Fantasy Tropes

Monday, November 24, 2014

Back in 2012, one of my polls (here and here) involved Fantasy tropes (and it was one of my most popular poll). My question was about the most common Fantasy tropes found in our beloved genre and from a list of my own, you chose which of them you were tired the most of. Here's the list:

Righteous thieves/assassins 
Elder races
Elves/dwarves (or other races)
Evil dark lords
Farm boy saving the world
Middle-east references
Unevolved old worlds
Artifact/sword McGuffin
Apostrophes/names with G's and K's
Black-cowled assassins covers
All of them

The answer that stood out from the crowd was the farm boy saving the world. Recently, in three separate posts, io9 (andToybox) revived the topic. The discussion is not centered solely around Fantasy literature but in my case, my comments will be. They tackled the following subjects related to tropes:

10 Tropes Involving Fantasy Weapons That Should Die In A Fire
What Common Medieval Fantasy Tropes Have No Basis In Actual History?
7 Worldbuilding Tropes Science Fiction and Fantasy needs to Stop using

Just for sharing and the sake of discussion (wouldn't it be nice with a cold dark beer in hand, in pint format evidently!), here's my thoughts on the first list.  Feel free to comment!

1. The Reforged Weapon
Indeed, and it's a trope dating back to Tolkien with Anduril/Narsil. Even if this one could grow tiresome, I'm not aware of much recent Fantasy books resolving around the reforging of an ancient weapon? What about you?

2. The Secret Legend in Your Back Pocket
This one I agree completely.  This is kind of absurd but as with each trope, it still can be twisted for the benefit of the story.

3. Mystical Materials
I'm not tired of this one.  I think that mystical materials are an inherent part of Fantasy. When you created a world with magic or supernatural elements... that's kind of a necessity....

4. The Absurdly Sharp Blade
Can't deny, that's true, but even more so when you put the "absurdly" adjective in the name of the trope...

5. The Rusted and Dented Swords of Evil
This is found more often in movies/series/comics/visual supports.  I don't remember a book where the swords of "evil" were more rusted and dented...

6. Weapons Tied to Specific Races
This trope tends to die of its own in the recent Fantasy literature.  Still, in everything related to the Dungeon and Dragons universe... I admit that in videogames, I kind of like my dwarf to wield an axe and my elf a bow!

7. The Weapon Too Big to Be Useful
Here again, not sure if that applies much to recent Fantasy literature. I remember some swords that could have been in this category, like Karsa's sword in MBotF but the way Karsa is built, it looks like it's still useful.

8. Unusually Plot-Specific Ability
My god how I hate this one and I always mentions it in my reviews when it is used.  The most common case usually involves magic that the weilder doesn't really understand. Way too easy for authors to use this trick to get a character out of a impossible situation. Get rid of it!

9. The Evil Weapon That Hungers For Blood and Corrupts the Soul
It's not the most common trope but I admit that it could be an easy one to fall into. Still, Jeff Salyards' redeemed this trope with the Bloodsounder Arc.

10. Weapons With Minds of Their Own using
The last time I read about one was Patrick Weekes' The Palace Job and it was kind of funny. That's also the point of Ms. Trendacosta who wrote the io9 post. Not a bad one that we need to throw into the fire as far as my taste go.


The second post is about the common medieval tropes that have no basis in actual medieval history. io9 links to the quite interesting sub-reddit r/AskHistorians.  As far as Fantasy goes, the authors who choose to write accurate accounts of medieval life in their stories are kind of few. Still, when they do, or when they do like George R.R. Martin and add a nice layer of Fantasy to a world base on actual medieval history (setting), they are probably using many tropes that are only believed to be true. The sub-reddit is right there for us to prove them wrong ;)


Finally but not the least, the 7 worldbuilding tropes that need to disappear.

7. The Evil Empire of Evil Evilness
100% in accordance with this one. Hopefully, contemporary Fantasy literature has washed out most of them (or maybe it's just me who avoids them...).

6. Faux-Medieval Europe
No, no, no. That one is great and I can't tire of it!

5. Insert Apostrophe Here For Exoticness
That one was part of my original poll (Apostrophes/names with G's and K's). I think it's kind of inevitable... and I prefer that to real life names.

4. The Single-Use World
That applies mostly to Sci-fi. No?

3. Common Nouns out the Wazoo
I agree with the author of the post (James Whitbrook) but I didn't find examples in my recent memory of Fantasy books...

