The Quick Fire Fantasy Tag

Fantasy was my route into reading as a teenager and remains a staple genre – albeit one which I can find grows stale if I read too many too close together. A few years ago, I might have described fantasy as a guilty pleasure but now I am a proud fantasy reader: there are so many fantasy books which are wonderfully fun and some which are thoughtful and thought-provoking and so well written! So many thanks to Siren @ Sweaters and Raindrops – what a wonderful name for a blog! – for nominating and tagging me.

The Rules:

  • Thank the person who tagged you and link back to their post
  • Link to the creator’s blog (thebookwormdreamer) in your post
  • Answer the prompts below – all fantasy books!
  • Tag 5 others to take part
  • Enjoy!

Five Star Book: The Winternight Trilogy, Katherine Arden

Wonderfully evocative and mythic, set in a medieval Russian village on the depths of winter, Vasilisa Petrovna listens to the fireside legends her nurse tells her and the ancient superstitious rituals – legends and rituals that have been cast aside by the emergence of the Christian Church.

Little does she realise that those stories were in fact true and she about to be swept into the war between Morozko the Winter King and his brother Medved the Bear.

Vasya is a wonderful creation who matures from a terrified young girl to an outcast to a reckless warrior to a fully fledged witch on a par with Baba Yaga. Oh and she has a talking horse, Solovey, the nightingale of the title of the first book.

And the world building is exquisite: the terrors and uncertainty of a world on the verge of modernity, coming to terms with its history and trying to reconcile its past with its present. Added to that, Arden’s language is wonderfully evocative and potent, creating the depths of a Russian winter.

Always Going To Recommend: Frances Hardinge

I will always, always recommend Frances Hardinge to anyone: students I teach, their parents, colleagues, friends… strangers in my local Waterstones, going against the recommendation of their own staff. She weaves strange and bizarre narratives with compelling characters, genuinely thoughtful ideas and deeply considered – within robust plots and a sparkling delight in language.

And of all of Hardinge, I’d probably recommend either The Lie Tree or Cuckoo Song. They are both tales of young women finding their place in a challenging world: eigthteenth century and interbellum England. The Lie Tree posits the idea of a tree which grows in accordance with the lies that are whispered to it, producing fruits which give visions of truth; on the other hand Cuckoo Song creates an entire other world of fae creatures living alongside our own in the nooks and crannies of our world.

Own It, But Haven’t Read: The City We Became, J. K. Jemisin

I have heard a lot of love for N. K. Jemisin, but I have never read her. And I do love some urban fantasy so, this is an exciting opportunity.

Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.

But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

Would Read Again: The Bas-Lag Trilogy, China Miéville 

I rarely re-read any books: I don’t know, it feels more like work, more like study, than reading, perhaps. And as an English teacher, I do a lot of studying!

However, one series which, in my reading world is monumental is China Miéville’s Bas-Lag Trilogy: Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council. They are not a trilogy in the sense of being continuous but they came as a breath of fresh air devoid of the traditional western medieval monarchist structure and patriarchy. They are rich, potent overtly political (perhaps overly so in places) featuring the Remade, khepri, grindylow, garuda, cactacae, vodyanoi and so many more fantasy races. Genre hopping, they are steampunk fantasy informed by westerns and Moby Dick and detective fiction.

In the world of Bas-Lag, where the novels are set, slakemoths terrorise the night, dimensions and flesh are at least semi-permeable, vast armadas of boats are bound together as a city, machines gain sentience… it is a remarkable chaotic imaginative creation.

The heart of the series is perhaps New Crobuzon, a city with dark echoes of a fantasy London, or of Ankh-Morpork.

In Another World: The Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree is a sprawling fantasy novel with a diverse cast braking down most of the traditions of the genre. Fantasy is full of patriarchs? The Priory has at its centre the Queendom of Inys. Fantasy diminishes its female characters? The Priory abounds in kick-ass dragon-riding female warriors, the Red Damsels of the Priory, magical female assassins, eternal female witches. Fantasy is not diverse? The Priory throws in a range of sexualities, inter-racial relationships and identities.

On top of that, there is a cracking plot: a race against time to discover the secret to repelling The Nameless One, an ancient dragon bound a thousand years ago for just one thousand years – a fact that people seemed to have forgotten.

There are some familiar enough tropes in the novel: a quest to find an ancient sword with power to defeat or wound The Nameless One is going to dredge up enough memories back to Excalibur and beyond. But the world in which the plot plays out is wonderful.

And Back on Earth: The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern

It’s no surprise to those who follow my blog that I loved this novel – and in fact The Night Circus which preceded it.

She writes so sensuously that it is a real pleasure to read!

With The Starless Sea, she creates a celebration of and ode to books and writing and language – and honey and bees.

Imagine a hidden library containing and perhaps creating all the stories, myths, narratives and legends in the world, (almost) eternal and boundless hidden beneath (or behind or between?) the surface of the earth. And a door painted on the side of a wall could lead you down into it with its own rituals and relics and its dangers.

Honourable Mention: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street Series, Natasha Pulley

Delightful novels which could have been in a number of the categories and are just too wonderful not to (very cheekily) mention.

Men who can remember all possible futures, men who slowly transform into stone… and the men who love them.

The novels comprise The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and its sequel The Lost Future of Pepperharrow between which Pulley wrote The Bedlam Stacks which she explicitly ties into the same universe.

And I’m Tagging

Mayu @ Bookshelf Life

Catherine @ Bees and Books

Raji @ Worlds Unlike Our Own

Amanda @ Literary Weaponry

Indi and Pete @ Lit Lens

7 thoughts on “The Quick Fire Fantasy Tag”

  1. This looks like a really cool book tag: and by the way, I loved Priory of the Orange Tree. I find that even Fantasy that tries to put female characters in places they can act and have personalities – well, they so often feel just a little, just that tiny little bit flatter than the males, I don’t really know why. Prioy was fantastically epic, has dragons (my favourite!) and the female characters felt fully realized to me.


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