Every now and then, I like to read a little bit of fantasy (no, not the Nancy Friday kind, you dirty buggers. The Tolkien kind). As in most genres, some of them are brilliantly original and compelling. And as in most genres, most of them are pretty formulaic. There are gruff dwarves with huge axes, grumpy magicians and elves in impractically tight tights. And magic, it always seems, is dying out in the land, a sad echo of a bygone golden age.