Lytherus recently brought four new writers on board to deliver even more content to our visitors. Our second blogger, Sam, is now sharing his personal recommendations for the epic worlds of fantasy in a new segment called “What Are We Playing?”, intended to introduce our audience to the likes (and dislikes) of our reviewers!
Top Fantasy Worlds:
Perhaps the greatest aspect of any type of fantasy or fiction media is the world that it creates. Be it through novels, video games, movies, television series, or what have you, fans indulge in these fantasy plots and in turn, become a part of that world. These separate worlds that may have begun as only one book, or one video game, sometimes grow and become alive across all platforms! These, in my humble opinion, are the series that deserve praise for the worlds they have created.
The Lord of the Rings
With no introduction needed, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is a Fantasy Epic that no man, woman, child, orc, dwarf, or elf should ever miss out on. The Lord of the Rings is the story of an unlikely hero, a simple hobbit named Frodo, who sets off on a quest to destroy the one ring of Sauron. He bands together with his best friend, and fellow hobbit, Samwise, or Sam. In a world of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Wizards, Orcs, Ents, and other creatures native only to Middle Earth, these two Halflings find aid and fellowship among many, while also being the target of the most evil forces in the land. Their quest is next to futile, alas they are Middle Earth’s last remaining hope.
Tolkien’s novels are the cornerstone to this epic fantasy, but the other forms of media truly expand on the series and make The Lord of the Rings the World it has become. The big screen adaptations of the books received critic and fan praise for their stunning visuals and heated action scenes. The third movie, The Return of the King, won 11 Oscar awards, including Best Picture of 2004. Beyond the movies, The Lord of the Rings made an attempt at the video game universe in the early 80’s and 90’s, but never caught on until games based on the first two movies hit consoles in 2002. The Lord of the Rings continued it’s assault with the popular releases of a real-time strategy game, The Battle for Middle Earth, and the MMORPG The Lord of the Rings Online. In over 50 years, Tolkien’s novels have sprouted into video games, comics, movies, graphic novels, board games, even live action reenactments. The Lord of the Rings is truly a world apart from ours that will be enjoyed, timelessly, by fans everywhere.
As the legend goes, it all began with a napkin, a pen, and the idea for one of the most influential fantasy worlds of all time. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series follows the life of the boy who lived, Harry James Potter. The series is split into 7 books, one book for each year that young wizards and witches, including Harry, spend at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Throughout the novels, Harry and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger face challenges that no one their age, wizard or not, should have to face. Astonishingly enough, they always seem to best these diversities and grow in experience because of them. Harry knows that someday he will have to face the most feared wizard of them all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Lord Voldemort.
Movie adaptations of all the books have been made, with the final book being split into two movies. The last installment to the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, is set to release this July 15th. Video games based on every movie have been released, however carrying less critical praise and popularity than expected. A recent addition to the Harry Potter video game collection, LEGO Harry Potter (released June 2010) added a fun new LEGO spin on the series. A theme park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, has even been opened in Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Rowling herself couldn’t have predicted that the world that started as a simple idea in her mind would one day become the phenomenon that is Harry Potter.
Only the plains of Azeroth, the skies of Outland, and the frozen tundra that is Northrend can hold the world’s most massive online role-playing game, World of Warcraft. With over 12 million subscribers, several novel adaptations, and a blockbuster film on the rise, Warcraft’s lore is what makes WoW so popular. The backbone of this fantasy world, however, is the real-time strategy game Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. Originally released in 1994, Orcs & Humans kickstarted Blizzard Entertainment’s epic franchise Warcraft. Shortly after, Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness expanded on the style of the original game with improvement on all bounds. Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos boasted the final real-time strategy title for the Warcraft enterprise. Blizzard Entertainment’s success with the fantasy world that is Warcraft led to their prized possession, World of Warcraft.
As a vanilla World of Warcraft player, I have personally seen the game evolve into the sensation it is today. As the popularity grew, more realms were added to allow for the increasing amount of subscribers, a trading card game was released, and suddenly, World of Warcraft became the definition for MMORPGs. Three expansion packs later, WoW is still enticing for rookie players and veterans alike.
