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WEEKLY BOOK BUZZ- Who are the Most Overrated Fantasy Writers

Taking on the Most Overrated Book Series

By Tim Janson     December 03, 2008

Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
© N/A


’ve been a fan of Fantasy literature for over thirty years. While time doesn’t permit me to read as much as I used to, I still love finding that one good book every now and then that will completely enthrall me. At the other end of the scale, though, are books and authors, which, try as I might, I just could never get into. I suppose it’s not truly correct to call them overrated since they seem to have enjoyed quite a bit of success. I’ve found I’ve had to sheepishly admit to other fantasy fans that I just didn’t care for these. Here are some of mine:
Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I picked up the first book in the series, Lord Foul’s Bane, in 1977, thinking that I would be getting another Lord of the Rings, but halfway through I put it down. I was bored to tears by the story of one very unlikable main character. I tried to read it again, a few years later with the same result. The series has enjoyed tremendous praise from fans and critics alike but I just could never get into it.
Similar, although not quite enjoying as much praise, is Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. I thought the first book, Wizard’s First Rule, was decent, the sequel Stone of Tears, not quite as good, and I never got through the third book. It’s up to what, eleven books now? The Sword of Truth represents what I think is the main thigh wrong with fantasy today and it’s that series just go on and on and on…No one is content to just tell a single good story. Everything has to be at least a trilogy if not longer. 
So that’s a couple from me. What about you? What are some of the books you think are overrated or simply never clicked with you? Post your comments below! Now lets look at this weeks top new releases…
Swordmage: Blade of the Moonsea, Book Richard Baker (Wizards of the Coast)
When a wandering swordmage, trained by the elves of Myth Drannor, returns to his boyhood home on the windswept shores of the Moonsea, he finds that corruption has taken hold, leaving his friends and family open to a devastating evil. Swordmage was the first novel to fully embrace the exciting new elements from the next edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game. This paperback resize releases fresh on the heals of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, and showcases a major revision to the Forgotten Realms world that has fans buzzing.
Plague of Spells: Abolethic Sovereignty, Book I Bruce R. Cordell (Wizards of the Coast)
Blue fire sears the face of Faerûn, leaving the twisted and mutilated dead in its wake. But a rare few escape death--and suffer some mystical mutation. Raidon Kane is one of those who survives, the wake of blue fire burning the sigil of the amulet he wears into his chest and binding him with all the power and responsibility it entails. With everyone he knows and cares about dead, Raidon must find within himself the strength to lead the fight against the rise of an elder evil the likes of which would be the end of mortal kind.
Award-winning game designer Bruce R. Cordell depicts the rise of a monstrous nation of elder evil as only he can in this brand-new trilogy Abolethic Sovereignty. Dedicated to showcasing one of the most fascinating new aspects of the changed face of Faerûn, this trilogy is packed with the exciting battles, wizardry, and monsters that are the hallmark of Forgotten Realms novels as well as introducing a new never-before-seen element of Lovecraftian horror to Faerûn.
The Knights of the Cornerstone James P. Blaylock (Ace Hardcover)
Calvin Bryson has hidden himself away from the world, losing himself in his work and his collection of rare and quirky books. He never meant to let so much time go by without visiting his aunt and uncle in the tiny town of New Cyprus, California. When he gets there, he’ll discover the town’s strange secrets and a mysterious group dedicated to preserving and protecting holy relics—a modernday incarnation of the legendary Knights Templar…
The Fire Rose: The Ogre Titans, Volume Two Richard A. Knaak (Wizards of the Coast)
A hidden artifact waits to be found--and used...The half-breed ogre, Golgren, at last Grand Khan of all his people, faces unpleasant threats. Tthe Knights of Neraka encroach on one border and the minotaur empire crosses another, while the rise of a new and unlikely rival among his own kind augurs the death stroke to all his ambitions...perhaps his very life. Now Golgren must abandon everything to embark on a quest he can trust to no other. The Fire Rose is a mysterious artifact that could prove the salvation - or destruction - of his growing empire. Safrag, the new master of the Ogre Titans, is just as eager to claim the precious artifact and promote his own might.
Dragon Strike: Book Four of the Age of Fire E.E. Knight (Roc Trade Paperback)
Three dragon siblings are among the last of a dying breed, and the final hope for their species’ survival. AuRon, Wistala, and Copper find themselves at odds over the coming human war. AuRon thinks dragons should have no part in the affairs of humans. Wistala believes dragons and man can peacefully co-exist. And Copper has designs of his own on the world. And the civilized humans who have turned to Copper for assistance against their savage enemies have just given him the perfect opportunity to fulfill his plans…
The Vorkosigan Companion (Baen Hardcover)
Lois McMaster Bujold’s best-selling Vorkosigan series is a publishing phenomenon, winning record-breaking sales, critical praise, four Hugo Awards and a Nebula award. And the thousands of devotees of the series now have a book that will be a goldmine of information, background details, and little-known facts about the Vorkosigan saga. Included are an all-new interview with Bujold as well as essays by her on crafting the Vorkosigan universe, articles on the biology, technology and sociology of the planet Barrayar, appreciations of the individual novels by experts, maps, a complete timeline of the series, and more. Readers can’t get enough of the Vorkosigan series and they’ll jump at the chance to read this story behind the stories.
