I’m Sensing a Trend

Happy Tuesday, squiders! I just finished reading The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip, which is the first of a fantasy trilogy and was published in 1976.

Do you know what the book reminded me of?

The Finnbranch trilogy that we did the disastrous readalong of over the summer last year.

I mean, The Riddle-Master of Hed is a much better book, but it involved a lot of the same elements: young man whose destiny has been determined far in the past, a bunch of supernatural people, shape-shifters from the sea, a lot of wandering around, and a bunch of pretty thick mythology.

(Wikipedia tells me that the book features themes from Celtic mythology, which Finnbranch did as well, though McKillip is not quite so obvious about it.)

From this, I can only conclude that this was a fairly active fantasy subgenre in the late ’70s/early ’80s. I mean, what are the odds that the two fantasy novels from essentially the same time period (As I said, this one was published in 1976, and the first Finnbranch novel, Yearwood, is from 1980) I’ve picked up in the last six months would be so similar in tone and themes?

(I suppose it could say more about me than the publishing trends of the time. Obviously something drew me to pick up both trilogies, whatever the heck it was. This is what happens when you hoard books for years. You have no idea what you were thinking.)

Does anyone read more of the period of fantasy/remember this period in fantasy? Was this a trend? If so, what would you say is the quintessential book of the “destined young man who is more than he seems with story drowning in mythology” genre so I can get it out of the way? (Or avoid it entirely. Still not sure.)

I wish I’d done this trilogy first. It’s probably way more enjoyable without the Finnbranch flashbacks. I will probably read the next two books, because now I’m invested, and also the third book was nominated for the Hugo and a bunch of other awards.

Read this series, squiders? Thoughts? (No spoilers yet, please!)

5 responses to this post.

  1. Terry Goodkind’s “Sword of Truth” series was very much like that, though released in 1994. I think what you’ve stumbled on is one of the basic fantasy tropes, almost a subgenre in itself. I doubt it is limited to just the 70s and 80s. Though, what I think is important, I think fantasy really took off in that period, so you probably just have more big series emerging at that time, meaning you’ll inevitably have more destined-hero type sagas.


    • I’ve not read “Sword of Truth” (though I have it sitting on my bookcase, waiting) but I don’t necessarily mean to imply that all destined-hero/prophecy fantasy is the same. Terry Brooks’ “Sword of Shannara” can probably fall into that subgenre, for example, but it doesn’t have the same tone/themes as the Finnbranch trilogy or the Riddle-master. I think the heavy reliance on mythology might be part of it, like they’re trying to feel more like mythology themselves.


      • Haven’t read Finnbranch or Riddlemaster, so I couldn’t say.

      • Well, I don’t recommend Finnbranch. 😉 Maybe I’ll give Sword of Truth a spin and see how it lines up.

      • I think you’ll only need to read the first one to tell. After the first book, the series tends to ramble a lot. I guess it’s to be expected for a series that now has like 13 volumes.

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