Question of the Week: Action Scenes in Books

As a film fan, I tend not to think of prose when it comes to action scenes. I think of action movies. I think of John Woo bullet ballets, Lau Kar-leung kung fu epics, or even any number of preposterous but glorious Luc Besson extravaganzas. When it comes to action, I remember what I’ve seen more readily than what I’ve read.

This is embarrassing when I’m asked the question, “Who are your favorite writers for action?” I’ve handled it with Zelazny and Howard in past, but that can’t remain my go-to answer. Help me out.

Recommend two or three of your favorite action books, preferably pre-gunpowder era or fantasy novels. Sweeten your answer by telling me what it is about those scenes that makes them so memorable for you. I’ll expand my horizons by reading the books that you pitch the best.

One thought on “Question of the Week: Action Scenes in Books

  1. 1) Not pre-gunpowder, but most of the action is swords anyway, so… The Three Musketeers – I’ve still to read a better-written action scene than the fight between the Musketeers and the Cardinal’s Guards just after d’Artagnan’s duel with Athos has been interrupted by those guards.

    2) Again I’ll not entirely go for something you asked for, since rather than a book I’ll reply with a series – The Wheel of Time has some great fencing scenes, and where Dumas is great because of how he makes you see everything, Jordan is great because he pretty much does the opposite. I have no idea what the various sword forms he rattles off in lieu of describing what the combatants do looks like (because he made them up), but the prose just flows across the page.

    And thirdly I’ll go with something written by a co-author of your’s – Daughter of the Drow by Elaine Cunningham has some great action scenes where she really manages to convey the urgency of what’s Liriel going through.

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