Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Best Of | Fantasy Armies

There's hardly a paucity of armies in SFF: in fact, you can hardly miss them. From Daenerys' Unsullied in ASOIAF to the Bonehunters of the Malazan Book of the Falllen, there's plenty to pick from. So, of course, I am duty-bound to pick one or two as a subjective 'best of an awful lot'... And invite all of you to tell me yours. So, here are my two favourites:

Onearm's Host
From: The Malazan Book of the Fallen
  Let's be fair, here: what Malazan fan hasn't wanted an account of more Bridgeburner exploits?

Nevertheless, Memories of Ice takes Onearm's Host into a new arena of awesomeness: an army outlawed by their own Empress and forced against a fanatical crusade - and undead K'Chain Che'Malle. (Some of which have blades for hands. Really.) In all honesty, though, it's the way in which the Host doesn't always succeed that lures us on: Erikson isn't shy about killing off our favourite characters in ways which make us wish for Martin's gentle touch.

There are plenty of rewards for the readers. Devious and frequently just plain nasty, the veteran Bridgeburners might be amusing characters, but they're legendary for a reason. It's in Memories of Ice we get to see why.

(I mean, dropping munitions from gigantic dragonflies - what more can I say?)

The first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen is Gardens of the Moon - and if you haven't read it already, I seriously advise checking it out. If you have? Read it again.

You can find it on Amazon here: Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen)

The Night's Watch
From: A Song of Ice and Fire
  Despite the prevalence of armies in A Song of Ice and Fire, picking a favourite is easy: the Night's Watch.

Intended to protect the Seven Kingdoms from incursions across the Wall - a massive construction of ice spanning the neck of the continent - the Watch becomes a sentence for petty criminals. Nevertheless, the threats beyond the Wall are growing in the series, and with this particular army both undermanned and crewed largely by criminals unwanted by the rest of the continent... Well, let's just say we get to see its Lord Commanders perform a tricky balancing act. Do they succeed? Well, I won't spoil you that way.

From the first words of the Night Watch's vow to the ranging beyond the Wall, the Watch is one of Martin's most interesting creations: and I can't wait to see what happens to it next.

And knowing Martin? Who dies next.

If you haven't yet read A Game of Thrones, you can pick it up here: A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One 

So, what are your favourite fantasy armies - be they from LOTR or WOT? Comment below and tell me!


  1. On a more light-hearted note -- does the Ankh-Morpork City Watch count as an army?? 'Cause they are seriously awesome by dint of supreme heroism, razor-sharp wits, and nerves of stee- *cough* Or, well, mainly by accident.

  2. ...Mostly accident: though Colon is absolutely brilliant. :P The whole traffic control setup was hilarious.

  3. The Rohirrim were my childhood favorites.

    The Army of the West under CeNedra in the Belgariad was great, especially the Tolnedran "advisor."

    The Narnian army in the movie version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was fantastic. Actually, so was the White Witch's army.

  4. Band of the Red Hand. It's lead by Mat, how can it not be the best?

  5. I have to say the riders of Rohan have to be one of my favourites, the battle of the Pelennor Fields is one of the most epic things I've ever read.

    From the Malazan series, I like the Bridgeburners but really its the Wickans led by Coltaine in the "Chain of Dogs" sequence in Deadhouse Gates that is probably the most epic army in Eriksons books

  6. @Darren: I loved all three of those when I was younger, though I've rather gone off Eddings.

    @Fielding: Oh, yes. Especially at the end of Knife of Dreams. I mean, 'Time to roll the dice'? Awesome.

    @locusmortiis: I like the Wickans, though I haven't reread DG for a while... Though Onearm's Host for the brief scenes under Paran have to top it for me. The Bonehunters, however, are fairly high on my list as well: final battle in DoD, anyone?

  7. I just started getting into epic fantasies last year so I'm afraid I don't have a very long list of fantasy armies to choose from :( But I think Night's Watch is a great choice, it'd definitely be one of mine for sure.

    I also really like the Aiel from The Wheel of Time. Their whole culture is just so interesting.

    I just bought the first Malazan book a few days ago, I'm excited to read it now! :)

  8. Ooh, hope you like it! But I'd also bear in mind that Gardens of the Moon is generally considered the worst of the series by Malazan fans, so even if you don't enjoy it, I'd wait til Deadhouse Gates for a decision.

    The Aiel are a good one, and though WoT has a lot of flaws, the revelations regarding them are some of the most interesting parts for me! How much have you read of the Wheel of Time?

  9. Ooh, I will definitely keep that in mind about Gardens of the Moon. I don't mind possibly slugging through a bad book to get to the good stuff later :D

    Ah yeah, I find with A Wheel of Time, people seem to love it or hate it -- a bit of a hit-or-miss series. I currently just started on book 7, A Crown of Swords, really excited about it since I loved the ending of the previous one a lot.

  10. Well, stop by and tell me what you think of it!

    Yep, I very much enjoyed Lord of chaos' ending, but unfortunately, the latter half of the series slows down a bit - well, a lot in places, until it gets onto The Gathering Storm, etc. Crossroads of Twilight is probably the worst offender - it spends what is literally half of its length catching up to the previous book! Still, well worth reading on, and AMoL is coming out soon... Again, I'd be interested to know what you think of A Crown of Swords. :)

  11. Oooh yes, I have already been warned that the Crossroads of Twilight is pretty bad. My friend hated it so much (and she's a HUGE fan of the series) that it took her a year to force herself through it, haha.

    I'll let you know my thoughts on the books when I finish them! :D