1635: The Dreeson Incident Eric C. Flint (Baen Hardcover)
The Thirty Years War continues to ravage 17th century Europe, but a new force is gathering power and influence: the Confederated Principalities of Europe, an alliance between Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, and the West Virginians from the 20th century led by Mike Stearns who were hurled centuries into the past by a mysterious cosmic accident.
While the old entrenched rulers and manipulators continue to plot against this new upstart nation, everyday life goes on in Grantville, the town lost in time, with librarians, firefighters, and garbage collectors trying to make do under unusual circumstances. And what better place for an undercover spy from France than working with the garbage collectors, examining 20th century machines that others throw out and copying the technology (though he wishes one device—the paper shredder—had been left behind in the future). There are more sinister agents at work, however. One of them, Ducos, almost succeeded in assassinating the Pope, but his plan was ruined by quick action by a few Americans. Now, the would-be assassin not only has a score to settle, but has also decided on two excellent targets: Grantville's leader Mike Stearns and his wife Rebecca. . .
The Flaxen Femme Fatale John Zakour (DAW)
The last freelance P.I. on earth, Zach Johnson has been hired to track down a young beauty who happens to be a deadly secret weapon for the World Council. Figuring girls just want to have fun, he follows Natasha to various vacation destinations, but she eludes him, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. Zach, however, isn’t surprised to discover that things aren’t what they seem, and to save the world, he’s going to have to find a way to team up with the woman he’s supposed to destroy...
After Twilight: Walking with the Dead Travis Adkins (Permuted Press)
At the start of the apocalypse, a small resort town on the coast of Rhode Island fortified itself to withstand the millions of flesh-eating zombies conquering the world. With its high walls and self-contained power plant, Eastpointe was a safe haven for the lucky few who managed to arrive. Trained specifically to outmaneuver the undead, Black Berets performed scavenging missions in outlying towns in order to stock Eastpointe with materials vital for long-term survival. But the town leaders took the Black Berets for granted, on a whim sending them out into the cannibalistic wilderness. Most did not survive.
Now the most cunning, most brutal, most efficient Black Beret will return to Eastpointe after narrowly surviving the doomed mission and unleash his anger upon the town in one bloody night of retribution. After twilight, when the morning comes and the sun rises, will anyone be left alive? Ed. Note: Let me just say for the record that no publisher does zombie fiction like Permuted Press!
Roadkill: A Jim Kowalksi Adventure Matt Fillbach (Darkhorse)
A biological contagion that turns the living into cannibalistic mutants has been unleashed, and it's up to paranormal trucker Jim Kowalksi to stop it! Jim, along with his talking dog and G.P.S. crystal skull, lead this full-throttle adventure into overdrive. Our heroic trio must battle their way through monster insects, zombie truckers, a crazed country musician, and a doomsday cult led by the insane Reverend Baba-Yaga Boogity. Climb aboard and take a ride on this two-lane blacktop of high-speed comedy and high-octane horror!
Future Past: Worlds That Never Were (Underwood Books) hardcover
From the 1930s through the 1950s, Virgil Finlay was the most popular artist in science fiction — and for obvious reasons. His meticulous, labor-intensive, dot-based technique, coupled with an unfettered imagination, created fantastic otherworlds populated by sensual sirens and frightful creatures depicted with a nearly photographic reality. This first-ever career retrospective features hundreds of Finlay's black-and-white drawings illustrating scenes from works by his friend H. P. Lovecraft, as well as Robert E. Howard and other sci-fi legends. Here too are his rarely seen images from The American Weekly, deemed so disturbing that publisher William Randolph Hearst fired him. The book includes art of Finlay's that appeared in such noted pulp magazines as Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, as well as previously unpublished paintings that show his expert use of color. Sci-fi icons Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison offer tributes, while Finlay's wife, Bev, contributes a moving memoir describing life with the man who made new worlds immediate and real.
Iron Man: The Art of Iron Man, the Movie   Ruwan Jayatilleke (Marvel Books)
This comprehensive, behind-the-scenes look at the blockbuster Iron Man movie features exclusive content, from concept art and armor design, to unreleased stills and a glimpse at the creative process. It's everything you wanted to know about the making of the movie from all the key players, including Jon Favreau, Stan Winston, Marvel's Kevin Feige, and more!
The Cream of Tank Girl Alan C. Martin (Titan Books)
Spewing filth and fury since 1988, celebrate the 20th anniversary of Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett’s foul-mouthed, anarchic creation with The Cream of Tank Girl! Boasting tons of unseen artwork, rarely seen comic strips, every Jamie Hewlett Tank Girl cover ever, publicity posters, script samples and more besides, this is the ultimate guide to Tank Girl and her world! Bask in the glory of exclusive new commentary from writer Alan Martin! Shiver with pleasure at the sight of rarely seen drawings by Gorillaz genius Jamie Hewlett! Have a nice cup of tea whilst studying the recipe page! Verily, The Cream of Tank Girl is a smorgasbord of Tank Girl-osity.
Capsule Reviews
Jake’s Wake John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow (Leisure Books)

