“A comparison to Tolkien is inevitable for any fantasy writer—as is a comparison to C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, and just about every other fantasist who ever was (T. H. White, Le Guin, Feist, Pratchett, Pullman, Alan Moore, and so on, as well as some notable non-fantasists, like the great Evelyn Waugh). But with Grossman, the comparison is even more unavoidable than usual. If the references to a school for magic and a mystical land didn’t already tip you off, Grossman’s trilogy plays as an epic riff on the entire genre. And just in case you still don’t get it, he drops allusions to these works throughout, from specific (Rowling’s “muggles,” for instance) to structural (boy-wizard trope, Lewis’s Narnia). The goal, it seems, is to be so derivative, so plagiaristic in its parts, that their sum somehow circles back in an Ouroboros of meta-magic and achieves a kind of renewed originality. The entirety of protagonist Quentin Coldwater’s journey is supposed to transcend the familiarity of its particulars. ”
“Today’s fantasy writers feel as though the fictional worlds they create have to be full-scale working models. People talk a lot about the ecology of [George R. R. Martin’s] Westeros, for instance—how do the seasons work? What are the climate patterns? How does it function as an ecosphere? You have to think about the economy, too—have I got a working feudal model? It’s gotten so extreme that when characters do magic, it’s very common to see fantasy writers talk about thermodynamics—okay, he’s lighting a candle with magic, can he draw the heat from somewhere else in the room so that equilibrium gets preserved?
This is the school of thought that extends from Tolkien, and his scrupulously-crafted Middle Earth. Lewis was of a different school from that. Magic, to him, was a much wilder, stranger thing. It was much less domesticated. And when I re-read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I feel as though we’ve wandered too far from the true magic, the kind Lewis wrote. Maybe we want to worry less about thermodynamics and work harder to get that sense of wonder he achieves with such apparent effortlessness.”
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]