A-Z of fantasy: K is for King

16th-Century-letter-kDipping into my occasional A-Z of fantasy series… We are up to K. It’s another letter that, owing to its aesthetic properties, is rather popular for naming things in fantasy. (Yes, letters can certainly have aesthetic properties!) But not all that much else it seems.

And so we have KING.

King – the male ruler of an independent state, especially one who inherits the position by right of birth.

Yes, we all know what a king is. And while it may be considered an outdated concept by many in this day and age, in fantasy a king remains a prevalent archetype. Moreover, just in case kings were ever in any danger of fading out of the modern fantasy limelight, George RR Martin has given them a new lease on life with A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), in which there are more kings than I can at present count.

A lot of fantasy authors substitute some other elite authoritarian ruler for a king, but the principle is the same — whether it’s a high lord or a queen or an emperor or something made up entirely…

I attended a panel at a recent convention that discussed a tendency within fantasy to focus on the stories of the ruling and wealthy class. And it’s true that very often the main protagonists in epic or high fantasy are kings or their equivalent… or their heirs. I suppose one reason is because fantasy is so often looking at large-scale events — events that change the face of the world — and the ruling class are in position to effect large-scale change.

Having said that, not all fantasy containing kings is all about the kings (or equivalents). Moreover, much contemporary secondary-world fantasy explores different political structures these days. But I digress…

Knife –  1. an instrument for cutting, consisting essentially of a thin, sharp-edged, metal blade fitted with a handle. 2. a knifelike weapon; dagger or short sword

Definition number 2… that’s the one I like (in a fantasy context). A knife is the ubiquitous weapon for stabbing, cutting, throwing, or just slicing your food.

K could arguably also stand for knight, but whereas kings are making a comeback, I’m not sure knights are to the same extent. (Despite the fact GRRM has also thrown some knights into his epic.)

As for books starting with K, I simply cannot go past Jacqueline Carey’s wonderful Kushiel’s legacy series. (I still have intentions to dedicate a post to these.)

On the author front, Guy Gavriel Kay, author of The Lions of Al-Rassan, Tigana and the more recent Under Heaven and River of Stars (among many other books), is one of my absolute favourites. And there’s Katherine Kerr, author of a gazillion books set in the land of Deverry. My friend Deborah Kalin writes fantasy too. 🙂

And that, I believe, is K. What have I missed?

Image is once again public domain From Old Books.

 

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