On Why I Should Not Be Allowed To Read High Fantasy

Let’s face it. If High Fantasy were a geographic location, it would be nestled on the bosom of Africa, or settled squarely on the permafrost of the Russian taiga. It would be any place where bright-robed women wander barefoot through the lion-ridden desert,  and men in tall, fuzzy ear-hats wrestle bears every Tuesday–after a shot of vodka and a can of caviar, of course.

So I will start by saying that I understand that High Fantasy doesn’t have to play nice with our mundane reality. That’s part of the appeal. Still, any genre of fantasy must follow its own internal logic. And, if there is a lapse–such as the existence of 50-pound swords, or one of the characters running around with several limbs cut off–and it goes unexplained, I will assume that it’s either really, really cool, or the writer is a muttonhead.

There are, however, more subtle crimes against reality. In The Name of the Wind  by Patrick Rothfuss, they come in the misleadingly curvacious shape of glass bottles.

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On loving your character just a bit too much.

When passing strangers start noticing the color of your main character’s eyes and wax lyrically about them, it’s a sign.

We know you love your main character, author. But, could you just…make the fawning a little less blatant?

“In fact, Kote [the main character] himself seemed rather sickly. Not exactly unhealthy, but hollow. Wan. Like a plant that’s been moved into the wrong sort of soil and, lacking something vital, has begun to wilt. Graham [the old blacksmith] noted the difference. The innkeeper’s gestures weren’t as extravagant. His voice wasn’t as deep. Even his eyes weren’t as bright as they had been a month ago. Their color seemed duller. They were less sea-foam, less green-grass than they had been. Now they were like riverweed, like the bottom of a green glass bottle. And his hair had been bright before, the color of flame. Now it seemed—red. Just red-hair color, really.” [The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss; Chapter 3]

In other words: I am a burly village blacksmith. I saw the innkeepers green-grass, sea-foam eyes [sea-foam: quite common in my middle-of-nowhere-forest village, donchaknow], his deep voice, and his flaming hair!  Now, alas, he is wan and bleak, his eyes dulled!

I better be getting a romantic subplot out of this purple prose.

Author, if you absolutely must creep all over your main, mysterious character, please, please camouflage it better. Because a blacksmith on an errand is such a lousy exposition choice.

PS. I finished The Name of the Wind, and yes, it did in fact continue in this vein.

PPS. No, no romantic subplot with the blacksmith.

PPPS. Three words: Historically inaccurate glass.