Got a long spring break? Read fast? Or just love an epic tale of adventure set on a sprawling countryside and populated by an array of distinct characters. They may be old or young, good or evil, weak or strong, but one thing they have in common is the ability to captivate.
It’s actually hard to write a book with an esemble cast. Harder, still, to sell one, at least as a new writer who has yet to build an audience that willing to put up with the commitment an epic novel requires. In an epic, each character must be fully realized: visually, psychologically, emotionally, and each character must play a pertinent and unique role in the overarching story.
The following recommendations can fit under the categories of hisotrical fiction and fantasy fiction. But they might also be categorized as “epic” fiction, because both books contain an ensemble cast with a roving, 3rd person perspective narration, and both storylines are complicated enough to take around 1000 pages to tell.
There are a lot of benefits to a long novel, if it’s good, if you like the writing style, the story, and the characters. Unlike a long film, which is meant for one sitting regardless of length, a novel is meant to be returned to night after night. As with any book, it may take some time to fully immerse in the fictional story space, but once there, the longer the novel, the longer you can continue the plunge into its imaginary world.
5. Historical Fiction: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Travel back in time to midieval England, the 12th century, when England was undergoing a civil war because the crown was without a successor. In the midst of war, of the Crusades, of religious scandal and betrayal, the town of Kingsbridge wishes to build a cathedral.
The historical setting is tense, and the society different enough from our own (and just similiar enough, too) to make for an entertaining read. The characters are in large part filled with ambiguous natures, so that few can be defined as purely good or purely evil. However, William Hamleigh, one of the novel’s main antagonists, does rival Lord Voldemort in sheer evilness. (He fails short in fearlessness, as Hamleigh is actually quite a pathetic, cowardly man.)
6. Fantasy: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Why is it that epics always seem to involve a fight for the throne? A Game of Thrones is “epic” in more ways than one. By this, I mean that it’s the first in an epic series of novels called A Song of Fire And Ice. But the novel does stand alone, and like The Pillars of the Earth, it contains a cast of characters with varying degrees of honorabilty.
In particular there’s Tyrion Lannister, who (minor spoiler alert) may or may not be an attempted murderer. The book leaves the answer to the reader, at least for this first installment, anyway. Throughout the novel, we see Tyrion perform admirable acts and dishonorable acts, and so you never quite know what to make of him, or who’s side he’s on (besides his own).
Martin is also prepared to treat his characters in the way that’s best for the story, regardless of what that means for said character’s well-being. The result is a refreshing unpredictability that increases the suspense of the novel, as the reader cannot fall back on the comforting assumption that so-and-so is a main character and a hero, and thus free from any real danger.
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