Is Prince of Nothing really gritty?

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by proto-man, Jul 9, 2007.

  1. proto-man

    proto-man New Member

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    Hi,

    Here's the situation. I am planning to read the following series:

    Prince of Nothing
    Farseer (and others like Liveship, etc)
    Malazan Book of the Fallen
    Song of Ice and Fire

    Why? Because these seem to be the popular names out there and I want to get a feel of what good fantasy should be like, with an epic scope.

    Now, I was wondering if Prince of Nothing is really gritty because while I do enjoy grey characters and a dark world, I am looking for something simply more fun and enjoyable to read. I want to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

    So what order should I read the above four titles in? Right now, they are ordered such that best is saved for last. This may not necessarily be true, but just what I perceive from looking around the forums and other places.

    I think saving best for last would be nice but I also don't want to start off with something very gritty so definitely not SoIaF first. I can't say much about Farseer trilogy, haven't read enough info. Right now, Malazan seems to be the most fun and enjoyable series to me, from the reviews and stuff I've read, so I was thinking of starting with that? What do you guys think? And also, is it worth it to read now, or should I wait for more books to come out? Hate waiting, but that applies to waiting to read the series and waiting to read the next novels in the series too.
     
  2. Macklyn

    Macklyn Just another traveler.

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    Going best first, which is how I'D read them -
    Why would you save best for last? You could be hit by car next week and never have the chance to read the best at all !!!
    LIVE TODAY.

    SoIaF
    Malazan books of the Fallen
    Bakker's books
    Farseer
     
  3. thrinidir

    thrinidir dw4rf

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    the books you are planning to read are indeed diamonds in a crown of fantasy but none of them is a particulary light read, i'm sorry. so if you want to read something good, witty and fun try Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - which I believe suits the demands you are posing at this moment. And when you will be ready for something more realistic please do read the series you mentioned - they are all a tremendous experience!
     
  4. clockwirk

    clockwirk the enchanter

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    None of them are "light," but you can definitely enjoy the ride with something that isn't light.
    I found SOIAF very enjoyable despite, or maybe because of, the grit. The Characters were very compelling to me and Martin's stuff is just fun to read for me. Just the whole vibe of his books are enthralling.

    Malazan is fun too, but it takes a LOT of concentration and for me each book hits a point that's overwhelming where you don't really know what's going on. Plus there's a crapload of characters and plotlines and many times a plot thread is left for several hundred pages, and sometimes an entire book. Malazan also has some gut-wrenching scenes, especially in Deadhouse Gates.

    Farseer is great, although I probably 'enjoyed' it less than the first two. It feels kind of light to me in some respects and heavy in others. The protagonist takes a beating through the series, but that's not necessarily a put off.

    Bakkers series is technically brilliant, but I never enjoyed it. If you're looking to "sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride," this is the last series I'd recommend. It's brutal, cynical, nihilistic, and philosophical. If that sounds fun to you, go for it.
     
  5. Bond

    Bond Registered User

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    I'd say Malazan is actually the grittiest of the lot. Although having comedic asides they are swamped by desolate descriptions of death marches, mindless cannibalistic hordes, emotionless undead armies, and characters endlessly moaning about their empty existence.

    You need to define what you mean by "fun". Read one of the series and if it doesn't satisfy, modify your definition. If levity is high on your list of priorities, you've created the wrong list.
     
  6. proto-man

    proto-man New Member

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    Thanx for replies guys.

    I don't particularly hate gritty, because I realize that some of the best books out there are good because of that gritty element, plus a whole lot of others.

    However, right now I am looking for something light. It is somewhat disappointing to find that none of these great series are light reads.

    To be honest, I really don't know what is implied when a book is called gritty... Lots of violenece? Unnecessary killing? Rape? It's just that I have read so many reviews and comments where 'grit' just puts people off, and I suppose I figured it's the kind of thing I'd want to avoid too. Not to say that the grit element in a story can't be done right. So please tell me, what is it in these books that make them gritty? Perhaps then I can better judge what to read first.

    Also, if not one of these, which series should I pick up? By enjoyable and fun, I mean something like Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn, which I believe is not gritty. I cant think of any others, but I think you know what I mean. An epic fantasy and an exciting adventure, etc.
     
