I have decided to put down my criteria for the ultimate fantasy book down in writing and see if anyone knows of any books that fit the criteria. I will start with races.
I personally either love or hate the fantasy races that are usually around in fantasy universes. I tend to hate the typical ones like elves and dwarves, but I like ones created for the specific universe like the Kender from Dragonlance books or the Tines from A Deepness in the Sky. I tend to enjoy books that the races are more modified humans then fantastical creatures. A prime example of this is David Eddings books, he has been criticized for basing his races of people on historical civilizations. Each race is a stereotype, but within each race there are exceptions. I think that this is a great way to introduce races with out having to explain the different ends and outs of their society. By using visual clues about the way their architecture is and how they fight, it automatically gets a certain civilization into your head allowing you to understand motivations.
Races: Need to either be all human based or if fantasy based there needs to be one or two really well thought out new races.
I also really like the characters to have flaws. I really enjoy it when characters are not the best at everything or undefeatable. I rather enjoy it when Vlad Taltos gets killed or when Raistlen has to stop casting incredible spells because of the physical limitations of his body. One of the greatest “flaws” I have found in a fantasy series is Drizzt from the Dark Elf Trilogy. He, unlike his fellow dark elves” isn’t evil and wants nothing more then to be accepted somewhere. Unfortunately for him the Dark Elves are quite evil and hated by pretty much all other races. R.A. Salvatore does a great job of making you love Drizzt and root for him as the ultimate underdog.
Characters: The main heroes need to have flaws that actually effect the outcome of the story.
Another thing that all fantasy novels seem to have is a pantheon system. I have seen these systems over done to the point of the gods themselves fighting alongside the heroes to the gods remaining aloof and only acting through the hero’s. I truly enjoy the Vlad Taltos series since the gods are not necessarily ultimate beings, they are instead just another “race” that occupies the world. This gives the gods a more down to earth character and makes them more enjoyable to read about. The rare exception seems to be the books that have gods much like the real world, people prey to said gods and the gods may or may not do anything, it is more about interpretation then actual action.
Gods: If they are aloof or a non-entity I tend to like it better, though a really well thought out system can be appealing.
A lot of fantasy novels seem to focus so much on combat that I lose interest pretty quick. I enjoy a good battle every now and then, but I do not need a graphic description of how someone’s face melted off. Just say that their face melted off. My imagination can do the rest. I really enjoy books that give you the basics and provide for your mind to do the rest. The same goes for sex. I really don’t need porn in the middle of my book. A little sex is fine but when it starts to border on a romance novel my brain shuts down and I stop caring.
Fighting and Sex: Nice and easy, let my mind do the work.
I recently read the Liveship Traders series and I really enjoy sailing in books. What can I say I like pirates…a lot. I am not saying that I need pirates in every book I read, I just enjoy the idea and most pirate characters. However, if someone can’t write about ship board life I don’t want to read a really boring uninspired account of what life might have been like.
Boats: Use them if you can, if not leave them alone.
Dragons. I love dragons as much as the next person. I however don’t really like the dragons that are nice and understanding and don’t secretly wish to enslave all humanity or use them to further their own ends. Dragons to me are the ultimate villains. They represent evil, greed and are basically badasses. On the plus side they are also quite pompous and seem to get destroyed by their belief that nothing can defeat them.
Dragons: Make them evil or at least selfish. They should only help if they see the benefit to them.
I will cover technology and magic later this week