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  1. #1

    Malazan + Belgariad = ???

    In another thread I described Steven Erikson's Malazan books and David Eddings' Belgariad as representative of somewhat opposite extremes of the fantasy spectrum. It is not just tone - Malazan is dark and atmospheric, whereas Belgariad is light and very accessible, but rather bland - but a quality and contrast of characterization and world-building. For instance, the world of Malazan is the primary "character" of the books: the world is richly detailed, with a sprawling deep history, an atmosphere of magic, mystery and lost ages and civilizations. On the other hand, the characters don't feel all that accessible or, dare I say, loveable. There is no character that I at least really identified with; they all feel like pawns in Steven Erikson's symphony.

    The Belgariad, on the other hand, while employing significant world-building and mythology, doesn't have the same textured depth. The world is comprised of cultural analogues to our own world, the history is somewhat paper thin and doesn't evoke a sense of mystery or fantastical otherworldness. The characters, on the other hand, are very real, their personalities living and vibrant, and it is easy to fall in love with them, from "Goodman" Durnik to the sardonic Silk, to the conflicted Barak, to the queenly Polgara (who must be the archetype for all of Robert Jordan's female characters, braid-tugging and all). Some may say that Eddings' characters are a bit one-note, but they are alive.

    Upon finishing a Malazan book I can barely remember who the characters are beyond their interesting attributes and how much ass they kicked, yet the world and interesting discoveries I made along the way linger like a rich, complex aftertaste. Upon finishing the Belgariad, I can barely remember the world or its history, but the characters live on. I can remember Silk like an old friend, yet who is Ganoes Paran? I can't remember the feel of him.

    So the question--or quest--of this thread: Which authors combines both? In-depth, intricate and evocative world-building with living, warm characters? Is there anyone that bridges the gap between Malazan and the Belgariad? I honestly can't think of anyone.

  2. #2
    Saturn Comes Back Around Evil Agent's Avatar
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    Hmm... maybe Jordan's Wheel of Time?

  3. #3
    Would be writer? Sure. Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evil Agent View Post
    Hmm... maybe Jordan's Wheel of Time?
    I'll second that.

  4. #4
    I'd say george rr martin to a certain extent. while most of his characters seem to fall under a similar category to caligula and nero, there are a few characters that do have something, even if they are a bit annoying.

  5. #5
    Couch Commander Danogzilla's Avatar
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    Just to be annoying, I think you need another fractional step on each side, and they have both been named: WoT is the next step in from the Belgariad series, and ASoiaF is the next step in from the Malazan series. The question is now what's the middle point between WoT and ASoiaF. Or do you go with another fractional step, and say Mistborn is the next step in from WoT, and Abercrombie's series (w/eth it's called - Blade Itself, Before They are Hanged, and Last Argument of Kings) is the next step in from ASoiaF.

    So what you are really asking is what's the midpoint between Mistborn and Abercrombie's series. And I have no answer.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Danogzilla View Post

    So what you are really asking is what's the midpoint between Mistborn and Abercrombie's series. And I have no answer.
    Maybe the Night Angel trilogy?

  7. #7
    Hmmmm... it might be a useful exercise to think of some female authors who have strong world-building? I want to propose something like Bujold's Chalion or Wells' Ile-Rien, but that's probably my bias towards the character-driven side of things showing. Neither world is probably enough of the raison d'etre of the series the way you're looking for.

    The Kushiel books, maybe? Hobb?

    I agree that GRRM's closer to the mid-point than not.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jen526 View Post
    Hmmmm... it might be a useful exercise to think of some female authors who have strong world-building? I want to propose something like Bujold's Chalion or Wells' Ile-Rien, but that's probably my bias towards the character-driven side of things showing. Neither world is probably enough of the raison d'etre of the series the way you're looking for.

    The Kushiel books, maybe? Hobb?

    I agree that GRRM's closer to the mid-point than not.
    I definitely remember Hobbs' character hubs--the castle/city in Assassin, Bingtown in Liveships. Even 10 years after reading I still remember many details of these places. The Six Duchies and the Trader Family domain are rich and memorable places.

  9. #9
    McKillip's Riddle-Master. "Warm" characters are front and center, and are limited to a precious few viewpoints so you get plenty of time to know them. The setting has a feeling of mythic depth while still coming across as relevant to the immediate narrative. Like Erikson, it's unapologetically fantasy in the sense of magical happenings defining both the characters and the world they inhabit.

