Friday, March 16, 2012

Romance in Fantasy

Recently, I’ve been pondering something that a friend mentioned to me while reading Task Force: Gaea: why is there no romance in the novel? A worthy question, to be sure, and it started me thinking about the nature of “romance” in literature. Now, I’m not sure why she commented about it—unless she truly wished to see characters engage in a romantic relationship. Within this story (about the birth of the team of heroes who were charged with saving their own world at the risk of losing their own existence), I came to two conclusions:

  1. Romance is definitely in the novel.
  2. It’s not the romance one might expect.

[1] In medieval romances, chivalry permeates the story, the knights of old acting in accordance with their tenets of proper behavior. Also apparent would be the knight’s love for a lady. The setting would be illusory and ambiguous, a place beyond the scope of time, perhaps. Layered on top of this would be the supernatural—elements that coax the imagination and ignite the internal fires. A disguised individual makes his presence known, too, and the number “three” repeats throughout the tale.

In Task Force: Gaea, the god Apollo becomes the first knight of this tale, and his adventure builds, ultimately meeting up with his lady. The heights of Olympos or the depths of Tartaros spread out before the protagonist, and these places just beyond the scope of the human mind tickle the imagination. Greek gods and primordial beings peppered throughout tie in the supernatural as well. Additionally, a man whose identity remains hidden from others (but not the reader) traverses the landscapes of the novel in search of his quest. Ultimately, the three Fates appear to entangle others in their yarn of time. So, by this account, the novel is a medieval romance, of a sort.

The main hero/knight of this tale—Danelos, his origin a mystery, furthers the plot in ways beyond imagining. Another characteristic of this hero/knight is being reared away from home, his true parents being ignorant of him. In Task Force: Gaea, I’ll leave that to the reader. This character’s identity remains unknown for a time, until his path crosses others from whom he needs help, and he ultimately finds out more about his past. How the triumph benefits anyone? Well, I think finishing the novel would tell the reader that.

[2] As far as the other kind of romance, the one when hearts combine into one, and lovers seduce, suitors charm, and people take enormous personal risks just to claim that one, true love—well… it’s not really a part of this story. Not yet. Relationships emerge, but these couplings have higher purposes beyond the interweaving of souls and building foundations to last forever. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, I found Richard Cypher and Kahlan Amnell’s relationship compelling, especially since their relationship spans the entire series of novels. But, here, I think Richard and Kahlan’s relationship is integral to the entire story, and its growth, obstacles, and ultimate maturation have as much to do with the plot as do other characters.

Apollo’s relationship in Task Force: Gaea, while certainly important to the plot, isn’t the binding thread to the story, as the reader learns. This coupling has a more divine purpose—literally. A journey as compelling as any a god could navigate, Apollo’s story ultimately brings the reader to the next logical step in the narrative, one that has much more prominence to the novel. It’s a building block: necessary for support, but not so for subsequent structure.

Romance has its place and, in the sequel, it certainly will be much more visible and pertinent. The next installment delves much deeper into characters and their motivations, so be patient, stay tuned, and more information will come your way.

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