Tag Tuesday: Fantasy Tropes Tag

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was:

November 9: Memorable Things Characters Have Said (quotes from book characters that have stuck with you)

But this didn’t grab my interest. I feel like I’ve done a lot of book quotes lists. So I decided to do a Tag Tuesday instead:

I discovered this on Foxes and Fairy Tales.

Rules

  • Mention the creator ( one’s peculiar )
  • Answer the questions
  • Tag as many people as you like
  • HAVE FUN!

1 – The Lost Princess – A book/series you lost interest in halfway through.

The Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices/Dark Artifices series is probably the first one that comes to mind. I read the original trilogy and enjoyed it. But then the author kept coming out with more and more trilogies set in the same world. That’s fine if the setting warrants 12 books, but I was just alright with it just being a trilogy. It felt like something was being drawn out that didn’t need to be.

2 – The Knight in Shining Armour – A hyped book/series you were swept up by.

I wanted to avoid the usual answers for this one, so I decided to go with the Obernewtyn series. While it’s relatively unknown in the US, it’s very hyped elsewhere. My Aussie bookish BFF recommended it to me years ago and I was surprised to learn it has such a devoted fanbase elsewhere in the world, since I hadn’t heard of it. But there is a lot of hype surrounding it in other countries, so I’m counting it!

3 – The Wise Old Wizard – An author who amazes you with his/her writing.

Juliet Marillier. I think I could read and enjoy her grocery list! She tells a great story, beautifully, every time.

4 – The Maiden in Distress – An undervalued character you wished had a bigger storyline.

I’m going to say Ashton in The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons. But this is the first book in a trilogy, so Ashton may get more of a storyline as things progress, but in the first book he’s sort of on the sidelines. In the book, the main character, Julian does several not-very-smart things. But in spite of that Ashton is 100% loyal, even willing to turn his own life upside down. He goes above and beyond the call of duty as far as friendship goes. There are some hints as to the reasons, and hopefully in later books we’ll learn a bit more.

5 – The Magical Sword –  A magical item/ability you wish authors used less.

This might not be exactly what is meant here but in general, I could do with fewer vague prophecies in fantasy. How about some actual helpful information in the dream/vision/trance/whatever? I’m not saying I haven’t liked books that have used this. It can be done well. But sometimes it feels like an author throws a prophecy in to muddy things up for the characters rather than to serve an actual narrative purpose,

6 – The Mindless Villain – A phrase you cannot help but roll your eyes at

Often different phrases in different books. The one that jumps to mind is the “constellation of freckles” in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I think her freckles were compared to a constellation at least once a chapter.

7 – The Untamed Dragon –  A magical creature you wish you had as a pet.

I actually don’t think I’d want a magic creature as a pet. I can’t think of one that wouldn’t be very challenging to care for! I mean, a phoenix might start fires. How does a dragon do his business? Do you take him for walks? Get dragon litter?

8 – The Chosen One – A book/series you will always root for.

I loved Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series. It was a trilogy for a while but she recently added a fourth book that I haven’t read yet (hopefully it won’t fall into my “unnecessary extension of a series” category)

I’m not tagging anyone but if you want to do this one, go for it!

#WyrdandWonder Challenge (Part III)

My next set of prompts for May’s Wyrd and Wonder Challenge

May 20Fantasy creature on the cover

(bonus points if it isn’t a dragon)

Well, the most recent fantasy book I read with fantasy creature on the cover, was Crown of Crystal Flame, by CL Wilson. It’s the final book in Wilson’s Tarien Soul series and it has a Tarien (sort of like a giant cat with wings) on the cover in the background. The first book in the series, Lord of the Fading Lands shows a Tarien a bit more clearly.
May 21Fantasy in translation

Fridays are all about celebrating fantasy from around the world – this week focuses on books that weren’t originally written in English