  7. Eventine

    Eventine Uh, Staff Member

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    The Farseer books are probably the closest you'll get there to MS&T. I wouldn't call them gritty, but they're not light. You might want to try someone like Naomi Novik for something that's a bit lighter action/adventure in the epic space. I'd recommend Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books if you're comfortable reading something in a more contemporary setting.
    There's a lot of good YA offerings out there that are quite good and may meet your criteria. I'd recommend Sabriel by Garth Nix.
    If you haven't already you may also want to try Tad Williams' Otherland books, which I enjoyed more than MS&T.
     
  8. clockwirk

    clockwirk the enchanter

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    Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. Classic fantasy story, some heavy elements, very well written although not without it's problems.
     
  9. Severn

    Severn boss of several cats...

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    Eww...I so wouldn't go there! The problem with reading the Fionavar Tapestry is that it colours the rest of Kay's work in a very negative light. His standalone novels, and one duo, are far far superior - almost as if they'd been written by another, better author.

    Why are these four series gritty? Hm:

    Yup. They do. The unnecessary killing part is subjective though. Personally, I wouldn't say any of them have gratuitous killing - but there is lots of it, particularly in the Malazan series. In droves. Rape occurs here and there - for instance in Bakker's series women are treated as less than slaves sometimes. They have a very defined place in the world, and it isn't a nice one.

    The Farseer trilogy is one of my favourites: grand adventure, wonderful writing, superior characterisation. But, like Clockwirk said, the protagonist definitely 'takes a beating' - physically, emotionally. He's a wreck throughout, which is one of the main reasons I like it. He's real to me. He struggles.

    If you want a fun, relaxing read steer clear of Malazan for now - you need to think, and remember lots of detail and whatnot, while reading these. They're huge, wonderful reads, and I love them. But they're not light sunday reading that's for sure.

    To me 'grit' can make a novel - like Ash by Mary Gentle, or the Malazan series, or ASOIAF. If it's dirty, it can feel more real. And that's what I like most of the time. So, when you're in the mood for real, seek them out.

    Suggestions for romps without quite so much grit:

    J.V Jones - The Book of Words trilogy - does have some violence.
    Sarah Zettel - The Isavalta trilogy - a portal story like the Fionavar Tapestry
    Carol Berg - The Rai-Kirah trilogy - one of my favourite main characters here. Does have some hard themes - slavery, loss, death, grief etc
     
  10. pat5150

    pat5150 Staff

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    If you're looking for something light, then I suggest you steer clear of both Bakker and Erikson for the time being. . .

    Both series are as far from light reads as can possibly be!:)

    Patrick
     
  11. Icarium

    Icarium Lost Wanderer

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    ok, i know it s not epic fantasy, but if you re looking for something light, while being very good and witty, go for the Dresden files by Jim Butcher... as i was saying, i know it s not epic fantasy, it s urban fantasy, but as far as light reading goes, i feel that s the best serie out there right now.
     
  12. clockwirk

    clockwirk the enchanter

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    Oh c'mon, it's not THAT bad. It's got a lot of cliched elements, but many of those elements weren't cliche when it came out. And it's decent for a light, non-gritty, series with some fairly moving dramatic scenes. And even though he was young, Kay still wrote very poetically, in my opinion.
     
  13. hippokrene

    hippokrene Peckish

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    Charles de Lint's works are excellent, non-gritty contemporary fantasy.
     
  14. thrinidir

    thrinidir dw4rf

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    you said you don't want gritty but that you don't really know what that means, just that a lot of people are put of by gritty literature; and also that in a way you like a bit of realism in your stories :) contradicting yourself a bit...

    well...gritty means "rough" in a most basic and simple translation...so the story is not "smoothed", you have sex, you have a bit of rape, you have gore and killing and swearwords and so on...but i kind of like these things in my fantasy, thank you - but gritty elements must add a flavour to the story, they should not be the main course itself ofcourse!

    and i'll say again...try Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch...it's like Oceans 11 in a fantasy setting :p
     
  15. Barbarossa

    Barbarossa Ancient Member

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    When it comes to simple enjoyment, I personally would put SoIaF first of the four series. Farseer i liked very much, but for me it was a tougher read, mostly because it's at times so self-reflective (one of its strength but not helping with an easy time).