John Skipp, the godfather of splatterpunk, returns to the genre he helped found with “Jake’s Wake”, co-authored with Cody Goodfellow. It’s obvious right from the opening chapter that Skipp still commands the raw, visceral energy of his earlier books. 

Jake Connaway is scumbag TV Evangelist who gets caught with his pants down and murdered by a vengeful boyfriend. As family and congregation members meet at the home of Jake’s widow the gathering degenerates into name-calling and accusations. But a new visitor turns the gathering into hell itself, as Jake has returned from the grave with vengeance on his mind.
Jake Connaway makes Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart look like altar boys. Imbued with an unnatural strength, Jake proceeds to rip eyes from their sockets, snap limbs, and tear faces from their skulls. The blood and gore threaten to stain your fingers as you turn the pages. Underpinning the whole story is a diatribe about organized religion and its pratfalls when you offer unyielding faith to any mortal man or woman.
“Jake’s Wake” is currently in production to be made into a low-budget film and if this first collaboration between Skipp and Goodfellow is any indication at all, horror fans can rejoice in knowing that the splatterpunk genre is alive and well! Grade B+

Nick Cardy: Behind the Art Nick Cardy and Eric Nolen-Weathington (Twomorrows Publishing)

Nick Cardy is one of the most underrated comic artists of all-time…period! While he should be mentioned in the same breath as guys like Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Jack Kirby, and other contemporaries, Cardy has never quite enjoyed the same notoriety. It could be that he toiled away on books that were never big sellers at DC such as Aquaman, The Teen Titans, and Bat Lash. Thankfully, TwoMorrows Publishing has given Cardy is due credit with an outstanding new book highlighting his career both in and outside of comics. You’ll get the sense that Cardy was a guy who was perfectly comfortable doing a wide variety of illustration from newspaper strips like “Tarzan” in the 1950s to advertising and movie posters.

