I love fantasy worlds and the people who inhabit them. I relish the journey from the first page through to the end, seeing an amazing new world through the eyes of those who live in it and feeling their emotions, which run the full gamut from despair to triumph.
Perhaps the best analogy would be seeing the entire book as a game of chess. Granted, to see the hero/heroine ultimately achieve victory at the end is something to celebrate. But what draws me in as a reader in and keeps me riveted enough to keep turning pages is the move-by-move steps of the game as the forces of good marshal their forces against the enemy.
Will the hero/heroine misstep occasionally? Definitely. If the villain is too easily defeated, the story lacks depth. A good hero is only as strong as the opponent he faces. In fact, there should be some doubt on the part of not only the reader but the hero himself that he’ll actually be able to overcome his foe. Seriously, who would have expected Sam and Frodo to actually make it to Mount Doom? But each setback only increases the hero’s resolve to keep trying even if the price of success is his own happiness or even his life.
As in a chess game, each side has its own forces. Some are foot soldiers, there to do the actual fighting on the battlefield. The hero will do his best to save the men and women who would march into battle at his side. If they do fall, he feels regret. In contrast, the villain will throw his forces into the fight with little regard for their safety or well-being.
Both sides will also have allies. The hero often finds his in unexpected places. Remember the Ents in the Lord of the Rings? How about the giant eagles who place a crucial role in the outcome of the story? The villain will have found his own coterie to support his cause. Some do so willingly, hoping to ride to riches and success on the coattails of the villain. Some are forced into to siding with him because of threats to those they care about.
So the final outcome of the battle is determined by the strength and determination of the forces of good as they face off against what is often the overwhelming forces of the villain. In the end, the villain will depend on brute force and terror to win, and that will be his downfall. He believes victory will be his because he underestimates the power of the belief that good can triumph over evil.
The hero and his friends know they are outnumbered, but it’s their dedication to their cause and their careful planning that will save the day. The villain fights for gain; the hero to protect what matters.
So with each move and counter move, I lose myself in the world created by the author, counting the characters as friends as their story plays out on the pages. In the best of books, I arrive at that last page a little breathless and immensely relieved that it’s the hero and heroine who are the victors.