Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Game of Thrones (any of them)/The Hidden City

I haven't read as much fantasy lately as I used to. But I've kept up enough to be baffled by this: Why are people are in such transports over George R.R. Martin, when Michelle West is giving us books like The Hidden City?

Now, I like Martin's work. I do. I've read, and enjoyed, the first four volumes of the Game of Thrones series. I even watched the first TV episode or two, but changes made in bringing the first book to the small screen turned me off. Which might even demonstrate feelings of protectiveness toward the books. But to hail Martin as "the American Tolkein" (as Time magazine has done) is going more than a few leagues too far.

If we are tossing that designation around (which I sincerely wish we wouldn't), I submit that West (who also writes as Michelle Sagara or as Michelle Sagara West) is every bit as deserving a candidate.* Once she inserts the double-R initials into her name, that is.

Full disclosure: I met Michelle West last fall, when I stopped by the fantasy bookstore where she works to sign copies of my recently released picture book, The Pocket Mommy. She was signing copies of her own books, so I asked her to recommend one. I was a wee bit uncooperative when she asked what kind of fantasy I like. (All kinds!) So she chose The Hidden City. I am glad she did.

But let's get back to the books. Both authors have great imaginations. Both are wonderful world-builders. Both tell absorbing stories that have depth, scope, and a rich invented history. But where Martin uses great blocks of primary colors, West creates a pysanka. If Martin's work is a fudgey brownie, West's is a dark chocolate raspberry truffle. Where his is a lively bergerette, hers is full-sonority Debussy. If he's the red sphere just being released from the tip of the glassblower's pipe, she is a stained glass window with the sun (or moonlight) streaming through.

Okay, let's call it a matter of taste. But if you like Martin's work, I can't imagine you won't also gobble up West's. I liked The Hidden City very much. I will read other books by Michelle West. You should too.

*Unless she would prefer being identified as the Canadian Tolkein. A few other writers have already been described as such, but they are all men. Sigh. Do I need to write a whole new post?

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