A Song of Fire and Ice
George R.R. Martin’s signature series, A Song of Fire and Ice, takes place on the fictional continent of Westeros. Westeros consists of the Seven Kingdoms in the south, an uncharted area to the north, and a great wall of ice separating them. A Song of Fire and Ice begins with the first novel, A Game of Thrones. Three novels later, the originally planned trilogy became a tetralogy and is set to release three more books for a total of seven. The New York Times bestselling series contains multiple story lines that become intertwined and dependent on each other as the story progresses. One such plot line is the dynastic civil war for control of Westeros between several competitive and bloodthirsty families.
The popularity of Martin’s fantastic world caught the attention of HBO. Premiering this Sunday, April 17th, is the pilot episode of the brand new show based on the series, Game of Thrones. Hopefully, and with the high rate of expected viewers, we will see Martin’s historic series flourish on the screen. With board and role playing games based on the series already being played, and the plans of a video game in the works, Martin’s world is without a doubt becoming one of the staples of the fantasy genre. “Where summers span decades, and winters can last a lifetime,” A Song of Fire and Ice brings the epic feeling not felt since Tolkien back into the hearts of fantasy lovers everywhere.
Although juvenile in reading level comparison to the aforementioned series, Narnia has some of the strongest and most timeless messages of any fantasy novel, ever. The common theme of Good vs. Evil is displayed in The Chronicles of Narnia throughout all seven novels. A cause for controversy, a theme of religion in C.S. Lewis’s creation is ever-present. With Aslan the lion being described by Lewis himself as “how Christ may be depicted in a fantasy world,” the cause for controversy is understandable. This does not take away fro the sheer beauty of Narnia. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, although written and published first, is actually second in chronological order of the series. With the plot following the Pevensie children’s journey into Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is included in TIME magazine’s TIME Top 100 English-Language Novels.
Along with the literary excellence, popular film adaptations have been made based on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. With a film adaptation planned for The Magician’s Nephew, the world of Narnia isn’t ready to pack it’s bags just yet.
Narnia is a world that calls to human life when help is needed. As the Pevensie children heed their call to aid Narnia and become champions, our imaginations ride side-by-side, to become the kings and queens of our own personal Narnia.
I know by this point you all want to thank me for pointing out the obvious. What can I say? I’m a sucker for blockbusters. A less exposed series that deserves no less praise is Gormenghaste. A high fantasy novel that involves no magic and no other intelligent races beyond humans sounds not like high fantasy at all. Wrong. Mervyn Peake’s Castle Gormenghaste is magnificently titanic in structure and importance. As the home of the House of Groan, who have ruled for centuries, Castle Gormenghaste is the setting for the first two books of the series, Titus Groan and Gormenghaste. Athough Peake’s epic series hasn’t been as exposed and adapted as others on my list (the TV mini-series consisted of only 4 episodes), it holds a special place in my heart. Any trilogy that’s main setting is solely a castle has to be a great story. Plus, there’s something about a little scheming kitchen boy’s rise to power that tugs on my heartstrings.
I vow from this day forth, if I ever pursue a career in film, I will restore Titus to the head of the House of Groan on his new home, the big screen….If only I could sign Orlando Bloom to play him, if only….
Without Christopher Paolini, there would be no Eragon. Without Eragon, there would be no Shurtugal.com. Without Shurtugal, Lytherus would have remained hidden to mine eye. Without Lytherus, this lavish list of all things fantasy crafted by yours truly would be non-existent. So, thank god for Christopher Paolini and his masterpiece. Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and the newly announced conclusion, Inheritance, are the four books that make up the tetrology that is the Inheritance Cycle. Eragon, a farm boy, stumbles upon a blue egg that turns out to have a dragon inside. This simple farm boy gets thrown into a life heard of only through campfire tales and stories of the past. Eragon and his dragon Saphira, are the only hope left in the world of Alagaesia that can face off against the wickedly powerful king, Galbatorix.
The potential was and still is there for a big screen adaptation of the series. The first go around was a bit disappointing. Maybe the filming was rushed, the script wasn’t written perfectly, or maybe it was just John Malkovich. Regardless, a re-do attempt at adapting the Inheritance Cycle to the big screen would be much appreciated. Along the same lines, a video game (based on the movie, not the book) was generic, yet enjoyable. With the fourth book, Inheritance, set to be released on November 8th of this year, surely veterans will begin the re-reading process in the weeks leading up, and hopefully, new readers alike will jump on the wagon and dive into the fantastic world of Alagaesia.