The one that leaps immediately to mind is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, because it’s a favorite (well really the whole Cemetery of Forgotten Books series counts) The fantasy elements are stronger elsewhere in the series, but as I said, this one is my favorite, and it has those elements as well, to a lesser extent. It was originally written in Spanish.
Another book that, well, let’s say it made a strong impression on me was Troll: A Love Story by Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo.
Actually I’m a big fan of magical realism, which I suppose is a subgenre of fantasy. It has strong associations with Latin America, so a lot of the books are in translation from Spanish. Some favorites are Like Water For Chocolate, Eva Luna, and The House of the Spirits.
I suppose many classic fairy tale collections count as well. The Brother’s Grimm and ETA Hoffman were originally in German. Hans Christian Anderson was Danish. Charles Perrault was French. They all originally wrote in their native languages.
May 22Get in the sea

Seaborne fantasy, mermaid tales, the lady in the lake – make it watery for World Maritime Day
…or if you’re feeling bitter, what fantasy would you consign to the depths and why?


I really enjoyed Carolyn Turgen’s Mermaid. It’s based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid (which is very different from Disney’s version!) and follows the point of view of both the mermaid and the princess who the mermaid’s beloved marries.
May 23Book rainbow

book spines arranged in the colours of the rainbow

Some of the colors didn’t photograph as well as I would have liked, but I didn’t have a chance to play with the lighting.
May 24On the shelf

how long has that been on your shelf / TBR?? a book / books you really should have read by now

I think these have been on my shelf for the longest:
White As Snow by Tanith Lee
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
The Blue Girl by Charles DeLint

Hopefully I can get to them soon!
May 25Chosen one #TropeTuesday

Double-edged prophecies, irresistible destiny, a plot stick you just can’t dodge – let’s end the month on a classic

Well, this month these are the books I’ve read that use that trope:
Crown of Crystal Flame by CL Wilson– This is the final book in the Tarien Soul series and the heroine, Elysetta, has every characteristic of a “chosen one.” She has a mysterious past, she was found in the woods as a baby, she has a supernatural/fantastic origin story, and she is destined to either save, or destroy, the fey.
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness-This is the second book in the All Souls series and I think that Diana has some “chosen one” characteristics too. She knows she’s a witch but she didn’t have any sense of connection to her heritage before the first book in the series. In this book, she starts her magic training, and it turns out she’s a “weaver,” a rare kind of witch that can make up spells. It’s been hinted that she might save supernatural creatures from extinction. She’s also married to a vampire, and there are prophesies about their offspring.
May 26All the feels

We all love an emotional rollercoaster – a book that gave your feelings a full on work out

I’m often an emotional wreck as I read, so this might be a long-ish list with major spoilers. Be warned…

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- The end when Bod leaves the graveyard, and the ghosts who raised him, and goes out to pursue his future as a living person.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro– I’m counting this as a fantasy, even though you could make the argument for it being sci-fi. Really just the whole thing once we learned what the characters were and their inevitable fate.
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon- A lot of books in the Outlander series have given me all the feels on a semi regular basis, but this one totally destroyed me when Jamie sends Claire back through the stones, to the future (they both think forever), and goes off to die (they think) at the battle of Culloden…
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling– This was another series where I got emotional at many different points (the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban, the end of The Goblet of Fire, the end of The Half Blood Prince…) but if I had to pick one part of the series, it would be this book. When people we love die in battle, when Harry goes into the forest, Dobby, Snape, and really everything!
The Keeping Place by Isobelle Carmody- Once again, the Obernewtyn series has given me all the feels at several points. But this one features the Misfits getting betrayed by people they thought were allies. Many important and beloved characters are murdered in an ambush I didn’t see coming. My friend, who recommended the series warned me that we’d lose some people in this one, so I was semi-prepared, but the scope and depth of the betrayal was what destroyed me.

#WyrdandWonder Challenge Catch Up

I’m trying to do this year’s Wyrd and Wonder Challenge celebrating the fantasy genre. Since I can’t do a prompt a day (I keep forgetting) I’ll try to do them once a week or so.

