I don't know if this qualifies as a rant, but I'm rarely satisfied or unsarcastic enough for things not to count as one, so whatever. If I'm not careful I may actually end of giving people tips on how to write fantasy, but we'll see. Really, I'd just like to complain about the number of fantasy animals out there that trump all plausibility and logic once you get past the whole "they live in a fantasy world" thing.
I should explain that the art of writing fantasy is that you create a set of new, consistent rules for a place that is not the Earth we live in. Make the rules and keep them = happy reader. Make the rules and break them = reader who wants to set your dog on fire. Having
said that, fantasy worlds need inherent logic. Did you get that? Your world needs to make sense, as in the puzzle pieces fit together. Don't feed me that "a wizard did it" crap. I'm a fairly discerning reader (I didn't say highly" or "microscopic-ly"; I've been baffled by the level of detail hatefans have gone after Harry Potter for.) Inherent logic fits with the first rule of fiction: you can make me believe anything, so long as you justify it. (Doing the opposite is deus ex machina, fantasy or not.)
Shall I start with my favorite? You guessed it! Paolini's Inheritance dragons! Now, I have nothing against dragons. Admittedly, I may have a slight problem with the plausibility of their construction, but I'm too much in love with their aesthetic and mythical qualities to care. That is what you call "suspension of disbelief". But Paolini's dragons appear to trump all biological and ecological logic if you start thinking about it. And I mean rudimentary stuff, too. First, they grow to adulthood incredibly fast, a trait usually used by predators who don't tend to live too long. (Wolves and big cats have an average of 7 to 9 years in the wild, if they're lucky.) But Paolini's dragon's live forever (or may as well) and never stop growing. Would this be a bad time to mention what the metabolism of a warm-blooded, multi-ton, immortal creature would be? I mean, wolves and such needs to eat every couple of days, and the ratio of predator to prey has to be at least 10 or 20 to one. Since the equation is based on predator weight ... we're talking maybe a mammoth or elephant every few days? Not deer. Not rabbits. Mammoths. Or possibly Iguanodons.
I won't waste anymore words on Paolini's world; we all know what I think about him. But how about orcs? Does anyone ever think about what they did when they weren't pillaging? Or even research so-called barbarian cultures to see why they raided? If orcs burn down every farm, they don't have anything to eat, folks. And, uh, in medieval warfare, I swear there is nothing quicker than that to stop an army in it's tracks. Not to mention collapse the entire economy. (Take a look at what happened to Europe after they got over the Black Plague and so many farmers died that no one was left to till the fields.) I hate, HATE "evil for the sake of evil" creatures. Unless you're willing to show the all-devouring wyrm eventually settling for his own tail, or orcs starving in droves, spare me. The logic numbs the brain, and I don't care if it "makes the hero realize he's lost everything due to blind evility!" Enough real violence is justified (or it better be, all moral arguments aside); don't candy coat your evil. Readers don't like it being spoon fed to them, either.
I gotta address the rule of cool here, too. The creature that is the fastest, best, and coolest at everything gets really stupid to read about. Especially if it's an anthropomorphosized wolf with telekinetic powers and a "tragic" past. If you're using a "fursona", there's another phrase for that: Mary Sue/Gary Stu. Better known as Author on Board. Regardless of genre, if you've got personal demons to work out, do it and put the manuscript aside. Story is God, not the issues you're going to grow out of 2 years after high school. The creature that is "Teh Coolz", beleagured, isolated, somehow totally likable (despite their whining) but utterly misunderstood makes me want to shoot myself. I want to see someone impale it through the eye and wear its skin, just so I don't have to hear about it anymore. If you want to fix your problem, tell me what it can't do, and it better not be a horseradish allergy.
I'm also tired of the beautiful, wonderful animal that just wants to be free. First, everyone who keeps talking about how beautiful the animal is should die within the first 20 pages, cause the only really story worth reading would be about how the guy who called it ugly suddenly has to deal with it. Second, animals as a rule are satisfied with food, water, and established, uninvaded territory. Wild animals face starvation and injury on a daily basis, compounded by parasites inside and out. If someone walked into your suburban house and said "You're free, little apes! Run! Go!" you'd think they were out of their mind. Zoo animals and domesticated animals are kind of the same way. So justify it to me, and don't take the cliche route like "cruel owner/starved/forced to fight" if you can help it. Odds are half your audience already read it better in White Fang.
Last, the animal companion. I think I just mentioned the major things that satisfy an animal, so if the chance of reproduction isn't on that list, too, I need some serious justification. Considering that half the time mammals know what we're feeling better than
we do, why would they hang around if someone who basically can't speak their language? A wildcat (especially!) would get gone after its paw was saved from a trap. And sentient animals would be even worse. Wolf: "My ass says I get the scraps!" Horse: "... Yeah, you can walk." Cat: "Bored now. Carry me." Wild animals raised from infancy are more likely to have a bond, but here I'll point out that the flight instinct is first in all wild creatures, even carnivores. Pumas and bears and wolves will run from a human unless they're defending territory or food (and sometimes even then.) The prey drive of aggressive dog breeds was bred for generations; does anyone ever actually wonder why wolfhounds kicked the crap out of wolves? And why they're so leggy in the first place? To catch the wolves.
Above all: use logic from real biology. Baby unicorns can't be born with six-inch horns, or they'd rip their mother's wombs open. (Yeah. Ya like that mental image?) Gryphons would need to have incredibly light lion bones in order to fly. Monstrous creatures would need to fit into an ecosystem that existed thousands of years before convenient peasant munching. (Not to mention not wipe out the puny human species by being the dominant predator.) And if you think the introduction of hordes of vile bat demons is something easily forgettable, you don't know squat about the destruction fire ants, foxes, or rabbits are capable of.
You can bend and even break all these rules, of course. Just make it a story worth reading. But odds are, if you're scooping out of the Loser Beasts bag, I bet you have a pretty crummy story in the works.