I’m going to be thinking out loud here for a minute.
I just basically binged all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric & Desdemona novellas. Read the first a couple years ago, the second this year, and then just couldn’t stop. They’re nice. They have some of the compulsiveness of the Vorkosigan books. I haven’t read all of Bujold’s fantasy, but I found these to be really nice comfort reads. Warm blanket and cocoa on a rainy day reads.
And this got me thinking. I like fantasy. I like traditional second-world fantasy. I want to write more of it at some point. But I’m really, really picky, it turns out. I usually never get past the first novel in a series, not because I don’t like it, but because I’ve had enough at that point, and don’t feel compelled to continue through “x” number of volumes of 500+ page novels. Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen is the only epic fantasy series I’ve read all the way through, and even I petered out when he and Ian Esslemont started publishing endless side novels. There’s a self-importance and overwroughtness to a lot of fantasy (even urban fantasy) that turns me off. Not everything needs to be a cosmic battle between earth-shattering forces. Not every story needs to involve armies and politics and international intrigue. A traumatic backstory is fine, but I don’t necessarily want my main character to wear that backstory like a coat of arms, all-encompassing, without room for any other identity.
So what do I like? Turns out I like personal stories. Stand-alone stories. Exquisitely written, compact, heartfelt stories. Apart from the Penric stories my favorite fantasy of the last couple years was probably Patricia McKillip’s Kingfisher. (All of McKillip’s gorgeous stand-alone fantasies are among my favorites.) I blurbed a book coming out next year that I really enjoyed and kind of wanted to reread as soon as I’d finished — it was an interesting story about good people with a sweet romance.
Quite possibly the direct opposite of grimdark?
I’m not sure. But lately I’ve just been wanting really well-written fantasy stories about good people who I want to spend time with. Any suggestions?