Search - List of Books by Niel Hancock
Niel Hancock (born 1941) is an American fantasy writer most famous for authoring the Circle of Light series.
Total Books: 36
After being out of print for several years, his novels are being reprinted by Tor Books. Hancock's fantasy books are grouped into three sets of four books each. (A stand-alone novel, Dragon Winter, is not explicitly part of this storyline.)
Hancock writes high fantasy with strong spiritual overtones, similar to Ursula K. Le Guin, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. His books were released at a time when interest in high fantasy was at a peak, and very little writing in that genre existed. As the genre expanded, his books went out of print.
Hancock has a unique approach to the high fantasy genre which separates him from other authors. While other authors are influenced by Eastern beliefs (such as Le Guin), Hancock constructs his fantasy to explicitly include Buddhist concepts of moving through cycles of time and rebirth. The river "Calix Stay" of his books is very similar to the river out of samsara in the Dhammapada. Characters cross this river into another world, but are soon reborn back into their lower world to work out their karma. The books use the framework of the traditional fantasy quest, but this quest is often secondary to the real plot, which centers on the struggle to escape samsara in the fantasy world. The plot is often difficult to follow, particularly to those unfamiliar with Buddhist thought, which may explain why Hancock has never achieved the same degree of classic status as other early authors in the fantasy genre who explored spiritual themes.
Hancock freely intermingles talking animals and humanoids in his books (including humans, elves, masters of sorcery, etc.). In the first set of books, the animals are able to change into humans and pass as human. Later sets blur the distinction and have animals and humans together.
Hancock's universe has an ambiguous technological setting. Sometimes, the world he creates is like that of Tolkien, a primitive sword-and-sorcery world. At other times, it becomes modern with warfare resembling the state of technology in World War One (or, perhaps, the American Civil War). Hancock is a veteran of the Vietnam war and uses his experiences in writing his fantasy books. His world, however, does not seem to have the automatic weapons and helicopters of that war.
Like C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, the books as published were not in chronological order of the events in the fantasy world itself. The first set is the last to occur in the chronology. The second set is the earliest. The final set is in the middle. Dragon Winter is set some time after the second set, although it is the most ambiguous of the novels because it does not belong to a set.
As an early contributor to the mass-market fantasy genre, Hancock's fate is similar to his contemporary Elizabeth Boyer in that his books required the reader to be interested in a specialized area of study (in this case, Buddhist philosophy) in order to fully appreciate the books, and thus he did not find the sort of wide acceptance which would have given him a more prominent place as a pioneer in the genre.