    I personally couldn't get into Erikson or Bakker, and it has nothing to do with lots of names or complicated plots. Neither provided me with characters in which i got invested emotianlly, and that made it a very hard read for me. In both series i got stuck in volume 2.
     
  16. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    The only people who write "lite" fantasy are the comic fantasy writers and even they slip in heavy stuff frequently. Lynch's Lies is definitely not light. It has some humor in it, but mostly it's black humor and there's plenty of violence. Guy Gavriel Kay's stuff is definitely not light and Novik's story, which is about war as much of fantasy is, doesn't sound light to me. Butcher's stories are not at all light and have quite a lot of violence and gore. Fantasy is predominantly battle and suspense fiction, so light really doesn't enter into it.

    Where books differ, and get the gritty label, is in the amount of raw, graphic content they contain -- how much you see versus how much happens off-stage and in how much detail and how violent what you are seeing might be and how frequently such violence occurs. If a novel is "gritty," it's very graphic and there's a lot of violence throughout the story and its described in full detail.

    Based on gritty content, then, with the least amount of gritty content first and then in increasing order, it would be:

    Farseer (and others like Liveship, etc)
    Song of Ice and Fire
    Malazan Book of the Fallen
    Prince of Nothing (yes, it's really gritty)

    But Hobb's stuff has plenty of grit in it. If you are dealing with stories about war, sabatoge, dark magic, dangerous creatures, deadly diseases and corruption, then it's going to be gritty. If you don't want much in the way of violence, then I'd recommend Peter S. Beagle's "A Fine and Private Place" and Kij Johnson's "The Fox Woman." Other than that, enjoy the grit.
     
  17. proto-man

    proto-man New Member

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    Thanx for all the helpful replies guys. Much appreciated.

    I know I may be steering away from the original point of the topic but all the other replies have helped me realize that I have been asking for the wrong things completely. I think using the words trying to use words like 'light' got me the wrong kind of recommendations. The reason I chose those four titles is because they sounded epic and fun but perhaps I was looking for something else altogether.

    I have realized that the kind of things I want to read is traditional fantasy or what many people call cliched fantasy. Books in this subgenre of fantasy seem to be the ones I enjoy I most, (and hate the most when done bad). Things like Lord of the Rings, Riftwar (especially the Magician Duology), Eragon (gasp! yes, the book that got me into fantasy), Memory, Sorrow & Thorn, Belgariad/Mallorean (not my favourite, got very repetitive, but a good example of traditional fantasy I suppose) etc.

    Yes, looking at my tastes, you can tell I am new reader to fantasy and honestly I don't why many people are put off by cliched elements. Maybe because I am a new reader. So, can you guys recommend more "good" titles in the traditional fantasy (should be epic :) ). Btw, I don't mind elves or dwarves or dragons in the story but rather enjoy them (especially elves). I also don't mind the farm boy becomes hero, saves princess, etc. I am just looking for something epic and traditional. So, please keep the suggestions coming. Phew, long post.
     
  18. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    It's not your fault, kiddo. It's a war of words out there in fan-land. For instance, traditional epic fantasy -- that means classic works filled with: rape, bloodthirsty killing, sex scenes, soldiers dying in wars, torture, etc. YA books have less overall graphic violence, but they still have some -- far more than most other stories written for children and teens. Again, this is because fantasy, and epic fantasy in particular, is usually dealing with war and suspense/thriller events in which there is danger, violence, trauma and loss. Even humorous fantasy books are usually dealing with pretty serious issues, though there the violence has its funny side and may have less disasterous consequences.

