My Life in Books: The Sword of Shannara
In this series of blog posts, I have been talking about books that made some kind of impact in my life. Terry Brooks’ SWORD OF SHANNARA made an impact, alright, but a very different impact to the other books I have been blogging about.
I mentioned that I got into science fiction after becoming obsessed with Star Wars. In grade 10 I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, when I joined my high school’s D&D club. I enjoyed the game, and thought perhaps I should read some fantasy, since it was this genre that inspired it.
The first fantasy book I picked up was this one. And I thought it was a dirge. Overstuffed with two-dimensional and boring characters and overlong descriptions of foliage, it was a world with a complete lack of strong female characters and it left me cold. I didn’t finish it. And that’s pretty unusual – to date, I can count the number of books I have abandoned halfway through on the fingers of one hand.
If I had started with something like LORD OF THE RINGS, would my perception of fantasy be different? It’s possible. I still connect fantasy fiction with overlong descriptions of foliage, plodding plots that take ages to get going and a mysogynistic society that has no real place for kick-ass women. I am sure there are plenty of books out that that can disabuse me of these notions, but I never felt passionate enough about the genre to go seek them out. And for that, I’m still blaming Terry Brooks.
On the other hand, it might just be that fantasy will never be my genre and my life-long fondness for kick-ass women solving mysteries and stories about supernatural monsters eating children would have prevailed no matter what.
Bizarrely, I enjoy watching fantasy films. I’ve still never read LORD OF THE RINGS, but the Peter Jackson films rock. I particularly enjoyed the kick-ass women that were Arwen and Eowyn. I have been told that in the books, neither of them are quite so kick-ass.
And I still enjoy playing table-top D&D, where the world is interactive, the players control what’s going on, and in the games my husband runs (he’s still my favourite GM) there is generally a mystery to solve. And if I want to play a six-foot Amazonian female warrior who’s a demon with a quarterstaff and is, frankly, a one-woman killling machine, I can.
In fiction, I still prefer reading about kick-ass heroines with a mystery to solve. However, if someone can name a fantasy book that fulfils that criteria, I might be prepared to give it a try.