Cardy provides a veritable treasure trove of work from portraits of his wife from the 1940s, right up through oil paintings of Wild West themed works that are one of his main focuses today. Even at age 88 Cardy is still going strong, doing convention appearances and taking commissions from his fans. In2007 Nick did the cover to Alter Ego Magazine #65 as well as the Teen Titans Lost annual. Inside the hardcover book you’ll see many pieces of classic Cardy art such as his cover to Teen Titans #16 (Vol. 1) and the Spectre #8 (vol. 1), but it’s also filled with a ton of unpublished work and rough sketches as well. It’s wonderful to see Cardy get such a fantastic collection dedicated to his work. Grade A


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AquilianRanger1 12/3/2008 5:57:20 AM

I agree completely with those two, and  had very similar experiances with Terry Goodkind and Stephen Donaldson.  I would like to add Robert Jordan whom I find terribly generic and too boring to read.  Of course, such things are a matter of taste but I just don't get all of these Tolkien-light stories that seem to have been put together by moderately literate D&D fanboys.  (Don't get offended guys, I fit in that category)  I also don't get their rabid fanbases, but then again I think Stargate is boring so what do I know, right?

torvar72 12/3/2008 6:12:29 AM

I agree with you Robert Jordan is boaring as hell. I bought the first 5 books cause I can read just about anything but I only got throught the first book. I did read the Terry Goodkind and Stephen Donaldson books. I like the sword of truth books that I have read but the were ok just not steller. I would recommmend any one to read the Dragonlance Chronacles by Margaret Wies and Tracy Hickman. Also for horror I love reading the Anita Black Vampire hunter books by Laural K Hamelton as well as her Mary Gentry series.

Sanity 12/3/2008 6:48:57 AM

I totally agree with Stephen Donaldson.  I got through the first, but not the second book.  I had been told it was a great series, so I was pretty dissapointed.  Make the main character LIKABLE, like Tim mentioned.

I've also read all of Goodkind's series, and obviousely enjoyed it enough to finish it.  I'd have to give it a C /B- though.  A lot of material could have been cut, and the series would have been better off for it.  It's too bad the opportunity to cut material through a TV show turned out to be so horrible.  The producer and especially the writers should be banned from TV for life.

Speaking of cutting material, somone should tell that to Tad Williams.  I read the first book of his Otherland series, but can't bring myself to pick up the second.  The first book could have been cut by a third.  Good idea, bad execution.

I stopped reading The Wheel of Time around book 9, when I realized I was wasting my time.  I think that was when I had picked up George Martin's Game of Thrones.  Wow, what a difference an author makes.  It really just felt like Jordan had no clue where the story was going.  Besides on and on and on and on...

I was also dissapointed by Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker.  Especially after having liked his Ender series.  Couldn't even finish the first book.

All in all, there is a lot of good Fantasy available, but there's also a lot of crap.  And popularity doesn't really go along with one or the other.

Hobbs 12/3/2008 8:06:56 AM

Over rated fantasy writers...Jordan and Goodkind though with Jordan being dead I don't know if I should include him.

Writer I recommend is Terry Brooks.  Most of his Shannanara series is good and even the contemporary fantasy novel he wrote, running with the demon, was a good one. 

I agree with torvar72,  Dragonlance Chronicles and I'll even throw Legends in there were good series before they went nuts with the Dragonlance novels (It seems like there are 10,000 out there now but the originals were the best).  Chronicles and Legends are not the best written work you will ever read but they are fun and you get attached to the characters. 

todd890 12/3/2008 8:37:37 AM

I tried to read Lord Foul's Bane, after the first chapter I put it down. Hell I still own the series.

Jorden and Goodkind I liked as much as Brooks. What there needs to be a series where it focus on different charactors in each book. Like a crossover.

