Fantastical Intentions is a feature featuring Hannah and Naithin of Once Upon A Time and Jacob of the fabulous fantasy-sf blog, Drying Ink. We intermittently host between us every now and then with a new fantasy related topic. If you’d like to join in, feel free to write a post of your own and leave your links in the comments or just leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!
What a topic to first include the new
buttmonkey associate reviewer at Once Upon A Time! Beginnings. Jacob may be joining us tomorrow but we shall see, time constraints pending. 🙂
My pick this week is the beginning of Harry Potter. The Order of the Phoenix in particular.
You see, when this topic was put forth I went with it and then I sat down and thought to myself, “Which fantastical beginning has really stood out in my memory?” I went through Rothfuss, Sanderson, Hobb, Martin.. Started to worry because not one of them had a beginning that really stuck out in my mind. And a couple of days later I realised that it had to be Harry Potter. There are so many beginnings in the Harry Potter series that completely stand out and I’m going with The Order of the Phoenix because the Dementor attack and the results that followed may well have been one of my favourite bookish beginnings of all time.
The trouble with this topic is how difficult it is to write a truly outstanding beginning. The start of a book should grab you in and make you want to keep reading from the very first page but more often than not, you find yourself forcing yourself to keep reading because you’ve been told that by page 143 it is the best book ever written however boring those first 142 pages might be. A great beginning can be make or break for a novel. They are so important and The Order of the Phoenix is a perfect example of a great beginning.
Naithin’s pick this week is a slightly different interpretation to mine as he has chosen Sanderson’s Cosmere.
Hannah has the right of it. Picking a specific favourite ‘beginning’ from a fantasy book is difficult. Initially I had planned on rereading the beginnings from a series of books and select the best of them.
But surely to be considered a true favourite, it should be something a little more memorable than that, right?
So I pondered some more and eventually came to a realisation that my favourite beginning in fantasy is in fact not from a single book. It is the beginning that Brandon Sanderson has given to Cosmere, his universe in which all of his adult fiction (excepting of course his contribution to finishing The Wheel of Time) is set.
He has done it quite intelligently, too. Tell someone there is an anticipated 38 volumes in a single ‘series’ and they would likely balk. Instead setting his works in different worlds with different rules they can be read as standalone works quite comfortably.
It is never necessary to know of Cosmere’s existance to enjoy his work — I didn’t, until I had read almost everything currently available — but once you do know, you can start to see a hint of reflected light from the delicate gossamer threads woven between his stories.
The more you read with the knowledge of the overarching universe in mind, the more you can connect and recognise as what it is; being a piece of a much grander whole.
The scale of this, done in this way, quite excites me! I can’t wait for the next volume, and the next strengthening of the links he is creating.
Huzzah! A tad late to the party but better late than never. Jacob’s pick is Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber.
There are a couple of beginnings I love – Rothfuss’ first page in The Wise Man’s fear for one – but my choice was so picked because it takes one of the most well-worn tropes, and does it sufficiently well to become a classic beginning in its own right. The novel in question? Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber. And the trope I’m talking about is amnesia – which, yes, usually evokes a groan or two from me when it comes up.
Corwin awakes with almost no knowledge of his life – and yes, in hospital. Soon, however, he’s embroiled in his family’s deadly intrigues, and that’s why I enjoy this introduction so much: because far from the typical antics of the amnesiac, Corwin bluffs that he does possess his memories. He dives head first into his family’s intrigues, pretending to his memories rather than trying to regain them – and it’s dangerous (he’s unaware whether whoever he’s bluffing with is an old friend or an older enemy), amusing (when his moves are interpreted as clever strategy rather than random guesses), and above all, interesting – we learn along with the protagonist, trying to piece together the various clues to one of the weirdest metaphysical settings in fantasy.
It’s this unusual aversion of the sterotypical that makes me love Zelazny so much, and Nine Princes in Amber is no exception.