The fantasy genre has become unfortunately muddled in recent history. For every Tolkien work you have a Shannara novel, for every Narnia you end up with an Eragon. Now I'm not an elitist type of reader. I don't disqualify a novel from being entertaining simply because it may be poorly written or a 'clone' of other better fantasy novels. However, that said, the staying power of a fantasy novel diminished when that novel is punctured through with unimaginative cliché or a derivative story.
The point of writing that brief above paragraph is to point out my point. The point being that I am making the point about fantasy novels and confusion. In fact I think my point is being made about confusion even further. A lot of fantasy is written like this to its detriment, giving fantasy a poor reputation as merely escapist entertainment for the geeks, nerds and fanboys/fangirls.
It is works like The Worm Ouroboros
which reveal that fantasy has merit as a work of art and as true literature. This is fantasy written in the sweeping style of the epic, a highly beautiful and poetic style that serves to convey truths and interesting narratives at the same time. The result is that The Worm Ouroboros
cannot be equalled by many current fantasy novels in its grandeur. Perhaps older tales like the Iliad
, The Odyssey
and Le Morte d'Arthur
may have the same quality, yet I have not read those yet.The Worm Ouroboros
focuses on a long fantastic history of war between Demonland and Witchland. The very names of these two lands strive to provide an ambient, overwhelming, moral greyness to the world created by Eddison. It is a world where you assume at first that those members of Witchland are the enemy and then turn to consider those of Demonland as the enemy. In so doing the overall analysis is that in war there are two sides who perceive the other as the enemy. In many ways Eddison's tale is a narrative about the other and as he so clearly states, not an allegory.
The language is beautifully archaic, a mixture of Modern and Middle English utilised perfectly by Eddison to describe his world like a painter using molten words for colour. His adjectives bristle with life and energy, in fact his words contain an exuberance lacked by many writers now or ever. This is not only a fantasy classic but a classic of classics.
If you are one of those readers who deny fantasy as a genre, content to allow it to sit as the realm of nerds who dwell alone, then I fully recommend that you seek out this novel instead. It is one of the great classics of fantasy and of literature which reveal the value of using the traditions of epic narrative and to some small degree fairytale to reveal truth. I won't discuss what truths are in this story as I feel that that is up to the individual reader, however I fully recommend this novel to any reader, particularly anyone who has a set idea of fantasy as dull and dead.
I must add that I first found the novel hard to get into. However with perseverance I discovered the magnificence of the novel and with much thought have come to recognise how great a masterpiece it is. It is not necessarily easy reading, I believe I missed some minor details here or there, but it is excellent reading serving the purposes of all fine literature!