Now there is a new fantasy series you all should try out. It's written by Richard Todd. Don't get confused with the other Richard's, this book 'The Madness of Avlon Klynn' opens up a brand new fantasy world.

raulendymion 12/3/2008 10:39:08 AM

I suspect Fantasy books (which I’m new to) are much like sci-fi (which I’m not new to) in that some of the books are so fantastic they’ll stay with you the rest of your life while others are just boring and their critical acclaim is outright mind-boggling.

A couple weeks back Mania ran an article about HBO taking on George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. On the recommendation of a fellow maniac I ran out and picked up Thrones. At 807 pages, each crammed with words, you’d think it would be a real test of anyone’s patience, but let me tell you this book is FANTASTIC! It’s got it all: political machinations of the highest order, action/adventure, and exploration of the human condition most authors could only dream about.

I hesitate to say that Orson Scott Card is overrated but he is largely hit or miss regardless of genre.

jdell1964 12/3/2008 12:21:38 PM

I read a TON of fantasy books, and in my humble opinion the best fantasy author in our modern day is hands down George R.R. Martin. His “A song of ice and fire” books as raulendymion mentioned has all you could want in a series. As you can see by my avatar, I am a huge Robert Jordan (RIP) fan as well, but as mentioned, the series are just too drawn out now, and I’ve lost interest, just like the Terry Goodkind series. As for Donaldson, I struggled through “Lord Fouls Bane” but enjoyed the ned and the next few books in the series, but then lost interest as well. I also agree with torvar and hobbs on Terry Brooks Shanarra and Knight of the Word books, and the Weiss / Hickman Dragonlance books (only the Weiss/Hickmen ones) but enjoyed their “Deathgate Cycle” books even more.
Other JDell recommended authors/books:……..David Eddings – Belgariad and Mallorean series
Ramon J. Feist – Riftwar and Conclave series ……. Fred Saberhagen – Lost Swords books
Cristopher Paolini – Inheritance series …..Jim Butcher – Dresden Files
Michael Moorecock – Eternal Champion books …..R. A. Salvatore – Dark Elf Books
Roger Zelany – Amber series …..Piers Anthony – Xanth and Adept series
Anne McCaffery – Pern Books ….. David Gemmell – Drenai, Rigante, and stones of power series

I also enjoy Jack L. Chalker, Robert Aspirin, Clive Barker, T.H. White, …..and of course J.R. Tolkien (The Master)

Hobbs 12/3/2008 12:38:39 PM

I forgot about Feist, good call jdell.  It was a very long time ago when I read the Riftwar Saga but I remember I really enjoyed it.  Jimmy the Hand, still remember that character along with Pug.

J.R.R Tolkien...I don't think we mentioned that one because as you pointed out he is the Master and I think that's an automatic on any list.

I keep hearing more and more about R.R. Martin and there he is again, two posts in a row.  I think I'll have to give him a try. 

Sanity 12/3/2008 3:12:42 PM

Hobbs - treat yourself to A Game of Thrones for Christmas this year.  You won't regret it.  Until you realize how long Martin takes to write the next book...

Seriousely though, I personally think that A Song of Ice and Fire is at least as good as, if not better, than The Lord of the Rings.  I've said before on this site that, just because Tolkien opened the doors on the fantasy genre (and in a big way), doesn't mean someone else couldn't write a better fantasy story.  Check it out.

tjanson 12/3/2008 3:19:02 PM

Great comments all but we're supposed to list the overrated writers and series...not the one's we recommend.  Anyway, i am glad to see I'm not the only who has struggled with Donaldson and Goodkind.  Sometimes you think there is something wrong with you.  I do enjoy Terry Brooks, at least the initial Shannara trilogy.  Eddings is good with the belgariad and Mallorean but I could not get into the rest of his stuff...

here's a few more overrated writers in my opinion.  Dennis L. McKiernan...this is the guy who wanted to get permission from the Tolkien estate to do a sequel to Lord of the Rings years ago.  When he was denied, he basically re-wrote the story, just basically changing the names of characters and races.  i.e., hobbits become warrows, Nazgul become Vulgs, Sauron becomes Modru and so on....He's awful awful

I also never could get through anything that Mercedes lackey has written

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