2. The Homogeneous Race (That's never Humanity)
I'm biased on this one. The same as the weapons tied to specific races (Erikson's MBotF is a nice example). In my books, I prefer original races but in videogames... I like my elves and dwarves!

1. The Precursor Civilisation
Alright, this is a worldbuilding trope of old. However, it creates so many opportunities... still it ought not to become an obligation. Is there really many Fantasy books that don't use this? Is it a problem? I don't think so but I agree with James: "Not everything has to have happened before." This is more of a problem. Still, you can be quite original with a precursor civilisation.


There you go. What do you think? These tropes need to disappear?

Kick ass moment #15

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Like last time, it's been a while since I posted a kick ass moment. This one was an instant grin. It's not a grandiose scene, but it's the kind of passage that I cherish. This time, it's about a certain saying a cardinal utters to his son about erring...

“Are you going to be sick again?”
“Has the river stopped flowing?” I asked.
Snorri snorted.
“Then yes.” I demonstrated, adding another streak of colour into the dark waters of the Seleen. “If God had intended men to go on water he would have given them . . .” I felt too ill for wit and hung limp over the side of the boat, scowling at the grey dawn coming up behind us. “. . . given them whatever it is you need for that kind of thing.”
“A messiah who walked on water to show you all it was exactly where God intended men to go?” Snorri shook that big chiselled head of his. “My people have older learning than the White Christ brought. Aegir owns the sea and he doesn’t intend that we go onto it. But we do even so.” He rumbled through a bar of song: “Undoreth, we. Battle-born. Raise hammer, raise axe, at our war-shout gods tremble.” He rowed on, humming his tuneless tunes.
My nose hurt like buggery, I felt cold, most of me ached, and when I did manage to sniff through my twice-broken snout I could tell that I still smelled only slightly less bad than that dung heap that saved my life.
“My—” I fell silent. My pronunciation sounded comical; my nose would have come out “by dose.” And although I had every right to complain, it might rile the Norseman, and it doesn’t pay to rile the kind of man who can jump on a bear to escape a fight pit. Especially if it was you who put him in that pit in the first place. As my father would say, “To err is human, to forgive is divine . . . but I’m only a cardinal and cardinals are human, so rather than forgiving you I’m going to err towards beating you with this stick.” Snorri didn’t look the forgiving kind either. I settled for another groan.
“What?” He looked up from his rowing. I remembered the remarkable number of bodies he left in his wake coming in and out of Maeres’s poppy farm to get me. All with his weapon hand badly injured.

Mark Lawrence - Prince of Fools

Cover - Mark Lawrence's The Liar's Key

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Us cover for Mark Lawrence's The Liar's Key, the second book in The Red Queen's War series (follow-up to Prince of Fools) was unveiled, at least on the web.

I really like the direction of all of Lawrence's covers for both series and here again, Jason Chan did the job! Nice don't you think?

The book will be out June 2nd 2015 and here's the blurb:
The eyes of the mighty are on the North. Loki’s key has been found and lies in the hands of a feckless prince and a broken warrior. 
Winter has locked Prince Jalan Kendeth far from the luxury of his southern palace. The North may be home to Viking Snorri ver Snagason but he is just as eager to leave. However, even men who hold a key that can open any door must wait for the thaw. 
As the ice unlocks its jaws the Dead King moves to claim what was so nearly his. But there are other players in this game, other hands reaching for Loki’s key. 
Jalan wants only to return to the wine and women of the south, but Snorri has a different and terrifying goal. The warrior aims to find the very door into death and throw it wide. Snorri ver Snagason will challenge all of Hell if that’s what it takes to bring his wife and children back into the living world. He has found the key – now all he needs is to find the door. 
But pawns are played to sacrifice and the Red Queen set both these men upon her board. How many moves ahead has the Silent Sister seen? How far will they get before their part in the game is over?

New poll - Eager meter 2015

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

As usual, let's do a quick return to the last poll first.

My question, related to a top list of publishers based on the awards they won,  was: "Is the publisher of a book influencing your acquisitions?". A great number of you, fellow Fantasy readers answered... 

And the results are:
No - 78 %
Yes - 21%

It's pretty clear, it's not really a factor. The push the analysis further, I'll return soon with polls on your favorite publishers and even more questions tackling the publisher subject.

For now, it's time for a new poll and a classic one at that.


We now have a pretty good idea of the list of Fantasy novels with a 2015 release date.  Among this list, there's several eagerly awaited books form authors.of renown. It's time for the eager meter poll, 2015 edition.

