Arcanum is epic fantasy, right? or 19 days to go
January 9th 2014
Well, yes. Of course it is. It couldn’t get more epic if it tried: a small band of heroes pitted against overwhelming odds, uncertain allies, monstrous enemies, fighting, chases, true love. As for the fantasy bit, it has magic. By the bucket load. And lots of sorcerers – here named suitably Germanically as hexmasters.
So. Epic fantasy. Sorted.
Not so fast…
I only mention this because the lovely people over at Tor.com have included Arcanum in their list of January genre-benders – those books that seem to defy (or can’t decide) their supposed genre.
Okay, for a book with flaming letters on the front, it’s hiding its genre-bending credentials pretty well, and given the nearly three hundred thousand words of magically-induced mayhem that follows ‘Chapter 1′, its feet are clearly and firmly planted in the fantasy camp. But camps can be struck and shifted, like a caravan of old, across the landscape of genre fiction, and if we finished in the same place we started, we’d have a very thin tale. Oh, epic, for certain, but the view would be the strangely familiar.
Arcanum is a book about change. If there is one overarching theme that affects all the characters, it’s how to cope with that moving terrain. Some do it badly. Some do it well. Some, seeing the furthest, use it (and their fellow travellers) to their advantage. Some want to turn back. Epic fantasy is so often about maintaining the status quo – the external threat to the characters’ way of life must be combated so that everything can return to how it was, and they all lived happily ever after.
This is not that book. Once you leave the Eden of page 1, the only way to go is forward, out of the garden and into a world of uncertainty and terror: the way back is guarded by an angel with a flaming sword. Onwards, brave souls. Don’t look back, because we’re never going that way again.