A place to never grow old. A place for eternal childhood. Neverland is one of Disney’s hotspots. The home of Peter Pan and his cohorts, Neverland has been the setting of some great Disney animations. However, originally, Neverland was featured in the creations by J.M. Barrie and is the home front for Peter Pan, The Lost Boys, Tink and others. Originally a stage production, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was a Scottish staple in the early 1900’s. Now, Peter Pan is performed on stage regularly throughout the world. In the novelization, it explains that Neverland is found in the minds of children, and varies for each person. Neverland is a place where the supposed “real-world” falls from the air and all that’s left is the innocence and wonderment of childhood. No other fantasy world allows the audience to stretch their imagination muscles as much as Neverland does. Just seeing a high school production, or watching the film Hook (a big screen interpretation of Peter Pan) reverts the viewer back to the indescribable feeling of living carefree.
Neverland Ranch is a glorious playground based on Barrie’s beautiful creation. I’m kidding.
Neverland is genius for the sole reason that it is the eye of the beholder. It is a land that varies based on the mind that birthed it. As an inexperienced, yet opinionated playgoer, my high school’s rendition of Peter Pan a few years back sticks out in my mind to this day. Sitting in the stands, I replayed all of the mischief and fun that went along with being a kid. Being able to make a game out of anything, and running just to go fast, not as a workout, put butterflies in my stomach. I realized at that moment that all it takes is to think, Hey! I am still a kid! To this day, I act goofy, I act weird, I watch Rugrats, and every once in a while, I run just for the sake of going fast.
Stan Lee can do no wrong. The greatest comic duo of all time, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created X-Men in 1963. A normal society, one that we live in right now, full of humans and mutants alike, is genius. For all you readers know, I could possess animal-keen senses, bone claws, and increased healing that allows me to recover from virtually any wound. (I do, by the way). Although some fictional places were created in the X-Men series, they live with their powers in our normal world. At Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, young mutants are taught to hone their skills by various older mutants known as the X-Men. For these mutants using their powers for good reasons, there are also those who use them for the so called “greater good” otherwise known as total mutant control. The mutant Magneto leads the charge of the organization known as the Brotherhood, who seek to destroy non-mutants everywhere.
X-Men, like many comics, have been converted into many other types of media. Several video games, television series, and a commercially successful movie chain have been made. With more releases to come, including the upcoming film, X-Men: First Class, X-Men seem to only gain popularity. X-Men connoisseurs everywhere (myself included) believe that these mutants are out there now. Think about how possible Telekinetic powers are if we could just use more than the pathetic 2% of brain that we supposedly use. It’s, literally, mind-blowing.
The Wheel of Time
Who is James Oliver Rigney, Jr you say? The man who wrote Wheel of Time. That is Robert Jordan’s real name. I never understood pen names. I digress. The Wheel of Time is a series of 13 novels, with the 14th to be released soon, that uses elements of European and Asian mythology as concepts. Mostly, as you can tell by the title, the Hindi and Buddhist cynical view of time. I haven’t even finished all 13 available novels of the series, in fact, I’ve only read one! But from what I’ve read thus far, I am eager to find some more “time” and go to work on the series. What makes The Wheel of Time worthy of my list even though I am by far an amateur of the books, is the Tolkienesque feeling (I just can’t get over Lord of the Rings. I can’t and I won’t) I got when I started the first novel of the series, The Eye of the World.
Universal pictures tentatively scheduled production for a film adaptation of The Eye of the World within the next year (fingers crossed).
I chose to close with this series because it is one that I am holding high expectations for. The works listed above are all established as colossal in my mind. I challenge myself to indulge in The Wheel of Time and become apart of the world. Also, I challenge you all to go out and seek new and old stories alike, so that we all may become a part of these fantasy worlds.
Sam is joining the team as a book, movie, TV, and video game blogger and reviewer. He’s incredibly passionate about fantasy worlds, and we’re happy to have him as a part of the team!