Where do I even start with a Shannara review? Shannara is epic fantasy in the very literal sense of the word, spanning hundreds of years of in-world history across myriad series and trilogies and stand-alone novels. Perhaps Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere may eventually be larger in literary scope, but even that will likely not sprawl so much as Shannara. Where a series like Wheel of Time covers a single story arc, Shannara has era, ages, and dozens of independent arcs. Sometimes, one has to wonder if Terry Brooks can bring himself to write anything that isn't Shannara: supposedly his Knight of the Word trilogy began as something new, and morphed into a prelude to Shannara.
As much as I intend this site to be a publishing apparatus, a means by which to present my own works, and eventually those of others, to a broader audience, this site is also about the writing itself, what goes into writing stories and making characters come alive for a reader. By no means can I, or do I, claim to be any manner of expert in how these things are done, and certainly I cannot assert how they ought to be done. There is a void, though, at least to my mind, and it is a void which I believe that perhaps in some small way I can help to fill. You see, there are so many books out there, and so many people who would love to be able to tell stories like that, and yet the process by which authors arrive at their magnum opuses is shrouded in mystery.
I don’t remember if this was a comparison I developed, or if I read it somewhere and expanded upon it, but I’ve taken to using windows to explain different styles of writing to others. What I do remember is that it's based on Brandon Sanderson describing his prose as "transparent." This made perfect sense to me, but when I mentioned it to others, they were confused by the idea, and ever since I've been trying to come up with a better way of explaining this metaphor. In other words, I hope that this post is going to make sense to you.
About a year and a half ago, I had an idea for a magic system, inspired by how a relatively primitive culture might perceive the four fundamental forces of nature. Just to explore the magic system, I decided to write an expository scene. When I finished, the scene was almost twenty pages long, involved the main character climbing a really, really long staircase, and I realized it was chapter 1, and that I had a chapter 2 to write. About seven months later, I finished the rough draft of what I realized would become the first novel of an epic fantasy series.
Unsouled, and the Cradle series as a whole, is described as something called martial arts fantasy. The magic system has defined levels of skill, with each skill level gaining distinct abilities and possessing unique attributes. It's not a design that I generally prefer, but it worked well in Unsouled. Which matters, because Unsouled is not necessarily the kind of book that you read for the compelling characters or political drama. You read it for the vivid magical fights.
To be perfectly honest, I did not have high expectations when I picked up Skyward. But it did say Sanderson on the cover, so I did eventually read Skyward. I have to say this was a case of not judging a book by its summary, because Skyward genuinely did draw me in, and I found it to be a unique, compelling story. So when Starsight came out, I may have wished a little that he had been working on Stormlight Archives, instead, but I was eager to read this second installment in the series.
Welcome back to a new year, one hopefully full of new stories both real and imagined. Although I didn't do a lot of writing on my break, I did do quite a bit of reading. With 2020 just beginning, I want to give you all an idea of where IGC Publishing will be going for the new year.
Speculative fiction, broadly, includes the stories that are typically classified as science fiction and fantasy, but if you've written in the genre realm for long, you may have noticed that the terminology employed by libraries and other sources to classify genre fiction is somewhat limited. Maybe we genre writers aren't as "serious" as the "real" authors, but that hasn't stopped us from developing our own terminology to help describe our works. Since I think that many of these terms would be useful for both readers and writers to know, I've sought to describe some of them below.
The Unfettered anthologies are collections of short stories collected and set forth by Shawn Speakman, and are something of a "who's who" of fantasy writers. Genre heavyweights like Terry Brooks, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and dozens of others have contributed stories to the anthologies since the first Unfettered was released.