I attended a publishing sales conference the other day and got to see a preview of the books coming out in the first quarter of 2015. Among them is a new fantasy title by Thomas Locke called Emissary. We were fortunate enough to have the author with us to talk about his new book and the marketing efforts that will help it be a success.
Locke told us that Emissary hearkens back to classic fantasy in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien and employs the proven “Hero’s Journey” structure. And one thing that separates it from many modern fantasy books is that it has a clearly defined good side and a clearly defined evil side.
The biggest fantasy series out there now has to be George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) as it has been made popular by HBO. If you’ve seen any of the show or have read any of the books, you have to admit that the struggle between good and evil simply isn’t present. The books carry on the tradition of being incredibly long (as good fantasy series must be), but they achieve this length by introducing a slew of characters and scattering them across the realm. You get to see them battle each other and the elements, but there aren’t any clear heroes to root for. Readers simply read to find out what happens next, and Martin does a good job of keeping things interesting with plot twists and unexpected character deaths.
But if none of the characters are heroes, is Game of Thrones a classical fantasy?
Think about Lord of the Rings for moment. Sauron was evil. Frodo and Samwise were good. We kept reading to see if good would really triumph over evil.
How about the Chronicles of Narnia? The Witch was evil. Aslan was good. We read because we wanted to make sure that kids in the stories would choose the right side.
And is there a better example of fantasy than Star Wars? Sure it was set in space, but it is still a classical fantasy trilogy. The Sith are evil. The Jedi are good. Commence the fighting and root for Luke Skywalker.
In his presentation, Locke asked where the readers of classical fantasy went. What are they reading now? Are they satisfied with the fantasy that they’ve been getting? He’s betting that they aren’t, which is why he chose to write the book that he did. Emissary is first in the Legends of the Realm series and will be available in January of 2015 (if not a bit sooner for Christmas sales).
And one last tidbit, Thomas Locke is just a pen name for an already popular author who writes more thrillers than fantasy novels, so I’m expecting the writing to be quite good.