So here we go:

DayPrompt
May 1We’re going on an adventure

what will you be reading this Wyrd and Wonder? (in theory. Until we tempt you with other recommendations)

For the first week in May I read Shadow of Night (second in the All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness
Now I’m reading The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
On my immediate TBR (as in, these are sitting on my shelf)
Crown of Crystal Flame by CL Wilson (last in the Tarien Soul series)
White As Snow by Tanith Lee
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (I think this counts as fantasy, since time travel isn’t real)
The Blue Girl by Charles DeLint
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

we’ll see how many I actually get through!
May 2Pop this in your book bag of holding

What one fantasy book have you read since last Wyrd and Wonder that you want to put on the rest of the party’s radar?

Well since I’ve never participated in Wyrd and Wonder before, this should be pretty easy. It’s not though: so. many. choices! I did recently really enjoy Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. It’s set in a sort of limbo between life and death, where the main character, Beatrice, and her friends have to relive the day of their death over and over until they can vote on who will be the only survivor of the group.
May 3#MapMonday

I’m sharing the map of Florin and Guilder in The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Why? Because, even through I prefer the film, I think the book is sometimes unfairly overshadowed by it.


May 4I never knew my father #TropeTuesday

This year, Tuesdays are all about fantasy tropes we love (to hate) #TropeTuesday
In honour of Star Wars Day (May the Fourth Be With You) we’ll kick off with orphans, foundlings and other secret heirs to the throne / a grand inheritance / the magic in their blood


I’m going with the Tarien Soul series for this one, since the final book is on my TBR for the month. The heroine, Elysetta, has a loving adoptive father, but she’s never met her biological father, so I’m counting it. The reader knows who her biological family is, and what happened to them, but so far in the series, Elysetta hasn’t met them. I expect that will (or, at least, it may) change in the conclusion.
May 5I can do this all day

Underdogs or victory (in battle) against the odds (in honour of Cinco de Mayo)

In Ashling, the third book in Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series, there is going to be a rebellion against the totalitarian Council. The Misfits of Obernewtyn can help the rebels with their unique powers and abilities. But in order to do so, they must first convince the rebels to overcome their prejudice against Misfits, and accept their help. To do so, they participate in a sort of test of their abilities, called BattleGames.
May 6Fly my pretties

A book featuring any flying animal character or on the cover is fair game today, but bonus points if it’s a pegasus (our 2021 Wyrd and Wonder mythical mascot)

Does this have to book a book I’ve read? If not, I’ll go with Pegasus by Robin McKinley (which is on my TBR)
May 7Fantasy from around the world

Fridays are all about celebrating fantasy from around the world – this week focuses on fantasy settings inspired by non-European cultures

Most recently, I really enjoyed Gods of Jade and Shadow, which was set in Mexico and played with some Mayan mythology. I read Akata Witch and Akata Warrior fairly recently too, and those are an interesting look at some west African magic.
May 8Currently reading

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
May 9Spine poetry OR Mother’s Day

spine poetry (combine book titles into a poem)
or celebrate fantasy mums (mother figures, female mentors etc) for international Mother’s Day


For this one, I’ll give a shout out to October Daye (of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire) who is mother to a daughter she hasn’t seen in years. The absence wasn’t her fault. She’d been turned into a fish. But her daughter doesn’t know that.
May 10Mixed feelings

Maybe it didn’t meet your expectations, maybe you loved some bits but not others, maybe it made you both incredibly happy and very sad… but tell us why!

I found Mary Robinette Kowel’s Glamourist Histories good enough that I wished they were better. They’re regency romance a la Jane Austen, but with fantasy thrown in. The main characters are Glamourists who work with a sort of art form known as glamour. This takes a physical toll on the worker, but it was very hard to understand how glamour actually worked. So the parts that dealt with that weren’t clear, and it felt like it was a big part of the series that I wasn’t completely getting. But I enjoyed it in spite of that issue.
May 11Reluctant hero(ine) #TropeTuesday

Since I’m currently in the middle of the All Souls series (read the first two books, and am currently watching season 2 of the show) I’ll go with this one. In the first book, A Discovery of Witches, the heroine, Diana, is pulled into a struggle between creatures (witches, vampires and daemons). She knows she’s a witch, but she’s not happy about it, and keeps distance from her magical heritage. Except in this book she realizes she can’t do that anymore.

