April 25th, 2012, 06:24 AM
That tingling feeling of ancient mysteries...
I believe that I started a thread like this a couple years ago, but reading The Judging Eye has encouraged me to start another with a more specific focus. I'm nearing the end and Achamian and his crew has entered Cil-Aujas; the entire book I've been looking forward to this sequence and so far I'm loving it.
Here's what the thread title refers to: the feeling that fantasy writers sometimes (too infrequently, imo) inspire: it is akin to the classic scifi "sense of wonder," but I would call it a "sense of mystery." Not mystery as in Agatha Christie, but as in ancient history, myth, lost civilizations, reference to a past that no longer is, elder/dead races, mythic creatures and gods, artifacts, ruins, and so forth.
R Scott Bakker does a good job invoking this - in particular his two ancient races, the Nonmen and Inchoroi, but also Cil-Aujas. Another author that is good at this is Steven Erikson; his references to a deep history, and in particular the elder races of the Jaghut and others evoke this sense of mystery. And of course J.R.R. Tolkien set the bar - the mythic history, the fantastic locations, especially the Moria sequence and perhaps most especially the Balrog itself. Le Guin's Earthsea and McKillip's Riddlemaster also had strong elements of this, particularly through their dense atmospherics.
So my question is this: What authors and books do this for you? As a secondary question, how important is it to you, as a reader? For me it may be the most important quality of a book. If a book has other strong qualities but little sense of mystery, I might still read it; on a very rare occasion I might even love an author that doesn't specialize in this (Guy Gavriel Kay), but that author has to be very good at other qualities (which Kay is). But overall this really is my favorite spice in the fantasy soup.
April 25th, 2012, 07:11 AM
Heritage, Not Hate
Believe it or not, Dragon Riders of Pern and The Chronicles of Amberdid that for me. At a much younger age, Terry Brooks did so as well. Though re-reading some of his earlier works hasn't carried the same gravitas as they did when I was 12.
Originally Posted by Alchemist
April 25th, 2012, 07:25 AM
East Indian NASCAR dad
Seconded for all three of those. Thomas Covenant did as well, but the one that really stands out for me is Robert Jordan. For me, his use of history was actually more impressive that Tolkien's, at least in the sense of mystery that it evoked. I miss that feeling.
Originally Posted by DennisC
April 25th, 2012, 09:13 AM
I just found that in the least expected place - Abercrombie's First Law trilogy. When they enter the House of the Maker, I found myself wishing he would write about 20 more books about it and the mythos around it. I thought First Law would be all in the present with no real mythology and history, but it seems that Abercrombie has hundreds of pages of notes about the history of his world. It added a huge amount of depth to the stories and made everything seem more anchored and real.
April 25th, 2012, 11:31 AM
I love that sense of ancient mystery. I'm currently in the middle of Michael J Sullivan's second Riyria omnibus and I'm getting some of that there. As was said earlier The Wheel of Time delivers a nice dose of that too. I haven't yet read Malazan Book of the Fallen, but I'm hoping that has a strong sense of ancient mystery as well. Also Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard Sequence seems to be building some of that with the Elderglass remnants. Oddly the place where I may have felt that the strongest (that I can think of at the moment anyhow) may have been in a video game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. All the ruins and artifacts of the Makers really awed me at the time.
April 25th, 2012, 11:55 AM
It never entered my mind
Sean Russell - Moontide and Magic Rise duology has heaps of the stuff: World Without End and Sea Without Shore. There are two more books set in the same world that I haven't read yet.
April 25th, 2012, 09:46 PM
I'll second Robert Jordan, I felt he did it very well, probably the most impressive and the first I thought of when I saw this thread. Also agree with Pern and the Shannara books, though obviously at a different level and I was much younger.
Originally Posted by Radone
April 26th, 2012, 02:40 AM
Michelle West and Michelle Sagara (same person). Between her two main series, the various works in the Essalyien world and the Chronicles of Elantra, she includes all of the elements that you mentioned: "ancient history, myth, lost civilizations, reference to a past that no longer is, elder/dead races, mythic creatures and gods, artifacts, and ruins". Some of that is more prominent in certain books than in others, but there's enough of a sense of history in those worlds that I very much get the sense of a great deal of very original world-building.
Originally Posted by Alchemist
I also saw a few of these elements in Robert V. S. Redick's The Red Wolf Conspiracy. Though I've only read the first one, so I don't know if their presence increases or decreases as the series continues.
And Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles. Though you've likely heard of this series already.
I'll second Michael J Sullivan.
I also found many of these things in Janny Wurts' The Wars of Light and Shadow, though I've only read the first book, and had some issues with it in other areas.
I definitely enjoy reading about such things, but characterization is my main attraction. For me, this sense of history is great to have, and I think that I might liken it to a really enjoyable dessert. I can certainly eat without these elements and still have a fine experience, but that experience is often quite enhanced with them present.
April 27th, 2012, 09:30 AM
Ah dude, you're preachin' to the choir with me on that stuff! One of my favorite elements of fantasy! If you haven't already, defenitely check out Tad Williams' "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Trilogy" and Robert E. Howard's "Conan" stories. They're filled to the brim with those elements!
April 27th, 2012, 10:35 AM
I've hesitated to add non-epic fantasy suggestions, but since you mention Howard, I guess I'll chime in with my usual response: H. P. Lovecraft ("At the Mountains of Madness," several of his Dunsanian fantasies, and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath) and Clark Ashton Smith (for instance, his story "Tsathoggua" or the Zothique cycle).
Originally Posted by Zsinj
I also get this feeling from some of Caitlin Kiernan's work, like Threshold or her short story, "Valentia."
Lovecraft's "...Mountains..." and Kiernan's Threshold are border-line s.f., but the flavor of the writing and their connections to the writers more fantasy-like works might make them of interest.