31 January 2011

The Art(?) of Reading Epic Fantasy

I recently read Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. It is a monster of a book--over 1000 pages, and it is only "Book I" of the series. (But a good read nonetheless). I noticed that I read epic fantasies in a particular way. I find it next to impossible to keep track of all the character and place names. I remember the major characters and a few who are unique or exceptionally well drawn, but I don't try to place all of them. I also don't keep track of all the place names, various religious (unless important to the plot), and backstory about the world in any great detail. I almost never refer to a map or the glossary, if included. It just takes too much time. In places, (the better written the fantasy, the less I do this) I skim. If a character is brooding about a decision, I skim over that. If the book goes on at length about a minor plot tangent, a non-major character, or worldbuilding, I tend to skim that as well. Even blow-by-blow battle scenes may become tedious and I'll just look to the end of duel to see who dies.

If the fantasy author has done his or her job, however, by the time I get to the end of the book, I'll be reading every word carefully. I'm torn between savoring it and wanting to rush to the end to see what happens. Some scenes may be so well done or exciting that I'll read them twice in a row.

What about you? How do you read fantasies? Other genres?


Betsy Dornbusch said...

Oh! I'm in the middle of that! Loving it so far and also reading every word. We'll see how long that goes. George RR Martin is the only epic fantasy writer that constantly has me going to the glossary and character lists to make sure I have it straight. Most others I skim, or some, like Carol Berg's, I actually can recall who is who and what is what.

lesleylsmith said...

Wow, Dave. I'm surprised you would skim. I read every page of a book. If I find that I want to skim, I put down the book and that's the end for me.

Grey Freeman said...

I recently read The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie. If you haven't read it yet (and the other four books he's written) he's very well worth the time. Even GRRM thinks so!

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Thanks for the recommendation!

InternationalNerd said...

I agree completely, being wary of over-doing the technical details and too many names. In the The Way of Kings, I'd have to admit that there are too many names, bizarre plants, strange types of crustacean animals, religions, sects, regions, gods, history, etc.

It's a bit too much, which is odd because the Misborn series wasn't as bad.

Either way its still a good book.