    The last is one reason why I don't compare Malazan to A Song of Ice and Fire. To me Martin and Erikson are about as similar as John Updike and Roberto Bolano--both are literary fiction, but in very different ways. Same goes for Erikson and Martin and their approach to the epic.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Alchemist View Post
    In another thread I described Steven Erikson's Malazan books and David Eddings' Belgariad as representative of somewhat opposite extremes of the fantasy spectrum. It is not just tone - Malazan is dark and atmospheric, whereas Belgariad is light and very accessible, but rather bland - but a quality and contrast of characterization and world-building. For instance, the world of Malazan is the primary "character" of the books: the world is richly detailed, with a sprawling deep history, an atmosphere of magic, mystery and lost ages and civilizations. On the other hand, the characters don't feel all that accessible or, dare I say, loveable. There is no character that I at least really identified with; they all feel like pawns in Steven Erikson's symphony.

    The Belgariad, on the other hand, while employing significant world-building and mythology, doesn't have the same textured depth. The world is comprised of cultural analogues to our own world, the history is somewhat paper thin and doesn't evoke a sense of mystery or fantastical otherworldness. The characters, on the other hand, are very real, their personalities living and vibrant, and it is easy to fall in love with them, from "Goodman" Durnik to the sardonic Silk, to the conflicted Barak, to the queenly Polgara (who must be the archetype for all of Robert Jordan's female characters, braid-tugging and all). Some may say that Eddings' characters are a bit one-note, but they are alive.

    Upon finishing a Malazan book I can barely remember who the characters are beyond their interesting attributes and how much ass they kicked, yet the world and interesting discoveries I made along the way linger like a rich, complex aftertaste. Upon finishing the Belgariad, I can barely remember the world or its history, but the characters live on. I can remember Silk like an old friend, yet who is Ganoes Paran? I can't remember the feel of him.

    So the question--or quest--of this thread: Which authors combines both? In-depth, intricate and evocative world-building with living, warm characters? Is there anyone that bridges the gap between Malazan and the Belgariad? I honestly can't think of anyone.
    Great question!

    I'd say Tolkien. Although I admit this may because I had been read, or had read, the Hobbit and LoTR a half dozens in my youth.

    I can recall Tolkien's characters and places instantly. I consider if the movies helped--certainly, they did--but even characters like Beorn and his home still come back quickly, even though I haven't read the Hobbit in 15+ years.

    Jordan is also a good suggestion. I definitely feel I know the characters, and many settings.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jen526 View Post
    Hmmmm... it might be a useful exercise to think of some female authors who have strong world-building?
    I would list J.V. Jones, Janny Wurts and Michelle West.

    I've only read the first book in Wurts' The Wars of Light and Shadow series, but didn't find her characterization to be especially complex (though others have disagreed with me). Jones seemed to have much more realistic characters in the Sword of Shadows (I also only read the first book in this series), but I found the story to be on the grittier side, which doesn't sound like what Alchemist is looking for (Disclosure: I haven't actually read Eddings and have only read the first book of Malazan, so I'm not the best person to answer the original question).

    Michelle West might better fit the bill, but I'm biased on the series set in that world. Imo the world-building is great (though perhaps not to the extent of Erikson), and the characterization gets extremely deep, but I think that it takes at least several books to start to get that sense of both of those elements in the same book.

    If anyone's interested in checking this out, I started a thread here (and actually one person who has read both does compare it to Malazan):

    http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=32554

  12. #12
    Hmmm... Greg Keyes's The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. Tad William's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn... they both are complex and have a lot of characterization but they aren't quite the answer, because they are totally their own.

    I'm gonna go with Raymond Fiest's Rift World Saga. Pug, Thomas, Markos the black, and Jimmy the Hand are unforgetable.

  13. #13
    maybe sandersons way of kings.

  14. #14
    Not familiar with Belgariad. But definitely can NOT get on board with Malazan being put on the same side as SoIaF... The latter being hugely character driven, with Martin's strong points really letting those characters pop out as individuals, IMO. Until the last book or two, at least, where I found less dept in the characters, with more and more being pushed for big scope, world driven ideals.(which I didn't like)

    I like Malazan enough, and am currently reading and enjoying it, but had just about the first moment of really being enamored with certain characters at the end of book 3. But for the most part, I really just felt like he used characters to push the world. Not letting you really get into their heads, to gain their understanding of the world. If you can understand what I'm getting at.

    Whereas in IceandFire, I feel like the whole setting could have been a political war in a remote village, not branching out past there, and the books would have been nearly as good, because of how he used the characters.

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