Q: I am keen to get lost this spring in a long, epic series of books. What can you recommend? (I loved both The Lord of the Rings and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, for example).
Charity worker, 38, south-east England
A: Author and critic Amanda Craig, whose latest novel, The Lie of the Land, is published by Abacus, writes:
Whether it has swords and dragons or gangsters and husbands, the feeling of entering an alternative reality is something we all need. Fantasy and realism are not mutually exclusive. The demands are the same. Tolkien’s epic quest doesn’t appeal to everyone, despite containing great characters, thrilling battles, profound wisdom and comic sweetness. Neither does Ferrante’s searing depiction of female friendship, corrosive corruption and poverty. What we seek in the best epics is what we have always found: a heightened sense of life’s struggle, the consolations of justice, the fidelity of friends and a wonderful story.
You may already be familiar with Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea novels, where magic is controlled through language. These are among the finest ever written, being, at one level, about a young man’s adventure into manhood, and, at another, about the artist’s quest for mastery.
Less familiar, perhaps, is Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats quartet, concerning a band of fighting magistrates now working as mercenaries in the land of Tristia. Funny, fast paced and romantic, and the narrator Falcio is wholly beguiling. Another fantasy recommendation is Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy about the Assassin’s Apprentice. And if you haven’t yet read the great Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, now is the time, before it is serialised by the BBC. It is Paradise Lost for our times and, if not exactly comforting, will thrill and absorb.
Submit your question for book clinic below or email email@example.com