Friday, March 1, 2013

High Romantic Fantasy & "The Gathering Of The Lost"

UK cover
Last week, February 21, saw the mass market release of The Gathering Of The Lost, Book Two of The Wall Of Night series, in the UK.

I've celebrated with a couple of posts on the Orbit blog: Use of Weapons--The Armory of Epic Fantasy and just yesterday, War and Power--Sources of Conflict In The Gathering Of The Lost.

None of which sounds very romantic, right? But blog post titles can be deceptive, and I feel that The Gathering Of The Lost (and Wall of Night series) is the style of epic that is also known as High Fantasy, or alternately High Romantic Fantasy.

Rightly, I believe, because the chivalric epic of the High Medieval period is a major influence on this style of storytelling: for example, the Morte D'Arthur and Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, as well as Le Roman de Perceval ou le Conte de Graal, Parsifal and Lohengrin.  

Both romance and love are an integral part of the High Fantasy tale, and I discussed the romance in The Gathering Of The Lost here last year.

But the High Romance lies in notions of quest and of chivalry, of tryst and tokens, of the trumpet blast at dawn, the banners of noon day, and the twilight of the gods--and the romance is as often unrequited, star-crossed, or doomed, as ending "happily ever after." This is the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady, of Tristan and Isolde...    

In short, the love of High Fantasy Romance may be bitter-sweet, but no less poignant for all of that. 

Today, to celebrate last week's UK release, I thought I'd feature three excerpts that I feel exemplify The Gathering Of The Lost's use of the High Romantic tradition, focusing on three of its heroines:

USA cover
Queen Zhineve-An of Jhaine

"Soon they could all see them, eight riders galloping out of the dust raised by the caravan behind them ... The horses seemed to float above the ground, their manes lifting on the wind of their speed; the riders’ hair, too, flowed out like banners. Sunlight flashed off the armor worn by seven of their number, while the central rider wore crimson beneath a pale mantle that curved against the sky ... The priestess-queen, Malian thought ... She wore no crown; needed none, in fact, although a narrow gold fillet circled her brow. A border of goldwork edged the pale mantle, and the broad, linked belt around the queen’s waist was also gold ... [her] eyes, the shadowed gray of dawn skies, were fixed on the Duke."

Kalan and Jarna

 "Kalan and Jarna had crossed to a booth selling midsummer fruit and Malian saw Jarna smile as Kalan hung long-stemmed cherries over her ears. They swung when the girl moved her head, glowing richer in the lanternlit dusk than any jewels worn by the great ladies of the Emerian court. Kalan leaned close, saying something, and Jarna ducked her head shyly, but she was still smiling. Malian, watching, was conscious of a pang that she had not felt before. ... She bit her lip as Jarna glanced up again, the young knight’s feelings written all over her face for anyone who happened to be looking."

Chivalry, the Midsummer Tourney, and Ghiselaine of Ormond

"A girl caught his eye and leaned over one of the hurdles that separated the spectators from the competitors, tossing a flower at his feet. He blinked, then picked it up as the girl ducked back, giggling. The bloom was of a kind that grew wild along every roadside and was already starting to wilt, but he worked it into the knot of ribbon around his arm—Ghiselaine’s colors, which reminded him to turn and raise his sword to her, where she sat at the Duke’s right hand.

The cavalcade rode close by them, the Duke lifting a hand in acknowledgment as he passed. Ghiselaine, too, raised a gloved hand and bowed from the saddle, fair and graceful as the lily of her guerdon. Alianor and Ilaise rode behind her, together with a mix of other guests... Both damosels waved, and once the last riders had passed a pair of heralds crossed from the shadow of the ducal stand, making for the list barrier. The gathered watchers fell back on either side to let the great gray horses through. ... 

“We have a commission,” the heralds said, drawing rein by the barrier and speaking in formal unison. “We are sent by Ghiselaine, Countess of Ormond, to salute all those who wore her colors today.”


"Powerful story lines, memorable characters and a vividly imagined world.” ~ Juliet Marillier 

“Helen Lowe writes wonderful stories. ... With lovely prose that brings vivid life to her characters, she creates a universe with people we care about. This is an author with a gift for fantasy.” ~ Nebula Award-winner, Catherine Asaro



So what do you think: are there other contemporary epics you feel fit the High Romantic Fantasy tag? And do you have a personal favorite? Let me know in the comments. :)


Kim Falconer said...

Congratulations, Helen! I totally agree with the notion of High Romantic Fantasy! Simply gorgeous!

Love the excerpts. Thank you!

Merrie Destefano said...

Helen, Congrats on the mass market release of The Gathering of the Lost! I didn't realize there was a subgenre called High Romantic Fantasy--but now I'll be looking for books that fall in that category. Thanks for helping me to understand what HRF is! =)

Bonnie said...

Congrats on the UK release. I loved the excerpts you posted.

Bonnie said...
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Helen Lowe said...

Kim, Bonnie: Thank you both, I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpts; I had fun choosing them!

Merrie: I think the idea of High Fantasy has been around for a while, just not getting so much of a mention lately, but I guess you could say I added the "Romantic" in to highlight its antecedents in both the medieval, romance era epic poems, as well as the more recent Romantic period when the works of Scott (eg Ivanhoe) added in a 'high romantic' element that later crossed over into Fantasy, with an early example being Edison's The Worm Ouroboros.

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Dakota Banks said...

Thanks for the excerpts! They were wonderful. Helen, your writing is so beautiful and lyrical. High Romantic Fantasy has been on my radar since you made me aware of it on this blog, but I haven't found anything comparable to yours.

Helen Lowe said...

Hi Dakota,

Thanks for your comment!

Other writers whom I feel 'sit' in the High-Romantic section of the Fantasy 'verse include Guy Gavriel Kay with his Fionavar trilogy and standalones such as The Lions of Al-Rassan, as well as Patricia McKillip with stories like "The Forgotten Beasts of Eld."

YA authors such as Robin McKinley with "The Hero and the Crown" are also writing in this style.

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