“It is with sadness that I reflect on what is termed fantasy fiction these days,” states Vakasha Sachdev from National Law School, Bangalore. He is one of those fantasy fiction readers whose reading repertoire extends well beyond Harry Potter and cheesy vampire love stories. While many teens and young adults drool over adolescent wizards and Adonis-like vampires, there are those whose shelves are stacked with less-known fantasy novels.
“The Harry Potter series' steady degeneration renders it outside the pale of good fantasy,” remarks Vakasha, whose tryst with fantasy began with C.S. Lewis' works. “But surely the greatest affront is the inclusion of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series among the hallowed portals of fantasy. This is not to say that all fantasy writing is brilliant, it is just that the genre has produced such masterpieces that to include such writings is a travesty indeed.”
It was when he read the Lord of the Rings at the age of 11 that he truly realised what he terms “the pinnacle of fantasy writing”. Vakasha talks highly of Guy Gavriel Kay. “He began his literary career editing Tolkien's posthumous mythos with Christopher Tolkien (Tolkien's son),” he says. “The Silmarillion captures the spirit of the language and quality of writing. His other novels—Tigana, A Song for Arbonne, and The Lions of Al Rassan, to name a few—are a joy to read and worthy of the legacy left behind by greats like Eddison, Lewis and Tolkien.” This wannabe fantasy fiction writer also recommends Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series and G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
Akshay Iyer, a ninth grader from Pune, tiring of Harry Potter, delved into mythological and technological fantasy fiction two years ago. “When I was in the seventh, I noticed some of my friends reading Artemis Fowl. I borrowed the books and was hooked.” Akshay raves about the criminal genius of the character and his adventures with fairies, elves and dwarfs. He then explored the world of Percy Jackson in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus.
“My friends and I are huge fans of Rick Riordan's The Kane Chronicles trilogy. The first book is called The Red Pyramid. If Greek and Roman mythology draws me to Percy Jackson, it is Egyptian mythology that makes me want to buy Riordan's recently released second book, The Throne of Fire,” says Akshay.
Another Rick Riordan fan is Shraddha Subramanian. “My sister and I are fans of The 39 Clues. Riordan established the main plot in the first book of the series, while a few other authors worked on the remaining nine books,” she explains. “The series deals with the adventures of a brother-sister duo that travels around the world to crack the 39 clues that will make them the most powerful people in the world. The interesting part in these books is that historical figures such as Gandhi, Mozart, Lincoln and Shakespeare figure in them. They drop hints that help the two along in their quest.”
Shraddha says that while her peers still devour books in the House of Night series (another vampire-based fantasy novel, by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast), she has moved on to Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle series and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, a fantasy-cum-science fiction.
Speaking of the popularity of this genre in India, 19-year-old Priya K, the young Chennai-based author of the fantasy novel Prophecy: The Rise of the Sword, says the Indian reading public may not be that enamoured of fantasy fiction. “Even those who are prefer the established Western names, but that's true in all genres of fiction,” she says. She agrees that there has been some noise made over books of this genre such as Samit Basu's GameWorld trilogy and his succeeding books. But she feels that the publishers seem to be more excited about this genre than the readers.
For herself, Priya holds Samit Basu's works as dear as those of Terry Pratchett's.