Journey: an act of travelling from one place to another.
This can be literal — epic fantasy is full of tremendous and inspiring journeys from A to B. None is more iconic of course than the journey of Frodo and his companions in The Lord of the Rings. Or Bilbo’s in The Hobbit, for that matter.
In fact, many of my favourite fantasy novels involve epic journeys: Thomas Covenant gets around the Land a great deal, Althea and Brashen sail around on their liveships, and as for poor Phedre and Joscelin… there are so many journeys as I skim my bookshelves, I can’t possibly name all the novels.
I’m trying to think of my favourite journey in fantasy, and I’m struggling. Top of mind at the moment is Phedre and Joscelin’s amazing journey on the trail of ten-year old Imriel, sold into slavery, followed by their expedition into the middle of nowhere to learn the name of god, in Kushiel’s Avatar. Incredible stuff.
Journeying alongside the characters in a fantasy novel is like travelling to another world. The ultimate adventure. It’s an opportunity to explore different cultures. (I often think fantasy authors inject so much travel into their books because they’ve gone to all the trouble to think up cool places — not that I’m complaining.)
But in addition to literal journeys, there are the metaphorical and spiritual journeys that exist in all good literature. Growth of character, development of relationships, progression of thought and understanding, change. The best fantasy can be just as deep and thought-provoking and mind-bending as the best literature.
And, since the canvass underpinning the story is often so enormous (think Middle Earth), the conflict so incredibly dire, the character journey is often correspondingly profound (think Frodo).
Yeah, OK. So in my series of A-Z of Fantasy, J is definitely for JOURNEY. It’s no accident that it’s also a key theme of this blog.
J can also be for JEWELLERY and JEWELS in fantasy. There’s often a magicked amulet or ring or diadem… (Or am I thinking of Dungeons and Dragons?)
J is also a popular letter for character/other names in fantasy:
- Joscelin – The ultimate tortured hero. Consummate bladesman, protector, warrior priest, lover, the perfect companion in Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series.
- Jehane – The intelligent and beautiful physician in Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan.
- Jimmy the Hand – Raymond E Feist’s charismatic and enterprising street thief, beloved of millions of readers.
- Jaran – A series of early novels by Kate Elliott, where the Jaran are the central people adjusting to the influence of technology. (These are great and recently re-released as e-books, I’ve noticed. I just wish she would finish the series!)
Finally a couple of fantasy authors worthy of mention:
- Robert Jordan of Wheel of Time fame
- N.K. Jemisin, whose novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms gained her recognition some years ago. It’s the only one of her novels I’ve read, but I keep meaning to go back and read more.
That’s all I can think of. Anybody else got any other suggestions and contributions for J? If not, I’d love to hear about your favourite epic fantasy journey.