honor is not dead. It lives on in you and me. Have you found your own path? I hope so, because the world is in need of the hero that only you can be.

  1.  Reviewer “Eric L.” at Amazon.com.
  2.  Reviewer L. Wagner at Amazon.com. Lof Yuel is the character of God in the story.
Janalyn Voigt is an author whose unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates breathtaking fictional worlds for readers. Beginning with DawnSinger, Janalyn's epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries readers into a land only imagined in dreams. Janalyn is represented by Sarah Joy Freese of Wordserve Literary. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA. When she's not writing, she loves to discover worlds of adventure in the great outdoors with her family.
  1. Thanks for letting me share my views today. I appreciate what you are doing to promote speculative fiction. Keep the faith!



  2. Dora Hiers says:

    Great post, Janalyn, and so thought-provoking! I love reading stories built around themes, and your book sounds great! Keep writing! 🙂

  3. notleia says:

    Obligatory nerd rage: Samwise Gamgee was never in The Hobbit.

    Real comment: You know how the other day they were talking about writing styles that aren’t technically horrible, yet you still wouldn’t touch it with a stick? That’s how melodrama works for me, and if the writing here is indicative of the novel’s style, nope, ain’t touchin’ that. I sense purple prose with no redeeming qualities.

    • You are right about Samwise. I have read all the books and do know that but must have experienced an evil enchantment causing mental lapse… :o)

      Sorry my writing isn’t to your taste, but then we can’t please everyone.






  4. erell says:

    Lovely post, “sometimes a story takes hold of an author and demands to be written, no matter what” is very true. 😉

    Sorry you’re closed minded about it, notleia. You’re missing out, it’s a really great book. 🙂

    • notleia says:

      Bro, don’t go there. This isn’t about open-mindedness; it’s about my ability to analyze an author’s more casual writing and make hypotheses about the style and quality of a novel from that author’s hands. So the pertinent critique of my critique is whether it’s accurate. I’m actually pretty okay being wrong about it, because I can easily live in a world with less purple-prosed melodrama in it.

  5. Kim Kendall says:

    Janalyn, I haven’t read your book(s) (yet) but I am in complete agreement about our lives as quests. What a wonderful way to look at the great adventure, the great journey through life we are on. Whether we are heroes or helpers, if we are serving God in the place he has for us, we are doing honorable and glorious deeds. Sometimes allegory gives a message a much stronger impact, as though the dim view through the glass has become a shade or two clearer. Thanks for sharing your vision. 🙂

    • Hello Kim, and thanks for your reply. I love saying hello to others focused on living life as an adventure in service to God.  Thanks for referencing the allegory of the glass in Scripture: “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” 1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV.

      If you find the opportunity to read my books, I hope you will let me know your thoughts on them.


  6. Pam Halter says:

    The thing about living as though we’re on a quest is that it’s not always glorious. At least, not in the eyes of the world. Three and a half months ago, we moved in with my MIL because she has dementia and really shouldn’t be alone anymore. Everyone thought we were crazy. Not because Mom’s short term memory is about nil, but because we also have an adult daughter who has autism, uncontrolled seizures, and severe developmental delay (she’s almost 24, but still function at about 18 months.) “You have enough on your plate,” they said. “There are other options,” they said. “Your husband has a brother and sister,” they said.

    And you know what? “They” are right.

    BUT the best thing for Mom is to stay in the house where she’s lived for almost 60 years. To sleep in her own bed. To have familiar stuff around her. To be able to keep her beloved cat. To be cared for by people who love her. She’s been a terrific MIL, a wonderful mom-mom, and she’s raised a fine son. She deserves no less.

    The thing with this adventure of mine is that it started out harder than I ever dreamed. I was homesick (I left my home of 28 years, after all), I couldn’t understand why Mom did some of the crazy things she did, and I felt displaced. I still do. This is not my home, but my house isn’t my home anymore, either. I raged inside and felt Mom should be the way she used to be. And I wanted her to respect my things, slight as they are here. At least, I wanted her to stay out of the room that is mine and my daughter’s room. But Mom doesn’t really understand. It’s her house. And, even worse, no one thanked me.

    One morning, after Ladies’ Bible study, conviction fell on me like syrup. I say like syrup because it didn’t slam into me. It kind of ran over me slowly, but completely. And I couldn’t wipe it off. Why did I agree to move here? To take care of Mom. Why? Because I love her. Because I want to honor her. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because I’m able.

    You know what happened when I changed my attitude? Everyone changed. It’s true that, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.” The very day I changed my selfish attitude to one of a servant, everything changed. And we are enjoying Mom and she is enjoying us. My BIL and SIL are missing out on such richness.

    Is this a glorious quest? You better believe it. In more ways than I can relate. Glory to God!!

    • notleia says:

      Dementia is the worst. I do hope you’re doing something to take care of yourself, because caretaker fatigue is a Thing.

    • Pam, thank you so much for sharing about your quest. It made me cry. You see, my mother experienced something similar due to Alzheimer’s syndrome in my father. I was one of the people telling her that she needed to let someone else take care of him. But, at his funeral, I finally understood.

      Now, I don’t say that to disparage anyone who seeks outside help in a tough situation, because sometimes that is the right thing to do. But my mother’s choice to endure difficult circumstances in order to care for my father taught me what it means to live a life of honor.

      I suggest, though, that you install a privacy lock on your door and agree with notleia that you should find ways to take care of yourself.

      • Pam Halter says:

        Caregiving IS exhausting. I’ve been my daughter’s caregiver for almost 24 years. Who knows how long I’ll be my MIL’s?  I have found ways to get refreshment. Reading and writing good fantasy is one of those ways. I’m blessed with a generous and supportive husband. And let’s not forget God Himself, who gives me more than I can say.  Yay, God!

        • Pam, I forgot to mention one of my favorite books that I think will touch you: Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. It’s a book I’ll always keep on my bookshelf and reread from time to time.


          • Pam Halter says:

            Thanks – I wrote it down.  I read Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard over and over.  I see the face of Jesus in that allegory like no other place.

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