#WyrdAndWonder’s Desert Island Reads

This month I’ll be attempting to participate in Wyrd and Wonder’s Challenge celebrating the fantasy genre (well see how much I get done. It’s a busy month for me!). But today I managed to think about my Desert Island Reads.

Here are The Rules:

  • Eight (audio)books – your Desert Island Reads float ashore in a watertight chest, phew!
    • If you want to take a series, each book in it counts as one of your eight unless a collected edition has been published. So Temeraire would be all your books; The Lord of the Rings could be just one (rather heavy) book
    • No, you can’t have a fully-loaded ebook reader. Nice try
  • A podcast, TV show or movie – for when you really can’t read any more
    • If you choose Podcast / TV show: yes, you get all the episodes / seasons
    • If you choose Movie: since I’m being lenient, yes this can be a series / franchise
  • One thing you just can’t do without
    • A favourite food, something comforting, a touch of luxury – this can be pretty much whatever you like, so long as it’s inanimate, can’t help you escape or communicate with the outside world, and doesn’t require electricity or internet connectivity
    • Bonus: you can listen to audiobooks / podcasts or watch your TV show / movie (on some magical waterproof device that doesn’t need power and has very limited storage, shh)
    • Don’t worry: you already have access to any medication you require to manage medical conditions, plus a well-stocked first aid kit

Assuming you do this for the Wyrd And Wonder Challenge, please limit your bookish and entertainment picks to fantasy titles. If you’d like to make a non-fantasy-related response at another time, you’re very welcome.

So…

Eight books

1.Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – Yes, I have a collected edition. I also have a rather complicated history with these books. In the past, I’ve found them very hard to get into. But I am a fantasy reader and writer, and they are a genre cornerstone. I think on a desert island I’d have time to really dive into it!

2. Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss- I enjoyed The Name of the Wind, but the sequel has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I sometimes need to summon up the motivation to commit to a really long book (over 1000 pages). But again, If I’m on a desert island with limited reading material, I think I can manage it!

3. The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody- This is the final book in the Obernewtyn series. I’ve read and enjoyed all the others. But this one is another book I’ve put off due to the size (again, over 1000 pages). But as I look at this list, I’m thinking I should stop being intimidated by really long books!

4. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis- Yes, again this is a collected edition, and it’s a series I’ve been meaning to reread for a while. I think that the island would give me a chance to do that.

5. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – Pretty much anyone who has ever looked at this blog knows that I’m a fairy tale girl! This would let me dip into different stories that would suit different moods.

6. Hans Christian Anderson’s Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson- My reasoning for this one is pretty much the same as above.

7. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare- I figure this counts, because plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest are definitely fantasy. Macbeth has three witches, and other plays have hints of the supernatural here and there. Plus Shakespeare holds up to repeated readings.

8. Burning Your Boats by Angela Carter– Carter’s short stories can suit every mood. Plus, they’re books you can get more out of them, each time you read them.

A Podcast/TV Show/Movie

This is tough! I think I’m going with TV show, since that’s the most entertainment bang for my buck (it’ll take me the longest to get through). On one hand I’m tempted to pick something I’ve never seen before. I’ll get a chance to binge. But what if I don’t like it? It seems like a big risk…

I’ll go with The Twilight Zone, assuming that in addition to all the seasons I’ll have access to the reboots as well. I haven’t seen every episode so there will be something for when I’m in the mood for something new. But I like the episodes I’ve seen, so the risk factor is fairly minimal. The anthology structure gives me some variety.

