Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Fantasy worlds

I saw a thread on SFFworld about the best and worst fantasy worlds and thought it would be fun to talk a little bit about my personal favourites. In no particular order, my favourite fantasy worlds are: 


An old favourite from my Fighting Fantasy days. Allansia is/was one of three continents in the Fighting Fantasy world of Titan - the others being The Old World and Khul. Allansia was always my favourite however, and I spent many happy hours trekking through the Moonstone Hills, wandering the shady paths of Darkwood Forest, exploring the tunnels and caverns of Firetop Mountain and braving the twisting streets of Port Blacksand. To my older, more skeptical mind, Allansia is nothing special. In truth it is a standard Medieval-European feudal land, with the usual forests, rivers and villages. Yet it gave me so much enjoyment that it will always remain special to me.

The Forgotten Realms

I love the realms, mainly because I had so much fun playing Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. I just got sucked in by the sheer scale, the sense of history and the myriad races. And the magic, which is unbelievably cool. Ed Greenwood tends to come under fire for his writing, but there's no doubting his world-building skills. The realms are dynamic, exciting and utterly absorbing; there's just so much depth there. If I could visit a fantasy world for real, this would be my choice. I'd become a bad-ass level 20 wizard who could cast level 9 spells with a flick of his wrist, whilst stifling a yawn with the other. Awesome.


As I briefly mentioned in my article on Martin, Westeros is a wonderful world. First off you've got the continent of Westeros, an old land with a bloody history. There are plenty of cool places there: the haunted forest beyond the Wall (a massive wall made from ice) is easily the most exciting and atmospheric place on the continent. But you've also got other places like the bitter Iron Islands, the cursed fortress of Harrenhal, the lush lands of the Reach, the mountainous Vale of Arryn, and so on. On top of that, we've got the lands of the east: the nine free cities, the ruins of old Valyria, the mysterious Asshai-by-the-shadow, the Dothraki Sea, and so on. One of my favourite characters from A Song of Ice and Fire is Dany, and this is largely because through her eyes and actions we get to see so much of these exotic eastern lands. Binding the whole world together is a sense of history that makes it all feel so real. Martin strikes the perfect balance between not overburdening the reader and book with detail, but providing enough information to build the world up in the reader's imagination. 

The Malazan world

Having only read the first novel of Erikson's Malazan series, I've not seen much of the world. But what I see I like very much. I like the war-torn nature, the constant power-struggles. I like the fact that the gods bitch and bicker just as much as the humans, and in some cases actually try to influence the human world even as the humans try to influence theirs. I like the magic system and the way magic is such a destructive force. I love the layers of history and legend that pervade the world, lending real depth to the surroundings and real meaning to the events. Great stuff, and I can't wait to spend more time there. 

Middle Earth

Need I say more? I don't think so. All I'll say is this: the Shire PWNS.  

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