One of the great divides in modern popular fiction is between those who do and do not “get” fantasy. With the advent of the internet, the ability to post comments anonymously (“elves are gay!” “oh yeah? I shall surely slayest thee with my 1+ broadsword of smiting!”), and the proliferation of fetish websites (“Have you been a bad little gnome? Perhaps it’s time to visit Madame Electra’s domination and cosplay chat, only on World of Warcraft’s ‘Silvermoon’ server!”), the gap has widened considerably.

While I can’t personally attest to knowing the sexual orientation of elves, individually or as a class, I can comfortably seat myself with those who don’t “get” fantasy, particularly of the high fantasy variety. The difference between the two, as far as I can tell, is in how much you have to invest yourself to understand what’s going on; if you can pretty much jump into things from the start, it’s fantasy, if you must first have a thorough understanding of the surrounding mythology, it’s high fantasy. Chalk it up to having a lead ear for Tolkien, and a particular misadventure at a Renaissance fair (which shall henceforth go unmentioned), but if I’m not reading Shakespeare, as soon as I see “hither,” “thither,” or particularly, “mayest,” I generally get running in the opposite direction.

Yet, as with many genres, there are a few fantasy works of such tremendous quality that they manage to move even the most serious detractors. Given my general weariness of fantasy, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Crystal Shard‘s “A Tale of Two Kingdoms,” but after a marathon play-through, I’m happy to report that it’s got more than enough to make even the most jaded of elf-punters smile. Read the rest of this entry »