As the sidebar shows, I am always reading two books at all times. One fiction book (usually sword and sorcery fantasy), and one nonfiction book (usually business, finance, history, or self improvement).

Lately I’ve been hunting for more good fiction books to read, and I’ve read some very good ones. (Abercrombe’s First Law series was surprisingly good.) The problem I have is an unusual one, and it’s one I’ve seen other fantasy readers complain about before.

That is, that if you ask people what the best fantasy series ever written is, most people (not all people, but most) will answer Lord of the Rings. Even complete fantasy geeks who have read every fantasy series known to man will still usually admit that no one has surpassed J.R.R. Tolkien.

And that’s the problem. Like most people who read fantasy, LotR was the first fantasy series I ever read. I was about ten years old at the time. In the 30 years since then, every fantasy book I have read, even the very very good ones, are not quite as good as Tolkien was.

How sad is it that the first thing you read within a genre is the absolute best thing in that genre? For the rest of your life, there will never be anything better.

I almost wish I had waited 20 years to read Tolkien, so it would have been after I had read other fantasy. Sort of a leading-up-to-the-best thing.

But alas, no. There will never be another Tolkien, and I, like most other fantasy readers, are doomed forever to read sub-Tolkien fare.

Oh well. Malazan Book of the Fallen is pretty damn good too.

6 thoughts on “There Will Never Be Another Tolkien

  1. What do you think about A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin?

    Or The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson?

    Or maybe even The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson which I heard stumbled heavily but ended well?

  2. What do you think about A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin?

    Very skilled writer with fantastic research and characters, but he can’t write a plot worth a shit. After the 2nd book the plot just meanders…forever. (3500 pages and Daenerys still hasn’t crossed the fucking ocean?)

    Or The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson?

    I reviewed that right here. Good setting, too depressing.

    I really like Sanderson’s Final Empire series though, though that’s still no where near Tolkien.

    Or maybe even The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson which I heard stumbled heavily but ended well?

    10 giant books where the invincible main characters never die? Not a fan.

  3. I was a huge fan of the Wheel of Time series until around book seven or eight. The remaining books kind of felt like work. Some of the main characters do die at the end, but you’re right, we lose very few along the way.

    The same thing happened to me with Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series after book five. I just had to grind out the rest to find out how it ended.

    I think most authors should stick to three to five books in a series. After that it’s just too easy to your way.

  4. I think most authors should stick to three to five books in a series.

    That’s it. The problem is once an author is good, the publishers throw truckloads of money at him/her to “keep going”.

    Frankly, one of the biggest reasons Lord of the Rings was so good was because it was limited to just 3 books (really 1 book in 3 parts) and was completely “ended”.

    One of the reasons I like James Clavell so much is that he only did single books. They were long, but they were completely self-contained stories with a beginning, middle, and end. Great stuff.

  5. I agree 100% with Jonathan regarding Wheel of Time and Sword of Truth Series.

    I do think there is one series that is better than Lord of the Rings though and that is Dune – Frank Herbert. I think the first 4 books of that series just completely blows away Lord of the Rings on so many levels. I’d highly recommend it.

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