No prob, we all have our personal commitments.
I'm often hideously behind with my DA correspondence myself due to a simple lack of time.
TC/TCOTC: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson, with which I've pretty much been spamming my gallery lately. XDD [link]
(Don't spoil yourself too much, if you're ever going to read it.
No volume's out of print; bought mine from Amazon.)
I don't know if I can "recommend" it in the traditional sense of the expression, since people seem to either hate or love the series (according to a brief survey of Amazon reviews). It has some traditional fantasy elements (fancy horses, Giants, wild magic, a Sauron-ish, albeit greatly more sinister, Dark Lord who despises everything that is healthy and beautiful), but concentrates mainly on the deep, dark psychological struggles of the characters and the perilous consequences of their often poor choices (which is why, at least in my opinion, they feel more like real people than the characters of many other high fantasy novels). The series is divided into three "Chronicles"; nine out of ten parts have been published. I haven't read the last three yet, and hence can't fully express my opinions on them, but I absolutely love at least 4 volumes out of the first six.
The main character is a bitter, cynical, leprous man who involuntarily becomes the 'Chosen One' of a whimsical realm called 'The Land', which he finds a direct threat to his sanity and therefore messes up everything in the first two-three books by acting like a complete and utter bastard. Then, however, after finally understanding the domino effect of destruction and devastation he has caused, he begins redeeming himself, never yet fully losing his anti-hero-ish nature. In the 2nd chrons he's much more sympathetic, but to balance that, we get more disturbed people prancing about. XD
The series is, if anything, challenging
. The language, for one, revolves around difficult expressions (and undoubtedly leaves some space for sporking, but I did say the series isn't perfect
, and since English isn't my native tongue, the initial reading took me longer than with most other books. Some of the deeper layers of the complex plot/characterizations started opening to me only during the second reading. Anyway...it may at first (1st chrons) read like a very, very black satire of LOTR (which I think it is), but gets a lakeful of original spins after a while.
Seadreamer: Brother of Captain Grimmand Honninscrave from the 2nd chrons. Mission/Plot point for the Search/the quest of the Giants:
"Among our generation, a Giant was born, brother of my bone and blood, and the Earth-Sight was in him. He is Cable Seadreamer, named for the vision which binds him, and he is voiceless, scalded mute by the extravagance and horror of what the Earth-Sight has seen. With the eyes of the gift, he beheld a wound upon the Earth, sore and terrible-a wound like a great nest of maggots, feeding upon the flesh of the world's heart. And he perceived that this wound, if left uncleansed, unhealed, would grow to consume all life and tune, devouring the foundation and cornerstone of the Earth, unbinding Stone and Sea from themselves, birthing chaos.
"Therefore a Giantclave was held, and the Search given its duty. We are commanded to seek out this wound and oppose it, in defense of the Earth."
Armor: well, some accentuation of feminity doesn't bother me (google "Roman breastplate" to see how they accented male muscles in armor during those times), I'm guilty of drawing The First's armor to show her figure to a certain degree [link]
, but the shoulder guards of that lady behind the link ... XDDD They're practically impossible to wear in fight, wouldn't allow proper arm movements AT ALL.
Acquiring power: the TC novels spin considerably around that theme. The main character cannot grasp his powers until in the 3rd book, and even thereafter the usage of Wild Magic remains always hazardous. Some characters perish because of their overestimation of their own powers, etc.
Gentle/Intelligent Giants: Have you ever read Norse or Estonian/Finnish mythology? The Jötnar and Kalevanpojat may not be that gentle, but certainly wise, clever, and cunning. To name a few: Loki, Mímir, [link]
, Vafþrúðnir with whom Odin himself engaged into a battle of wits; the god of wisdom, sea, and singing Vanemuine/Väinämöinen, Soini Kalevipoeg [link]
, the eponymous Giant King Kaleva himself, Suur Tõll, etc. This is why it annoys me tremendously that most modern literature portrays these mighty beings as utter imbeciles.
On another note, they're not supposed to appear as if everyone had acid and random tumors sprinkled across their faces either (this is from a Norse legend called Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar):
Logi var allra manna fríðastr. Brá honum um afl ok vöxt í ætt sína, því at hann var risakyns. ---- (Þat váru kallaðir Álfheimar, er Álfr konungr réð fyrir, en þat fólk er allt álfakyns, er af honum er komit.) Váru þat fríðari menn en aðrar þjóðir næst risafólki.
It translates approximately like this:
"Logi was the fairest of men. He was of the giant kin, and his strength and build were like that of his bloodline. ---- (This was called Álfheimar, King Álfr ruled there, and all the folk there were of the elven kind, descended from him.) These (elves) were fairer than other men, besides the giants.
(Ie. Elves and Giants were both comely.)
I don't have quotes from Estonian stories at hand right now, but even there, the Giant King Kaleva and his offsprings were considered handsome.
Donaldson's Giants appear closest to their Norse counterparts I've ever seen in fantasy, save for the shape-shifting and magic-wielding skills, and that they actually do possess a gentle spirit.
Crud, I don't remember anything about Roald Dahl's story. I need to re-read it. >_<
Pitch: he was born deformed, with a spine so crooked that it doesn't allow upright posture and such a cramped chest that he can't breathe properly. Imagine a kind of 10-foot Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Seven hells: uhh...no idea. It's unquestionably from some book, but can't pin down the source right now. >_<
Did I manage to answer to everything? XDDD
Good luck with your game designing.