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Lager or Stout? A Tale of Two Fantasies

Two weeks ago, I finished A Dance with Dragons, the latest tome in George R. R. Martin’s high fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, more commonly known as Game of Thrones to viewers of the HBO show.  As a writer and a reader, Martin’s series was a game changer for me.  Set in the mythic kingdom of Westeros, Game of Thrones is a massive yarn, told from multiple points of view, that recounts on a grand and bloody scale the political struggle among the seven kingdoms for supremacy and the Iron Throne.

Game of Thrones features a huge cast of characters with unusual and, often, confusingly similar names.  The story is intricate, gripping, layered, vast in scope and detail, and unrelentingly dark.  The saga is far from over.  Mr. Martin, I suspect, has numerous years and volumes ahead of him if he hopes to finish what he’s started.  Some readers speculate that the story is so huge, so massive and complex with so many dangling plot threads told from so many POVs that the story’s gotten away from Martin, and he’ll never live long enough to finish the damn thing.  After all, the first book opens with the admonition that Winter is coming; five books later, it’s barely begun to snow.

Doesn’t matter; whether he finishes it or not, Martin has changed the way I think about fantasy and writing.  I cut my teeth on The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  Game of Thrones is Tolkien on crack, a cynical (some say nihilistic), pessimistic, the-world-is-a-really-crappy-place-and-we’re-all-going-to-die-and-it’s-going-to-be-ugly Tolkien.  Game of Thrones is dirty and dark, grim and gritty, brutal, violent, Machiavellian and nightmarish. The good guys don’t win—at least so far.  In fact, a lot of the time, the good guys are downright dumber than dirt.  Which brings me to another point: as a writer, Martin’s lack of remorse astonishes me.  He has NO problem killing his characters.  Nope.  Nada.  The dude is merciless. I remember once, as I was reading, thinking, He’s not going to . . .  Surely he’s not really going to . . .  OMG, he did.

I closed the book with a shudder, marveling at his ability to dispatch his little darlings. And death is the least of the horrors that await his unlucky characters.  There truly are things worse than death at the hands of George R.R. Martin. Ask Theon Greyjoy, if you don’t believe me.

A_Game_of_Thrones_Novel_Covers

Fast forward a week. Having finished Game of Thrones, I decided to revisit The Belgariad, an old-fashioned epic fantasy about a young farm boy who embarks upon a quest to recover a powerful talisman before an evil, batshit crazy god can use it to subjugate the world and make things pretty much suck for everyone.  There are wizards and warriors, monsters and magic, supernatural battles and medieval warfare.  The series features an ensemble cast of likeable characters, including Garion, the boy wonder/chosen one, and his stalwart companions on the quest: Belgarath, a powerful sorcerer; Polgara, Belgarath’s beautiful and equally powerful daughter; Silk, the Guide; Barak, the Dreadful Bear; Durnik, a simple blacksmith; Hettar the Horse Lord; and Mandorallen, the Knight Protector.  Oh, and Ce’nedra, the Queen of the World and the Bride of Light. Want to guess whom she ends up marrying?

The Belgariad is a very different kind of story from  Game of Thrones.  Full of wry humor and sparkling dialogue (and LOTS of adverbs, something I noticed as a writer that I didn’t notice the first time I read it), Eddings’ voice reminds me of Georgette Heyer’s, if Ms. Heyer wrote sword and sorcery fantasy.  The story is mostly told from the POV of Garion, the boy, and we travel with him, watching him come into his powers and mature into a man, a hero, and a king.  It’s predictable and fun, comfortable and cozy. And, yes, maybe even a little clichéd, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion.  The Belgariad uses tried and true fantasy tropes to tell an engaging and entertaining story.  There are no surprises at the end. The good guys win and there’s a HEA.

belgariad

So, I guess you could say I like beer, whether it’s light or dark.  It just depends upon my mood.

Giveaway: I’m giving away 2 copies of Demon Hunting in a Dive Bar (U.S. only, please), so leave a comment to throw your hat into the ring!

WE HAVE WINNERS!   SHERYL AND PHYLLISLM52 email me at lexigeorge56@gmail.com  and I will send you a copy of Demon Hunting in a Dive Bar! 

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36 thoughts on “Lager or Stout? A Tale of Two Fantasies

  1. I agree… Depending on my mood, I can enjoy a dark paranormal or a humorous one… Sometimes I even branch out to a good mystery or romance… but then I need my paranormal fix. :-)))

    • I read both, too, although I write “light.” I think I veer in that direction in my writing, because my day job is so dark. I read criminal appellate transcripts all day long, and the things people do to one another is scary and disturbing. 🙂

  2. Cool post, Lexi! I haven’t read either book/series, but I love both light and dark paranormal. Completely depends on the mood and who’s agend came home from school with a frown or smiley face. Killing off characters I like, um, not so much. But if the book is wonderful and there’s a reason behind it, I can get over the dispatching after a good cry. 🙂

    LOVE your books!! Always a must read! Needless to say, I have Demon Hunting in a Dive Bar. I just wanted to read your post. Hee-hee!

  3. I have read and love both series, and more. It just depends on my mood if I choose light or heavy reading. Not entering, I am European.

    • Me, too! Love them both, although they are very, very different. I’m usually more of a “light” person, but Game of Thrones absorbed me, and I am awed by Martin’s world building. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Interesting post, Lexi. I haven’t read either of those series. I am, however, watching Game of Thrones. I have that same feeling you mentioned when I’m watching what’s happening in the show. “Surely, they’re not going to… oh no… argh…” In terms of reading, I read both dark and light, though I have a strong preference for dark and that middle “grey” ground. That said, I prefer my dark/grey to have an HEA or at the very least, an HFN.

