First off, the last poll. My topic of interest was YA reading (young adult for the non initiated). When I realized that I wasn't reading much of it, I asked myself if I was alone in doing so. Remember that it's not that I have a distaste for it, it's simply a kind of novel that didn't catch my eye.
The results are in and 75% of the readers/respondents are reading YA Fantasy. It seems that in this reading habit, I won't fit into the average Fantasy reader definition.
This year, Mark Lawrence released Prince of Thorns, a novel with a main protagonist of roughly 13 years old; last year it was Paul Hoffman with The Left Hand of God with a character of 14-15 years old. Add to the list well known characters like Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss or Arlen from Peter V. Brett whose's story also starts pretty young and we have a bunch of interesting youngsters. I know that for both last ones, they eventually grow in the first novel so I think that they don't really qualify in the discussion I want to bring up. Let's also forget about Rand or Jon Snow who are not really that much juvenile (though in aSoIaF's case, Arya and Bran would qualify).
I think you probably guessed my subject by now. I, for one, was not distracted by these blossoming teenagers in the reads that I mentioned (age-wise speaking). I know that for Prince of Thorns, the topic was much discussed on the blogs and forums. Sarah at Bookworm Blues in her review wasn't too convinced by the young man's act at his age while for Bryce at Only the Best Sci-fi/Fantasy, he felt that it was more natural.
When I questioned myself on the presence of these prodigal youngsters, I realized that my feelings were determined by the skill of the author. A young man or woman in his early teens can be a believable prodigy if it's done right. It all comes down to the portrayal of the person and mostly to the context in which he exist. Usually, there's also good reasons behind their skills at such a young age. However, I may have a problem when a protagonist is simply way too intelligent for his experience without any help whatsoever. Anyway, isn't it mostly from experience that everything I pointed out comes from? I'll admit that magic or exceptional circumstances which are often present in Fantasy are also good factors.
Moreover, when you think about it, age isn't the only factor in this. I think that when I read Fantasy, I want to read about a mix of extraordinary and common people, from all the spectrum of personalities, skills, achievements and potentials. With that being said, whether the protagonist is a youngster or an old man, I'll find my enjoyment anyway, given that the author do it right.
The other aspect of the question that got my attention is simply: 'Why?'. No matter if you find that the age of the character is too young or not, can you tell me why do the authors tend to create them so young? They don't really need to, aside from trying to make an impression. Why not simply add a couple of years to their age or never mention a specific number? But then, I think they really want to make an impression! :)
So, "Do you think the prodigal youngsters in Fantasy are too young?"