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Epics in literature are usually poems such as Milton’s Paradise Lost, or Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey.  Books or a series of books are often considered epics such as Joyce’s Ulysses or Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu.  Fantasy epics are another category of book such as Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings.

Last week I finished Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance which is the sequel to The Way of Kings and volume two of The Stormlight Archive.  It is a tome, and it is labeled as epic fantasy.  (1080 pages).  I waited four years for the book which is number two of a projected ten and it was worth it.  I described it in a comment last week as a grand slam.  In my opinion, Sanderson knocked it out of the park with all the bases loaded.  The ending was awesome and satisfying even though there will be more books.

Wiki explains what epic fantasy is:

High fantasy is often classified as epic fantasy; although the two subgenres are extremely similar, the latter usually contains a wider range of main characters.

High fantasy is defined as fantasy fiction set in an alternative, entirely fictional ("secondary") world, rather than the real, or "primary" world. The secondary world is usually internally consistent, but its rules differ in some way(s) from those of the primary world.

These stories are often serious in tone and epic in scope, dealing with themes of grand struggle against supernatural, evil forces. Some typical characteristics of high fantasy include fantastical elements such as elves, fairies, dwarves, dragons, demons, magic or sorcery, wizards or magicians, constructed languages, quests, coming-of-age themes, and multi-volume narratives.

Typically, the hero slowly gains knowledge of his past through legend, prophecy, lost-and-found-again family members, or encounters with "mentor" characters who know more about him/her than he/she does. With that knowledge comes power and confidence; the hero often begins as a childlike figure, but matures rapidly, experiencing a huge gain in fighting/problem-solving abilities along the way. The plot of the story often depicts the hero's fight against the evil forces as a Bildungsroman. However, the epic adventure is not always quite so stereotyped. A good example of a less stereotyped epic is The Deed of Paksenarrion in which the main character becomes a paladin through her own growing strength instead of it having been forced on her at birth.

While I am interested in several of the main characters such as Shallan Davar, Jasnah Kholin, Dalinar Kholin (The Blackthorn), Adolin Kholin, Renarin, and Wit; it is Kaladin who is the main protagonist.  He is the character who develops and through whose eyes we view the most important things in the story so far.  Shallan has a large part in Words of Radiance, but it is Kaladin who is front and center in the main events.

The world building is awesome, but sometimes confusing.  There are many questions about what is coming to the world and why it is about to be devastated that add to the suspense.  Prince Dalinar, the Blackthorn, is a fighter who sees visions of the future that enemies use against him to imply that he is crazy.  There is a count down of days to the end of the world as it is.

Jasnah Kholin is a scholar who through study has reached the same horrifying conclusion.  The reader is given clues through her work about the danger of the servants who are everywhere in the war camps.  

Are the gods still alive?  Can the Alethkar princes be united?  Who is the assassin in white working for?  Why is he killing kings across the world?

But beneath it all is the question of Kaladin and his skills.  Can he protect his men and the royal family?  Can he keep Syl, the Spren that is bonded to him, alive?  

Who are The Knights Radiant?

Wiki says:

The Knights Radiant lived by their order's Five Ideals, the First Ideal being the same for every order: Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination. The other four ideals are different for each order. Towards the end of The Way of Kings, Kaladin utters the Second Ideal for the Order of Windrunners: I will protect those who cannot protect themselves. Near the end of Words of Radiance, Kaladin whispers the Third Ideal for the Order of Windrunners: I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right.
The other fantasy or scifi books that I consider to be epics and that were also grand slams for me:

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Riddle-master of Hed by Patricia McKillip

Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton

The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay

The Book of Swords Series by Fred Saberhagen

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

The Fallen Blade series by Kelly McCullough

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

Farseer Trilogy, Liveship Trader’s Trilogy, The Tawny Man Trilogy, and the Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb (they all go together)

The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind and the Wise Man’s Fear)

Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn

Startide Rising and the Uplift Trilogy by David Brin

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (finished by Sanderson)

Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Dragon Lance Chronicles by Weiss and Hickman

Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny

The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart (The Crystal Cave)

The Keltiad by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison (The Copper Crown)

The Dragonriders of Pern and The Harper Hall series by Anne McCaffrey  

Tales of Sector General by James White

The Sun Sword series by Michelle West
  And her Chronicles of Elantra as Michelle Sagara

The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist

The Seafort Saga by David Feintuch (Midshipman's Hope)

Alliance-Union universe (Company Wars), Pride of Chanur, and The Foreigner series by Cherryh

The Deed of Paksenarrion and sequels by Elizabeth Moon

Enemy Papers Trilogy by Barry Longyear (Enemy Mine)

Wars of Light and Shadow by Jani Wurts and

Kelewan Empire series by Feist and Wurts (Daughter of the Empire)

Edited to add books from readers below that I should have included in my list as I love them, too:

Outlander by Gabaldon

The Temeraire series by Novik

The Redwall series by Jacques

Winters' Tale by Helprin

Recipe for a Fantasy Grand Slam Book

1 cup of an interesting world setting
2 cups of chopped heroes
3 Tbsp of a long journey
1 ½ cups of trouble that gets worse
½ cup of an evil dark lord who wants to corrupt the world
1 Tbsp of elves, gnomes or other magical characters
5 tsp of spice and suspense
3 tsp of romance

Sprinkle on top
½ cup of a faithful helper for the hero

Optional but hoped for:
1 cup of dragons
½ cup of songs and ballads

Bake well for many pages

There are hundreds of titles for you to mention of your favorite grand slam books of all genres, not just fantasy.  Please share them.

Diaries of the Week:

Write On! What Everybody Knows.
by SensibleShoes

Robert Fuller says:

Here's the latest chapter of The Rowan Tree:

Here are the usual free book links for those who wish to take a look:

The Rowan Tree on Kindle:

Those who download the free Kindle version might also get the audiobook for a couple of bucks:

My memoir Belonging on Smashwords:

(Please encourage people to demand a price match of $0 on Amazon so the Kindle version will become free as well).

Also, get my father's memoir :The Making of a Scientist free while you can:

The Calvin S. Fuller project may be taken over by a professional publisher soon given the significant developments in solar cell technology.

R&BLers: Birth Announcement for Grokking Republicans
by Susan from 29

Susan says (and much more in the diary):

Please welcome to our Weekly Magazine Schedule, Mokurai who will be bringing a weekly diary to all our Followers about Republicans, how they got to be that way and what we can do about it. Look for him to brighten up the start of each week on Mondays, at 1:00pm EDT, with Grokking Republicans.
NOTE: plf515 has book talk on Wednesday mornings early

Choosing one on the poll is hard, I know.  If you only agree with one of the choices, please vote and then explain in the comments that you only want one.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.


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