For me, fantasy novels are a comfort food – easy to digest, but of little nutritional value.
When I came back to Terry Brooks over a decade after I first read Sword of Shannara, I was astounded how poor the writing was: the prose was thin, the characters shallow and the plot hopelessly predictable. I pushed through the flaws and survived somewhat disillusioned. How could I have enjoyed his early books?
The answer applies more generally: The Sword of Shannara and its immediate successors were my first fantasy novels after Tolkien, and the industry’s first after-Tolkien fantasy novels too.
Dave Cesarano presents an insightful analysis of the problems of modern fantasy fiction: driven by publishers into attempting to ape the epic form of Tolkien’s masterpiece without possessing the substance; endeavouring to be post-Tolkien and subversive but ending up just as constrained by the attempts at rebellion, and suffering the same poor quality as more traditional imitators; relying on shallow fantasy-trapping gimmicks or non-fantasy “edgy” gimmicks.
Michal Wojcik performs a penetrating critique of the “adult fantasy” subgenre: strawman interpretations of Tolkien, relying upon swearing/sex/violence make a work “adult”; discarding the literary lineage of fantasy in order to impose “relevant” topical issues; relegating fantasy to window-dressing.