So here we’ve got Lawrence Watt-Evans’ The Wizard Lord , book one of The Annals of the Chosen. It starts off with a super-twee song/poem about how the eight Chosen heroes (the Leader, the Archer, the Swordsman, the Beauty, the Thief, the Scholar, Sneezy, and Dopey) will be called by destiny when a Wizard Lord turns corrupt, and then they must slay the Dark Lord. It may — may! — be possible to be more cliched than that, but it’d take some serious work.
However, this is a Lawrence Watt-Evans novel, which means that you don’t get cliche. As soon as that little song is past, we move into a very grounded and down-to-earth novel, one that’s almost relentlessly realistic and mundane, as if Watt-Evans gathered up all the twee (and the numinous) in a three-state area and hid it away so none would get in his book.
Okay, sure, our protagonist is a boy-becoming-a-man who becomes the Chosen Swordsman, but that transformation right there is enough to tell you that this isn’t a generic fantasy epic. No moistened bint lobs a scimitar at him, no grand and epic battle reveals his nature, nor is there some amazing chance steered by destiny. What we get instead is the old Swordsman looking to retire and asking at a village if anyone wants the job, and our hero basically decides it’s a better prospect than barley farming. He proceeds to have second thoughts, and waffles around a bit before deciding to finally take the job, whereupon he works with the Old Swordsman to cheat their way through a magic ceremony that’ll officially transfer the title.
The rest of the book is as thoroughly down-to-earth, even as the outline of the story is following a standard epic fantasy plot. This doesn’t feel like an overblown tale of grand heroic deeds, it feels like regular people living in a real world that just happens to have magic and Dark Lords and Chosen Heroes.