More Big Fat Fantasies: Series to Take You a Year

Here are two additional Big Fat Fantasy series you may enjoy.  For more information about this genre, please see my post of May 21.

Sword of Truth

The Sword of Truth series is pretty simple. It is classic fantasy fare – young farmboy (Richard) turns out to be the son of an evil emperor. The first book focuses on Richard taking control of the empire. The subsequent books focus on Richard defending the Empire from various threats and, later, from a wide variety of magical obstacles that the author, Terry Goodkind, chooses to put in his path.

I do not think the series is all that good. First, it has major pacing problems throughout, with a single simplistic good vs. evil story arc taking 7 books. But more problematic for the fantasy aficionado is that Terry Goodkind is internally inconsistent with his rules and world. The deus ex machina is an important part of the stories and, worst of all, the books are a very depressing read. They have a major air of cynicism throughout and the heroes frequently stoop to depths such that they only seem heroic compared to the even worse villains.

But clearly I am in the minority. The series has been translated into 20 languages, with most of the books premiering #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. And it certainly belongs on a list of Big Fat Fantasies. It is currently 12 volumes, or about 7,000 pages, likely with more to follow.

Terry Goodkind has only written one book that was not part the Sword of Truth series. The book, Law of the Nines, was a political thriller in the mold of Brad Meltzer or Brad Thor. While all of his books have been bestsellers to some degree or another, Terry Goodkind has never won or been nominated for any significant awards for his writing.

The first book of the Sword of Truth series is Wizard’s First Rule.

Saga of Recluce

The Saga of Recluce, named after the first book, The Magic of Recluce, is not properly called a series.
Rather, it is a compilation of books with similar themes that take place in the same world over a time period spanning thousands of years. The books describe the actions of the forces of order and chaos, properties that all natural objects in this world have. The series jumps from time to time, sometimes describing protagonists in earlier times as mythological figures in the current time. At 16 volumes and over 8,000 pages (probably necessary given the timespan), the Saga of Recluce deserves its place on the Big Fat Fantasy list.

The series is incredibly entertaining. The stories are told well and the author chooses appropriate settings and themes throughout. The world is compelling and the magic system is, if not unique, at least different. The problem is that the series is incredibly repetitious. L.E. Modesitt Jr. likes to show how the stories of his present-day characters mirror those of the legends that we read about in earlier books, and that means that we are essentially reading the same story.

Also, L.E. Modesitt Jr. falls victim to a trap that gets many fantasy authors: he substitutes philosophical ponderings for character development. In the case of the Recluce books, that means entire chapters dedicated to discussing the proper balance of order and chaos in the world. It doesn’t kill the series, but it gets tedious. I would call this series a wash—any fantasy fan should read at least two or three of the books, but once you get the idea you can skip some in the middle. You do not miss much and there is enough material to keep you busy anyway. Some of the later books, which explore the very beginning and very end of the world chronologically, are the best.

L.E. Modesitt Jr. is neither a bestselling nor an award-winning author. But he has written a lot, at 56 books, and there is a lot to love in his writing. My personal favorite of his series is The Corean Chronicles (first book: Legacies), but if you really like the Saga of Recluce, you might want to try the Spellsong Cycle (first book: The Soprano Sorceress), which has similar themes but different plots and takes place in a different fantasy world.

The first book of the Saga of Recluce is Magi’i of Cyador chronologically, but the author strongly recommends reading in an order starting with The Magic of Recluce.

Well, if that all is not enough to keep you busy I do not know what will be. But this is only a small sample of the many, many Big Fat Fantasies that are out there. If you really need more call us up at any of the branches and we will give you more advice. Or use our Novelist database. Keep reading and enjoy your travels in other worlds!

- Ross H.

The Magic of Recluce cover courtesy of L.E. Modesitt website.


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