The Hobbit Film and the Enduring Appeal of High Fantasy

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a multimedia press screening of one of the most anticipated films of the year – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – at the Odeon in Leicester Square, London. For a huge fantasy fan like myself, this is the sort of rare event that requires photographic evidence:

 As you would expect, there was a real buzz of excitement that began long before the queue of attendees even made it inside the cinema, with much of the talk focusing on The Hobbit being made into three films rather than two, and Peter Jackson’s much-debated decision to release the film in a higher frame rate than normal (48 FPS instead of 24). Once inside the cinema, the booming soundtrack from The Lord of the Rings and the 3D specs – a tasteful Hobbity green with the logo emblazoned on them, making them an instant collector’s item – only served to heighten the expectation level even more.

Fortunately the film itself more than lived up to my high expectations. The 3D is used well without being obtrusive, and the higher frame rate – while taking some getting used to – delivers a film experience unlike anything I’d ever seen before. In short, Middle Earth has never looked so good. From the panoramic landscape shots to the action sequences, this is epic fantasy the way it’s meant to be. Martin Freeman is excellent as Bilbo and the (large) supporting cast – featuring several familiar faces – are equally impressive. Ultimately the film successfully captures everything that’s wonderful about the high fantasy genre: large-scale action sequences, lighthearted moments and visually stunning landscapes. Not to mention a certain dragon . . .

In many ways The Hobbit film reminded me of why I fell in love with the high fantasy genre in the first place; it really drives home the fact that there’s just something so endearing about this particular genre, and so many different elements to love. Orbit has a wonderful tradition of publishing some of the very best high fantasy, and many of our recent titles continue to explore the elements that Tolkien first made popular.

THE DWARVES (UK|USA|ANZ ) by Markus Heitz, the first book in his internationally bestselling Dwarves series, focuses specifically on the ever-popular underground denizens and their thrilling battles with their eternal enemy, the orcs, as they fight to save their ancient homelands – fans of axes and impressive beards need look no further. Alternatively if you’re more excited by Tolkien’s terrifying creatures, then you simply must check out John R. Fultz’s Books of the Shaper series, beginning with SEVEN PRINCES (UK|USA|ANZ ). This is high fantasy at its most epic, featuring plenty of gargantuan monsters, dark magic and exotic landscapes.

Helen Lowe’s The Wall of Night series, beginning with the award-winning THE HEIR OF NIGHT (UK|ANZ ), is a classic coming-of-age high fantasy tale, featuring wonderfully evocative writing and a strong female lead who must protect her people from an ancient enemy. And of course, we can’t forget Terry Brooks, whose novel THE SWORD OF SHANNARA (UK|ANZ )  revitalised the high fantasy genre upon release. Terry’s latest series, The Dark Legacy of Shannara (which begins with WARDS OF FAERIE (UK|ANZ) demonstrates why he is still one of high fantasy’s most popular writers, mixing ancient mysteries with magic and adventure.

As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also got A MEMORY OF LIGHT (UK  | ANZ) coming in January- the most highly anticipated fantasy novel in years, and the concluding volume in the multi-million selling Wheel of Time series.

So if The Hobbit film gives you an appetite for a high fantasy read, treat yourself and put some (or all!) of these on your list for Santa.