The last years winners were:
2014 - Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
2013 - a Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
2012 - Forgot to poll...
2011 - a Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

For the poll itself, I won't the whole list I have gathered but the most likely contenders in my humble opinion. There's two books in the same series by Abercrombie... I'm not sure someone will pick Half a War but still... Here's the list. You can pick more than one for the poll.

Fall of Light (Kharkanas trilogy book 2) by Steven Erikson
Half the World (The Shattered Sea book 2) by Joe Abercrombie
Half a War (The Shattered Sea book 3) by Joe Abercrombie
Shadow of Self (Mistborn) by Brandon Sanderson
The Dread Wyrm (The Traitor Son Cycle book 3) by Miles Cameron
The Spider's War (The Dagger and the Coin book 5) by Daniel Abraham
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth book 1) by N.K. Jemisin
The Fool's Quest (The Fitz and the Fool trilogy book 2) by Robin Hobb
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (The Song of the Shattered Sands book 1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu
The Liar's Key (The Red Queen’s War book 2) by Mark Lawrence
The Silver King (The Silver Kings book 3) by Stephen Deas
The Chart of Tomorrows (Gaunt and Bone book 3) by Chris Willrich
Queen of Fire (Raven's Shadow book 3) by Anthony Ryan
The Price of Valour (The Shadow Campaigns book 3) by Django Wexler
Storm and Steel (The Book of the Black Earth book 2) by Jon Sprunk
The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle book 4) by Peter V. Brett
Old Man's Ghosts (The Empire of a Hundred Houses book 2) by Tom Lloyd
Sword of the North (Grim Company book 2) by Luke Scull
The Black Dream (Heart of the World book 3) by Col Buchanan
Those Above (The Empty Throne book 1) by Daniel Polansky
The Autumn Republic (The Powder Mage book 3) by Brian McClellan
The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne book 2) by Brian Staveley
The Unholy Consult (The Aspect Emperor book 3) by R. Scott Bakker
The Thorn of Emberlain (Gentleman Bastards Sequence book 4) by Scott Lynch

And if there is a book from the next list that you think I should add, speak up in the comments. I think there's only one debut... if you know of more, let me know!

The Dragon House (The Wild Hunt book 4)by Elspeth Cooper
Ruin (The Faithful and the Fallen book 3) by John Gwynne
Trial of Intentions (Vault of Heaven book 2) by Peter Orullian
Blood Will Follow (The Valhalla Saga book 2) by Snorri Kristijansson
Clash of Iron (Iron Age book 2) by Angus Watson
A Crown For Cold Silver by Alex Marshall
The Empire Ascendant (Worldbreaker Saga book 2) by Kameron Hurley
The Mortal Tally (Bring Down Heaven book 2) by Sam Sykes
Black Heart (The Barrow book 2) by Mark Smylie
The Darkling Child (The Defenders of Shannara book 2) by Terry Brooks
Chaos Unleashed (Chaos Born book 3) by Drew Karpyshyn
Hochverrat (Greatcoats book 2) by Sebastien de Castell
Lord of Ashes (Steelhaven book 3) by Richard Ford
The Boy Who Wept Blood (Erebus Sequence book 2) By Den Patrick
The Path of Anger by Antoine Rouaud

Finally, you can consider that the following, eagerly awaited books won't be out in 2015:

The Thousand and One ((The Crescent Moon Kingdoms book 2) by Saladin Ahmed
Winds of Winter (a Song of Ice and Fire book 6) by George R.R. Martin
The Doors of Stone (Kingkiller Chronicles book 3) by Patrick Rothfuss
Rhune (The First Empire book 1) by  Michael J. Sullivan
The Last King of Osten Ard (Memory, Sorrow and Thorn book 4) by Tad Williams

2014 Goodreads choice awards

Monday, November 10, 2014

For the sixth year, Goodreads is hosting his Choice awards. The semifinal rounds nominees are up and here's the list for the 2014 Fantasy category (you can vote here).

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
City Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman
The Witch with No Name by Kim Harrison
Skin Game by Jim Butcher
Shattered by Kevin Hearne
Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Up from the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan
The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks
Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Traitor's Blade by Sebatien de Castell

Last years winners were:
2013 - The Ocean at the End of the Line by Neil Gaiman
2012 - The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
2011 - A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
2010 - Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
2009 - Dean and Gone by Charlaine Harris

This list makes me realize the number of interesting books I still haven't read this year. From the ones I have read making the list, so far, my vote is for The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks but it can still change with books like Prince of Fools on my to-read pile. I think that Robin Hobb or Brandon Sanderson are likely winners. What do you think?

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