I realised as someone asked over at BookCrossing what my best fantasy reads of the last decade were, that it was almost exactly ten years ago I truly discovered fantasy.
As an assignment in school we had to try the fantasy genre, and I picked and read The Diamond Throne by David Eddings (the first book in the Elenium). I remember getting caught up in it to the extent that I'd find myself still sitting at the dinner table two hours after I had finished my food, reading.
After that it just kind of started. The Diamond Throne set something in motion for me. All of a sudden I could not get enough of fantasy. I went on to read Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I could not have chosen a better book. Tolkien is the father of modern fantasy, the person who shaped and influenced modern fantasy works into what they are today. It was actually my second attempt at reading the book. I first started reading it when I was only seven years old, but not knowing what "appendix" meant, I got stuck in the beginning, where different scenes are explained and gave up pretty soon.
At 14, it was perfect. I lived, breathed and dreamed the hobbits and the magician Gandalf. Even though I didn't understand the underlying criticism of industrialisation, I identified with the humans and felt sorry for the small creatures that were forced aside at the expense of human development. I got caught in Lothlórien and wanted to stay there forever. I cried when the elves left Middle-Earth for the Grey Havens.
When I finally finished the books, I cried at the loss of Frodo and Sam, my newfound friends that had kept me company on a journey that felt like years, but had in fact taken only about six weeks (which at 14 can seem like years anyway).
I remember this point in my life so clearly, because it was after that I started picking up other books from the same genre. I read the rest of Eddings's books, started on the Wheel of Time and got introduced to Raymond E. Feist by an old boyfriend. I was caught up in the fantasy swamp and there was nothing that could get me out of there. For years, I wouldn't read anything else unless I absolutely had to. I've missed out on a lot of brilliant classics this way (Dickens, Austen, Stevenson all had to give way for Tolkien, Jordan and Feist) and it's only recently that I have managed to get myself out of that swamp and read something besides fantasy.
It's been a brilliant ten years of fantasy. I have discovered worlds that I will never be able to discover in real life. That pains me and saddens me, but at the same time these worlds are made immortal by the written world, and whenever I am in need of some magic, I can always go back to those words.
Thank you, all the fantasy authors out there who keep on making my life so much easier through the relief you give me through your books.
It's going to be a brilliant next ten years. I can't wait to see what fantasy authors will break through and once again mesmerise me.