    • I agree. Dark is fine, but there has to be SOME light at the end of the tunnel. If I want absolute unswerving reality, I’ll look at the headlines. I also have to have someone to root for. I remember watching the move “Perfect Storm,” and HATING it, because every single person on the ship dies. I was like, “Wait, a minute. If they’re all dead, who’s telling the story? Even Moby Dick had Ishmael left to tell the story,”

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I think I must be a “closet optimist” because I love to have a happy ending. I guess that’s why I gravitate to paranormal romance most often. I do have times when the dark side calls me though. “Demon Hunting in Dixie”? Damn I have got to read this one since I’m sitting here in the Heart of Dixie. Sounds too good to miss.

    • Marsha, I write Southern fried paranormal romance set in Alabama about smexy immortal demon hunters coming to the Deep South and falling in love for the first time! Demon Hunting in Dixie is the first one. Hope it makes you laugh!

  6. I love happy endings with a twist of trouble! I’ve always been one to love paranormal. When I started reading romance, of course I stuck with what I love. Now place it in the south, I’m in love! You make South Alabama interesting, which its usually not. Oh, and choosing chocolate as the warriors weakness, AMAZING!

  7. I think park of why I enjoy dark fantasy/paranormal is because it makes the HEA richer for me. I enjoy seeing that even when the entire world is in jeopardy love and hope can turn the tides and save the day! 🙂

    That said, I haven’t read George RR Martin’s series, but I need to! LOL

    Great post Lexi!!! 🙂

    Lisa

    • Is it the “George R. R Martin, please try to write faster?” one? Cause I love that. Suzanne, you will be amazed at his imagination, and irritated when he starts killing off people you like. But the guy is quite a storyteller.

  8. Hi Lexi! Wow, that is an oldie but goodie!!! I thought I was the only one to read Eddings, Belgariad..it seems ages ago. I love the High Fantasy books and I have read quite a few, including The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, The Shannara Series by Terry Brooks as well as Tolkien, Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody Trilogy and Symphony of Ages Trilogy and so many others. (I have been reading a VERY long time) As of yet, I still have not delved into any of Martin’s books, even though everyone I meet raves about them. I don’t watch the series either because I don’t have HBO….(this is a bit of a tangent….but have any of you ladies ever read MM Kayes, Far Pavillions?) As for beer…I don’t drink it al all….never acquired a taste for the stuff. I’m a Cosmo, Margarita, Rasberry Tini kind of gal. 😉

  9. Hi, Phyllis! I read The Far Pavillions, too, and Terry Brooks. Haven’t delved into Wheel of Time, but that’s next up on my list. Somehow, in moving and cleaning out the garage, the first book in the series got eaten, and I can’t abide not starting at the beginning. Haven’t read Elizabeth Hayden’s Rhapsody trilogy, but will be checking it out, for sure. Have you read Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry? Interesting retelling of Arthurian legend mixed with LOTR.

  10. Enjoyed your post very much. I haven’t started the Games of Thrones series yet because I’m still several books behind in the Wheel of Time series and my TBR pile is ridiculous. I prefer books with a HEA, but I do enjoy a dark fantasy once in a while. Thanks for the contest. I have enjoyed your demon books very much. The guy who was the mortician who became the artist of the nude pictures was a great character!

    • Hey, Liz! So glad you liked Shep. He was one of those characters that slid into the picture and said, “Yoohoo, look at me!” I generally prefer lighter books with a HEA, too, but it all depends on the writing.

  11. I prefer dark with occasional dollops of light. If he writes like Heyer, I definitely have to track down Eddings’ work. Thanks for the contest.

    • Well, he writes like Heyer in the sense of his droll wit and dry humor. NOBODY writes like Heyer, really! Don’t want to mislead you. But I so enjoyed his secondary characters and sly zingers!

  12. Hi Lexi and all,

    I loved the way you juxtaposed Dark & Light, Stout & Lager, and brought home the gist of great paranormal book series.

    Personally, I prefer to drink Stout (I brew beer at home, BTW), and read Lager.
    I like to watch GOT, but the darkness in the book series has too much bitter for me. Thanks for spotlighting that some of us, some days, just like to read the HEA, see the Hero come away with the goods, and have a story end the way we want it to.

    I’m putting The Belgariad series on my TBR list, cause sometimes, especially in this world of woe, I simply want something Lager in the frosty mug.

    Great post, Lexi!

    • Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post. I read something not long ago that made a HUGE impact on me: never let anyone make you ashamed of what you like to read. I read sad stuff all day long at work (criminal trial transcripts, murder and mayhem, etc.). When I sit down to read for entertainment, I generally like something escapist with a HEA. Not that I never read dark; but I do like it when love triumphs and the good guys win. So sue me!

  13. I have heard a lot about Games of Thrones. I can honestly say that I am not usually a fan of fantasy books like that. I am more into paranormal romance.

  14. oki I will get the book and i’m international so i’m not entering the contest but i wanted to comment anyway^^
    i haven’t read any of those series yet. i did offer game of teh thrione to my brother and it devored it until book 3 ( book 4 would have been read too but it has a problem some page are badly cut so i’m waiting for teh remplavcement) since he read it he can stop to tell me how it can be difficult to keep up with so many characters and how different from the tv show it is etc but he is loving it while a few days before he wasn’t reading anymore for quite a long time. this series got him addicted.

    i do hope the author will finish it ( though 2015 and 2020 seem so far for the next books)

    • I’m with you, Miki. I hope Martin finishes the series. There ARE a large and confusing number of characters in the series. Definitely a series for high fantasy fans, and not for someone looking for a quick read, but SO worth it!

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