Major Influences #7: Hobbits, White Walkers, War Wizards, and a Circle of Magic

Lord of the Rings Game of Thrones Sword of Truth Circle of Magic

By now, my three readers might be thinking, “Why aren’t any of these ‘major influences’ books? Isn’t A.D. Martin is supposed to be some kind of novelist? This is dumb. I’m un-following that bastard.”

Don’t do it! My influences also includes books and stuff, not the least of which are the fantasy series presented infra (use of this term proves that I’m a lawyer).

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the RingAlright, I’ll admit I didn’t read these books until after I saw the movies. However, watching the films beforehand allowed me to enjoy Tolkien’s work more so than I otherwise would have. Why? Because the first million pages of The Fellowship of the Ring talks about the Hobbits and their way of life, and there’s no frickin’ way I would’ve gotten through that if I didn’t know awesome stuff would eventually happen. Hobbit anthropology aside, I think I actually like the books better than the movies (I’m sorry Mr. Jackson, I am for real).

By the time I watched the Fellowship take on Sauron, however, I was already thoroughly exposed to elves, dwarves, and wizards through other works which drew influence from Tolkien (e.g., The Record of Lodoss War, Neverwinter Nights). However, Peter Jackson did a great job of bringing the Tolkien “originals” to life, and making it fun to watch.

It’s a classic.

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (no relation)

A Song of Ice and Fire A Game of ThronesStarting with A Game of Thrones in 1996, George R.R. Martin deviated substantially from Tolkien’s rather plain Good VS Evil formula, and also steered clear from the overused Tolkien fantasy races. Similar to The Lord of the Rings, I didn’t read GRRM’s series until after the HBO series was made. However, I’d like to note that I finished five of the novels before watching a single episode of the television series.

With this series, GRRM did some fun things by purposefully breaking cliches: he wanted good guys to lose, he wanted men dressed in black to be heroes, and he wanted pretty blond folks to be jerks. Of course, it all ended up much more complicated than that, but that seems to be the goals he had in mind when he began. There are many factors which comes together to make the series great: morally gray characters, smart intrigue, and masterful work with an ensemble of characters which results in a historical fiction-esque series.

When I started writing the manuscript which I’m currently pitching to agents, I intended to have several POV characters. Not so many as GRRM, but definitely more than a handful. After a few chapters, I gave that up and stuck with two POV characters. Maybe I’ll give an ensemble cast a go when I start another series.

Here’s to you, GRRM, and your ridiculous ability to juggle POV characters. I am seriously opening up a little airline-sized bottle of gin and drinking it. P.S. It’s gross.

The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind

The Sword of Truth Wizard's First RuleNo, I did not watch Legend of the Seeker. I finished Goodkind’s fantasy series a few months before I heard it was being adapted by the folks behind Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. Maybe I should’ve gave it a go before it was cancelled. I probably would’ve watched it if it stayed closer to the source material.

Honestly, I don’t think Goodkind’s plot is as good as Tolkien or GRRM’s series. There’s a bit of deus ex machina and conveniently inconsistent character intellect. I also found it funny that the protagonist, Richard, is described as a large man, and then Goodkind brings in another character who is much larger than Richard. After that, you see a bunch of other dudes who are even larger than that dude. I guess all of Darken Rahl’s guards are at NBA Center heights and NFL Defensive Lineman thickness (i.e., ginormous).

What Goodkind does really well is build up tension and provide ridiculously satisfying resolutions. Even the sports game is exciting to read (I was told he was inspired by J.K. Rowling’s Quidditch, I haven’t bothered to verify that story).

Tournament and Tower by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald

Circle of Magic Tournament and TowerThis is the second book in I guess what might be considered a Young Adult series. The series is called Circle of Magic. I never got around to reading any of the other books, as this was the only one in my sixth grade teacher’s in-class library.

Though I started and ended with book two, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it—well, I won’t forget its basic premise and that I enjoyed it. I actually had to Google what I remembered of the plot to find the title.

Anyway, the novel is about a journeyman wizard who’s not allowed to use magic because, in the first book, he broke some sort of wizarding rule by using a sword. Book two follows him as he journeys to this tower to seek permission to use magic again. Fun times is had by all (except the people who get killed—I think some people die, though I may be mistaken).

