For most of my life I observed the mantra that nothing was worth reading unless it was true. However, thanks to my brother, I’m now a reader of fantasy books. A few years ago he sent me about twenty books that I was all but forced to read. He would call me every week to check my progress and to quiz me to make sure I wasn’t cheating. If I hadn’t read enough to his satisfaction, he would grumble under his breath–vocalizing his disappointment in having me for a sister–and then quickly retreating off the phone. I realized then that this was his way of bonding with me and so I decided to stop fighting it and enjoy. Once I gave in, I realized that I gained far more insight into life, and myself, by reading fantasy than I ever did from non-fiction.
Three days ago I received another package from my brother containing Brandon Sanderson’s novella The Emperor’s Soul and Robin Hobb’s first novel in the The Farseer series, Assassin’s Apprentice. I read The Emperor’s Soul in a day, which will make my brother proud. I’ve found Sanderson’s books to be nearly impossible to put down once you dig in. While I was reading, there were a few paragraphs that I felt compelled to share. They illustrate my point that the fantasy genre is very much grounded in reality and can offer unexpected insights into the world in which we live or remind us of important fundamental truths long forgotten. Strangely enough, it also illustrates the general point of my previous blog posts. Lasting impressions are made by telling a good story. It’s not about cramming in as many facts as possible. We want the experience darn it.
Page 105 of The Emperor’s Soul
“People,” … “by nature attempt to exercise power over what is around them. We build walls to shelter us from the wind, roofs to stop the rain. We tame the elements, bend nature to our wills. It makes us feel as if we’re in control.”
“Except in doing so, we merely replace one influence with another. Instead of the wind affecting us, it is a wall. A man-made wall. The fingers of man’s influence are all about, touching everything. Man-made rugs, man-made food. Every single thing in the city that we touch, see, feel, experience comes as the result of some person’s influence.”
“We may feel in control, but we never truly are unless we understand people. Controlling our environment is no longer about blocking the wind, it’s about knowing why the serving lady was crying last night, or why a particular guard always loses at cards. Or why your employer hired you in the first place.”
Page 98 of The Emperor’s Soul
There was rarely an obvious branching point in a person’s life. People changed slowly, over time. You didn’t take one step, then find yourself in a completely new location. You first took a little step off a path to avoid some rocks. For a while, you walked alongside the path, but then you wandered out a little way to step on softer soil. Then you stopped paying attention as you drifted farther and farther away. Finally, you found yourself in the wrong city, wondering why the signs on the roadway hadn’t led you better.
So let me encourage you to take a break from non-fiction and pick up something different but equally insightful. Here is my must-read list just in time for you to request them from Santa:
♥ The Tales of Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card (This is the series that got me hooked on fantasy)
♥ The Ender series by Orson Scott Card (A classic! I even cried a few times.)
♥ The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson (It’s freaking amazing!)
♥ The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (Just in case you never wanted the Mistborn world to end.)
♥ The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (If there is one book to get, this is the one! There is a lot of jumping around at first but stick with it. Halfway through, you will be glued to it. You will call in sick from work just to finish it.)