Hi, February High Fantasy!

Defining high fantasy as opposed to low fantasy has nothing at all to do with quality. High fantasy is set in an entirely other world, one full of magic, so it works differently than our own, non-magical world. (Think Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy.) Low fantasy, by comparison, is set either in our own world or a world that works like ours, only with a bit of magic breaking through. 

High fantasy often features a protagonist who begins as an innocent or even a child, and is aided by a mystical figure in order to grow into a legendary hero, battling a Dark Lord and the forces of evil (usually orcs, wraiths, dragons, and whatnot). The great struggle between good and evil tends to be front and center, with the fate of the world (or perhaps only the protagonist's part of it) at stake. Because high fantasy covers a protagonist's growth into heroic stature and a sweeping epic of good versus evil, it's difficult to fit into one book - so high fantasy ends up usually being series.

Our Main Read for the month comes to you courtesy of Smaug, who wanted me to add that he got an entirely bad rap in Tolkien's telling of The Hobbit. ("Honestly, you take a nap, wake up grumpy because someone broke into your house, and go on a cathartic rampage only to be brought down with an impossible shot...") Check it out:

The Name of the Wind

The first book of the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy; it covers day one, which - it's a big book for one day...
It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.

The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inn's sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter, the clatter and clamor one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of night. If there had been music...but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.
So begins The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Kote is a simple innkeeper, although his inn isn't getting much business. Once upon a time, however, he was Kvothe. In this book, he starts to tell his story - how he grew from the gifted child of a wandering troupe of actors into a figure of legend. Highly engaging, with the perspective changing from the third-person "present" to a first-person account as Kvothe speaks, the story feels much shorter than its 661 pages - and will leave you hungry for the next one.


In order to highlight the plight of his kind, Smaug presents this Quick Read:

Diary of a Dragon
Not, he is quick to add, his diary.
Dear Diary

Went out shopping today. Picked up half a dozen sheep, two pigs, and a princess. The sheep are rather depressingly thin, the pigs and princess only slightly less so. The wind off the mountains was very cold and my joints ache. I am growing too old for this flying-around nonsense.
It is distressing enough when one's supper disagrees with one. It's rather more distressing when one's supper begins to rearrange one's life. In the short and fun novella Diary of a Dragon by Tad Williams, told in the form of the title character's journal entries, we see just how much difference a kidnapped princess can make. It's 62 pages can be read in a single sitting, the tone is light and humorous, and the drawings are delightful.

Have questions about high fantasy? Need some more reading recommendations in this genre? Let me know, and I'll ask Smaug! (But not while he's napping.)

Happy reading, and I'll get back to you next month with some more books from my Readers Advisory Committee!

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