I’m a connoisseur of good writing and storytelling. Fantasy author Jennifer Fallon is one I keep coming back to. Her writing flows in such a powerful stream from plot to sub-plot, from one complex character to another, from political intrigue to hell fire combustion, that daily life takes a backseat to her books.
When I’m looking for a good author or book, I lose myself in the stacks of libraries and bookstores like I’m searching for the Holy Grail or the mother lode, always hoping to find a treasure. And like the real thing, literary treasure is rare. You might find some pyrite sometimes for a cheap fix, but solid gold is hard to find. And I definitely found it in this Australian writer.
Jennifer Fallon avoids the pitfall many authors stumble into from page one, which is explaining something to death. Fantasy authors in particular often do not have the discipline to allow their story to unfold. There is no need to force feed a complete historical background to the reader. I want to experience the world and its people, not study them like an assignment.
Some diehard fantasy readers like that sort of thing, but I believe most followers of the genre prefer to simply absorb it. The background should be integrated so smoothly into the story that it is part of the text, not a textbook. To dump a lot of history and character background at the very beginning, or in long, boring discourses, defeats the anticipation and joy of the unfolding. Like a flower that slowly opens petal by petal, the color and essence of the story should be released moment by moment.
For example, in The Second Sons Trilogy, Book One, The Lion of Senet, in her opening paragraph, it hits you that you’re not in Kansas anymore. “The dawn was ruddy, stained crimson by the red sun as it began to set in the west . . . ” Okay. That’s a clue to what the world is like. And if you’re not paying attention you might have to read it again, or dope slap yourself.
As to character, it starts out with third person narrative (Tia), setting out to look for a man named Neris following a volcanic eruption. She finds Neris “perched perilously close to the edge of a cliff.” As Tia moved forward, she noted “he wasn’t a pleasant creature to be downwind of when he was like this”. Then, “Have you ever noticed,” the madman remarked as she came up behind him, “that the only time we get truly spectacular sunrises is when there’s been trouble somewhere? There’s a moral in that, I think.”
From just those sentences alone we know he may be crazy, but he’s not stupid. And beyond that, you want to know more about this character, about the world they live on, how they survive. And please don’t get the idea that fantasy has nothing to do with real life. Good fantasy is reality couched in wondrous imagination. It can, and does, depict all the passions of life, from the extraordinary to the mundane, from the glorious to the dregs. The people are complicated, just like we are. The gods and goddesses who often figure in the stories, are like spotlights that pick out all the different facets of human nature, like Greek and Norse mythology.
Jennifer Fallon is a master craftsman.