It's time I came clean. Despite my fastidious facade as an A-List arbiter of aesthetic excellence - nay, the veritable Taste Tsarina of the zeitgeist - I have a sordid secret. I am reading a fantasy novel.
I'm not talking Tolkien, with his musty, spunk-smelling arcania and fey, gay little songs. I don't even mean the semi- socially acceptable Pratchett, with his winking, Dickensian dwarves and fulsome, frolicking footnotes. I mean the real, thousand page, 'Lloris saw the pale steel of a Dhell clan dagger flash before her and turned with a swing of her platinum plait to espy the mighty wolves of Moragh descending the valley' deal, beloved by middle-aged men with wispy beards and multicoloured pantaloons the wyrld over.
J.V.Jones has none of the restrained accomplishment of Rosemary Sutcliffe, Alan Garner and Ursula Le Guin, the robust historical humour of Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden, or the pure brilliant weirdness of TH White. Her recently completed Sword of Shadows trilogy is undeniably over-ripe and under-edited, turgid tripe compared to my usual fare of lean literary Kobe beef - but it's earnest, baroque bombast is so pleasurably, swellingly awful, I almost want to stop hiding it behind Orhan Pamuk dustjackets, pop on this Anna Sui ensemble, and out my inner clanswoman. Sort of.
Anyway, something tells me that Tennyson would have loved it. When the real world is recessive, weary and war-worn, sometimes you just have to give it a myth.