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18 thoughts on “Major Influences #7: Hobbits, White Walkers, War Wizards, and a Circle of Magic

  1. Martin is a master of juggling a diversity of POV’s but he goes to that well a few too many times. He should have commenced the story line of some characters before introducing whole rft of new ones. Says the fuckstick who has yet to publish anything nor has a popular and critically acclaimed series on HBO.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s hard to weigh early development of a select few characters against introducing a “whole raft” all at once. If you spend half of a novel just developing three characters and suddenly throw in three more POV characters, people might not respond too well to the newer folks (like how some people might have responded to Davos the Onion Knight and other later additions to the cast).

      With GRRM’s approach you get to know a little bit about a bunch of characters and get a feel for which characters you like as they develop in parallel (and sometimes intersecting) journeys. Works well enough for the guy. Then again, I know some people who tried to read the series and could not get into it because they either found character development too slow with all the bouncing back and forth, or they hated half the POV characters too much to get through it.

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      • I read the first four books (I think) and loved most of it. But I really wanted the Starks to get their revenge on in a more timely manner. I also could have spent more time with Deanerys. I thought the character Brienne of Tarth really wasn’t going anywhere. I read somewhere that Martin only writes like 50 words a day which if is true we will all be dead before he finishes this series. He is a msterful storyteller without doubt but for me he meanders a bit too much. My wife is sticking it out to the end and I may buy the rest as audio books seeing as I’ve invested so much time in the series.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can believe the 50 words per day as an average for his already-published works, but that’s including days where he’s doing nothing or editing.

        I think I liked reading about Brienne of Tarth due to her dynamic with the Lannister and the way GRRM sets up his different plots to seem like they’ll intersect (even though they sometimes don’t). I guess one of the things he does very well is getting the reader to anticipate things (and then he takes it away from them).

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  2. (1) The programme Legend of the Seeker wasn’t worth watching, at all, and what it got wrong is similar to the mistakes made with the live-action Dragonball film. In the lone episode I chanced across I saw Kahlan with shoulder-length hair. This is problematic in its own right but can be overcome by simply having the other females in the programme have shorter hair, however what killed everything was the lack of reaction to Kahlan’s hair. Ultimately, then, the programme killed the politics that played such a crucial role in the books…and let’s be honest, there was no way they were going to show Richard being raped be Denna or Kahlan being raped through Nicci.

    And speaking of Goodkind, were you able to get past the unsettling use of deus ex machina? Once I finished the series I had limited desire to read any more of his work and after hearing Law of Nines worked Kahlan into the plot I had virtually no desire. The end of the series was too…I don’t know. I wasn’t at all satisfied that a deus ex machina actually concluded the story and that despite the satisfying triviality of the execution beforehand.

    (2) Liking George R.R. Martin as you do, I’d recommend reading Donatien de Sade’s work…or at least whatever you can get your hands on. He’s been completely written off by most save for scholars and that’s terribly unfortunate because it’s a fantastic example of gothic literature. One of the things he does best is present characters as they really are, something many have called ‘wooden’ and ‘amateurish’ and I’d wager out of nothing short of insecurity. When de Sade paints one-dimensional characters it’s because those characters, like so many people, truly have but one dimension.

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    • (1) Yeah, I got over the deus ex machina, I got over the preachy-ness of his characters as they spread his philosophy, and I got over a poorly done off-screen death of an important supporting character (i.e. summarized rather than shown). Overall, I just found the series very entertaining. I think all but one of the books had me staying up late to find out what happens next (some resolutions were immensely satisfying, and others not so much).

      (2) I’ll give de Sade a try sometime.

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      • Do you have a favourite book by Goodkind? I find it difficult to have one because the stories in several were really well done overall, with Wizard’s First Rule, Temple of the Winds and Faith of the Fallen being the ones I’ve enjoyed the most. Soul of the Fire was also quite good sans the resolution with the chimes and made a very powerful statement, I think, without tripping over itself in the process.

        Liked by 1 person

    • There’s this episode of Friends where Phoebe, a professional masseuse, is mad at her long-time friend Monica for hiring some other lady to massage her.

      Being his usual awesome self, Chandler says, “Phoebe, if it helps, Alexandra has only been massaging Monica for like three years.” Then, Phoebe storms off and Monica glares at Chandler. “If! I said, ‘If it helps!'”

      Thanks for the thought. 🙂

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  3. Hey cheers for the follow. This blog is really cool, I love how much variety there is on this blog – from your novel, to tv, to film etc. I’m looking forward to seeing your novel getting published soon! It’s so impressive how you managed to write a manuscript at the same time as finishing up a law degree. Good work!

    Like

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