    So what you seem to be asking is not how much grittiness is in the stories but for recommendations in general and for that, you may want to check out the Recommendations thread, which leads you to many other threads about various types of fantasy books. And you can take a look at the four series you have, all of which are in my view well written. Bakker is very, very military. Erikson is a cross between fantasy writers Glen Cook and Guy Gavriel Kay. Hobb reminds me of C.J. Cherryh mostly, and Martin combines about every fantasy tradition we've ever had into plaited ribbons of characters who are striking and may or may not be to your tastes. So they aren't bad 'uns to start with, but here are some older writers you might like:

    Ursula LeGuin, Earthsea books (YA)
    R.A. Salvatore, Dark Elf or Demon Awakening series (he has lots)
    Glen Cook, Garrett P.I. series (comic fantasy with a noir bent)
    C.J. Cherryh, Rusalka series
    Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
    Barbara Hambly, Dragonsbane
    David Gemmell
    Diana Wynne Jones
    Patricia A. McKillip
    Terry Pratchett, Discworld series (comic fantasy)
    Robert Silverberg
    Terry Brooks, Shanara series
    Stephen Donaldson, Thomas Convenant series

    There are dozens of other older writers, equally interesting and many of whom are still writing today. And there are hundreds of new ones, many of them excellent, but I'm not going to get into it, because I don't feel like dealing with the grief. (I'll be stoned enough for suggesting Brooks as it is.) Check out the recommendations, ignore when people tell you not to read something, feel around and see what you like most. And when you've read a bit more, you might find you want to try some other flavors of fantasy besides epic.
     
  19. Bond

    Bond Registered User

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    Proto-man let me make this easy for you. Since it seems you haven't read it yet read WoT. If you want something shorter and hewing even closer to traditional epic fantasy (perhaps responsible for institutionalizing all the fantasy clich├ęs of today) read Dragonlance Chronicles and Dragonlance Legends.

    Be prepared to skim through the first half of the first books though.

    From what I've seen if you like Magician more than MST you go the above route. If the opposite you might want to jump into ASoIaF and those on your list sooner.

    Maybe the previously mentioned Lies of Locke Lamora deserves priority but I haven't read it yet.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2007
  20. proto-man

    proto-man New Member

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    Hmm, well let's start with Ursuala Le Guin's Earthsea books. I was really expecting something exciting because of the great reviews and the basic storyline was that a boy would find he had magical powers and go train on an island, and start an adventure. I read the first book in the Earthsea series and was disappointed. Action isn't the only thing that I look for in a book, but I found A Wizard of Earthsea very much lacking in this area. Forget action, nothing much of anything happened. By the time I reached the last page, I realized that a very simple plot was embellished with much unnecessary detail and stretched into a 200-page book. While detail isn't necessarily bad, I think it had little effect on me as a reader other than annoy. For example, I found that I wasn't part of the story, but a spectator in the stands, even with all that detail. Very much disliked the character because there was little development. Sure you could say he "learned more about himself" and "conquered his evil side" but its one thing to be told something and another entirely to feel it. And there was little of that "feeling" from me.

    Also, about the Dark Elf and Dragonlance stuff, I try to steer clear of such stuff because there is so much pure drivel with these labels. Once, I tried to give them a try, and found Chronicles to be OK then but gave up after the first book of Legends. Now that I have read some more of fantasy, seems like I just wasted my time with even Chronicles and could have invested in my time with other reads.

    Also KatG, I tried Legend by David Gemell but gave up after the first 100 pages. Can't exactly point a finger at what I disliked. Maybe it was that the book moved way too fast (what else would you expect from a book entirely about the seige of a castle) and there little background history stuff about the world.

    Bond, I was thinking of reading Wot, and I seriously think I will enjoy the first three books, seems like the perfect traditional fantasy and Rand another classic just like Pug but after reading all those reviews about the books going downhill after three have made me skeptical. And when I am so far into the series as Book 3, I won't be able to stop. So, is it worth it to invest my time (I would be investing quite a lot of it) in all of those other books also part of the Wot series, when so many seem to dislike them?

    As for the recommendations thread, I have been through many of them and most of the series I have currently read are because of the recommendations from those threads (even the bad ones :D ). That said, I think I have provided enough details so that I may receive some more specific recommendations with general details on the books rather than huge lists like in the recommendation threads.

    Lol, was kind of expecting that after mentioning Eragon as one of my tastes. Or maybe, being a mod, she does that to everyone... :D