In the mood for some generic epic fantasy, I picked up Lawrence Watt-Evans’ Touched by the Gods . I’ve enormously enjoyed Watt-Evans’ Ethshar books, but wasn’t expecting as much out of this one — part of the charm of Ethshar is that it’s light fantasy not Big Fat Epic stuff, and Touched is explicitly big, fat, and epic. With lowered expectations at the ready, I was thus able to be quite pleasantly surprised.
It’s not a perfect book, to be sure — a lot of the plot rests on the stubborn inaction of its protagonist, and there’s one plot-critical moment that depends on smart people doing something really stupid — but as fantasy epics go, it’s pretty darn good. It has an interesting world with a novel theology; it has characters and politics that are a lot more realistic than those found in most fantasy novels; it’s got solid pacing and plotting; and (for those who just aren’t happy without them) it’s got a big pile o’ zombies.
This isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it’s well done non-trashy epic fantasy, and that’s not nothing. Plus, from what I’ve heard, his next foray into epic fantasy (Dragon Weather et. seq. — they’re already published; I just haven’t read them) is supposed to be better than this, so there’s something to look forward to.