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09 Sep 2005
The Magician of Karakosk and Other Stories - Peter S. Beagle - Souvenir Press, 1999
* * *
There is a sort of fascism about epic fantasy. Too often the hero (who is almost always, knowingly or unknowingly, of royal blood) goes carving his way through the guards, monks or other assorted dispensibles on his quest to locate the Maguffin That Will Save the World without any consideration being given to the appalling consequences of his actions on their family and loved ones. Like traditional history and, for that matter, right-wing politics, epic fantasy assumes that only the powerful or the particularly talented are of interest or importance. This offends my sense of justice - ordinary people matter too, even if their stories are not so relevant or memorable. It must surely be possible to write fantasy stories about people lower down the social scale - the farmer's wife who's lost a cow, the down-on-his-luck minstrel, the cheese-maker under a witch's curse - who tend to appear but peripherally at best in your average fantasy novel. This is what Beagle is trying to do in this set of beautifully written stories and I applaud him for trying, but somehow they didn't quite work for me.
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