We've got a long march ahead of us, and I'll be with you each step of the way.
You can call me the Commander, and you have just enlisted in the Armies of the Queen Undying. Our mission is the rooting out and exploration of works of dark and low fantasy.
What does that mean? Well, fantasy has a reputation, soldier, and I don't think you can deny that. People think it's for children, that it's all cuddly Hobbits, cutesy dwarves and beautiful elves. It's all quests for magical artifacts and while there's battles with nasty Orcs a'plenty, you know that at the end of the day, good will triumph.
That sort of fantasy isn't what we're after, recruit. That's the kind of fantasy we feed to the dogs around here.
What we're here to do is throw open the doors of the ugliest shithouses we can find and expose the seamy underbelly of fantasy. Are we primarily concerned with gratuitous sex or fountains of gore? No, even if we are sure to find some of that along the way.
Our main mission is to locate fantasy that challenges; that mixes genres, flips the script and takes us out of our comfort zone. Fantasy is so much more than magic rings, pretty elves and companies of adventurers on a quest. Fantasy can be brutal. It can be sad. It can be bloody. It can make you angry. It can defy your expectations at every turn. The sort of fantasy that's black-and-white and all the good guys survive and the hero gets the girl? Sure, that's all well and good and plenty of that type of fantasy exists. It just doesn't concern us. We're after the gritty. The kind that feels less like escapism and more like visiting an alternate reality. And the key word there is "reality". What we're after is going to feel real, and that means it will often hurt. It's going to be a rough march, recruit, but I think you have it in you.
Over the next short while, get used to names like Glen Cook, Daniel Abraham, Mark Smylie, Rob J. Hayes, Anthony Ryan, Peter V. Brett, Brent Weeks, Brian Staveley and so, so many others. Now, I caution you, soldier, some of what we come across might not look all that much like what we're after. I caution you to not dismiss a work just because its cover doesn't depict a brutal warrior holding a sword. Some of the best, most heart-rending works out there were not marketed as such. We're on a quest to find the neo-classics, and not all of them will showcase their grittier side at first. Remember, one major goal of ours is realism. If something feels real, then it's going to be a bit darker than The Chronicles of Narnia.
So strap on your gear and make ready your reading eyes, because the journey begins soon. We'll be wandering the bloody trenches of Glen Cook's Black Company series, and that means you need to pay attention!
Let the march begin.