I love epics. The struggle of good versus evil and the journeys that the characters embark on are some of the things that I like best about fantasy books. I recently re-read Banewreaker by Jaqueline Carey. I was once again impressed by her story telling and the way she made a simple good versus evil plot into a complex story that forces the reader to challenge their perspective on what is good and what is evil.
For anyone who is familiar with The Lord of the Ring trilogy the parallels between the two become instantly apparent. There is a strong and kind good wizard, a group of people journeying together to thwart evil, there are elves, dwarfs, and men. There is a quest that only the weakest character can fulfill in order to bring down the dark lord. There is the land bathed in darkness with frightening creatures guarding it. The similarities weave through the plot. Unlike The Lord of the Ring trilogy, it is told primarily from the perspective of what might be termed the "evil" side. I found myself quickly rooting for the "evil" characters because Carey is able to give those characters a perspective and a motive outside of being evil. They do not see themselves as evil, but just in their grievances. The "good" are portrayed as being unyielding, blindly following their lord without thought or care to what their opponents believe.
This story creates an incredibly complex world that compels the reader to question their own biases and perspectives. What is good? What is evil? We may believe our opponents in life to be wrong whether they be the enemy on the battle field or the enemy in the office. They equally believe us to be wrong. I enjoy stories with a clear bad guy like in the Lord of the Rings. A bad guy whose entire purpose is to be evil and dominate all that is good. The objective is clear and straightforward even though the path to destroying evil is often difficult and complicated. However, it is refreshing to read a story that more closely mirrors real life. The battles we fight in every day life are complex with each side believing in their own truth and approaching the conflict with justified motives and perspectives. What would happen if we took the time to understand the perspective of our enemies to put on the glasses they are wearing for a while? What does it look like to have empathy for your enemy? We might decide that it is a battle that we have to fight, but instead of viewing our enemies as "evil" we can view them as people, people with similar fears, joys, and sorrows. And I believe that makes all the differences.