Fantasy Friday – Reading The Greats

For some reason, Christmas time brings out my desire to read fantasy. Not just any fantasy, but the Really Great Fantasies. In the past I’ve re-read The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Last Battle, and last year Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (Yes, I realized then that Harry Potter satisfied the fantasy itch as completely as the other greats do).

This year I resisted. After all, I am already reading a fantasy — a Christian fantasy. And there is promise in that book. The writing is above average. The story is not predictable and the plot structure is unique without being outlandish. It’s good. Just not great.

But I want great. I want a story I can love from the beginning, not one I have to plow through and hold on until the story finally grips me. I want a story that has a hint of mystery and a bucketful of tension. I want moments of suspense balanced by seconds in which to catch my breath.

I want a world that is dense without feeling dense. It has history and language and lore, geography and politics, stories and dance and songs — but all that richness of the world’s past and that complexity of its present comes out naturally as part of the story, not as window dressing nor as convenient add-ons.

Above all, I want a character I care about, one I think matters and who I’m willing to follow on an adventure. I want him to be memorable, to be worthy of a story, to pre-occupy my thoughts when I’m not reading about him. I want him to be intelligent and ambitious, aggressive in a good way, and in the end, willing to expend himself for others. I want him to learn and grow and become more admirable as the story wears on.

I want a story that makes me slow down as I reach the last twenty pages because I want to draw out the reading experience for as long as possible. I want to savor the ending. I want to study maps or read over a glossary. I want an author’s note I can re-read or epigraphs I can re-examine.

I want a book of substance, that says something and makes me think larger. I want a story that touches my heart and makes me cry. Or laugh. I want a story I will want to re-read some day.

Yesterday I broke down and set aside the Christian fantasy I’ve been dipping into for several weeks and picked up Fellowship of the Rings again. Yep, that’s the story I’ve been longing for. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be done by the first of the year. This one flies by! 😉

Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 5:57 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 Comments

  1. Good call!

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  2. Dear Becky, you want a book that took a lifetime of prayer, thinking, imagination, devotion. Or, one that contains the sum of that life experience.
    I go back to great great books too.

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  3. […] As the old year drew to a close, I abandoned a contemporary fantasy for the tried and true — a re-reading of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, which you may recall from the post Fantasy Friday – Reading the Greats. […]

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