One Thing You Just Can’t Do Without

A lifetime supply of chocolate. I think no explanation is needed for this one.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Animals in Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

April 27: Animals from Books (these could be mythical, real, main characters, sidekicks, companions/pets, shifters, etc.) (Submitted by Paige @paigesquared and Jennifer Y. @ Never Too Many to Read)

For this one I decided to keep it simple and go with animals of any kind: pets, sidekicks, main characters, side characters, real and fantastical.

1.

Maruman (cat) from the Obernewtyn series– Maruman is a cat with whom the heroine of the series, Elspeth, communicates mentally. He as bouts of madness and a tendency to make cryptic statements about the heroine, Elpeth’s, fate. He’s a “Moonwatcher” or a guardian for Elspeth on her quest.

2.

Flush (dog) from Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf-  This is Woolf’s “biography ” of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. In it we get some dog’s eye view observations of the world but we also get some very human musings. We see Elizabeth’s romance with Robert Browning from Flush’s perspective, but we also see Flush himself grow from a stifled lapdog to a dog-about-town.

3.

Fern (chimpanzee) from We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler- The Cooke family consists of Mom and dad, Rosemary, her brother, Lowell, and her sister Fern. Fern is a chimpanzee, being raised alongside humans for the purposes of science. When the book opens, Rosemary is 22. She hasn’t seen Lowell in 11 years and Fern disappeared when she was 5. As the book progresses we come to learn what unraveled her family.

4.

Lorelei (dog) from Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst- Paul is a linguistics professor who comes home from work one day to find that his wife has fallen from an apple tree in the backyard and died. The only witness to the death was their dog, Lorelei. Desperate to know whether his wife’s death was an accident or a suicide, he tries to teach the dog to talk so that she can tell him what happened. It’s really about Paul’s grief, but Lorelei is an important character throughout.

5.

Gogu (frog) from Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier– This is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Jena and her sisters (and Gogu) travel to the Otherworld through a secret passage each month. But when danger threatens both worlds, Jena must keep them both from falling apart. Gogu is her companion throughout. She can talk to him and hear his thoughts, but he might have a secret…

6.

Small (horse) from Fire by Kristin Cashore- Small is the protagonist’s horse. He carries Fire everywhere, including into battle. There’s nothing really unique or special about Small, unless you count his loyalty.

7.

Rosie (elephant) from Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen- Jacob Janowski is an orphaned veterinary student just shy of a degree. When he is hired by the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, he is put in charge of caring for the circus animals. That includes Rosie, the untrainable elephant that is considered the greatest hope the circus has of making it through the great depression.

8.

Desperaux from The Tale of Desperaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo – Initially I didn’t want to include children’s books on this list, because there are soooo many that use animals as characters. But this story about a mouse who loves music, literature, and a princess named Pea is really a lovely book for any age. Yes, the anthropomorphized characters do suggest a younger audience, but there’s a lot of an adult to appreciate here.

9.

Cat (cat) from Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote- Holly Golightly is unwilling to form emotional attachments. She finds and takes this feline into her home, but refuses to give it a name, because she is so reluctant to attach herself to anything in her life. But attachments sometimes form whether we want them to or not.

10.

The animals on the farm in Animal Farm by George Orwell- I have to give some credit to Orwell for using animal stand-ins to represent important figure of the Russian Revolution, most notably Stalin and Trotsky, as played by two pigs.

Top Ten Tuesday: Places in Books I Would NOT Want to Live

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 30: Places In Books I’d Love to Live

For this one I decided to twist things a bit: I’ve given a bit of thought to places in books I’d want to visit/see (here and here ) but these are places I would avoid!

1.Manderley in Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- In this case the problem is the servants. Well, really just the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers; but she’s cruel, treacherous, cunning and destructive. Who wants to live with that?

2. Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling– Here there would be two major issues. One is the fact that I have a crappy sense of direction and I’d probably get lost all the time. The other is the ghosts in the bathrooms. There are some places I just need privacy, and that’s one of them.

3. Panam in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins- The reasons for this one should be fairly obvious. But I would always worry about being chosen for the Hunger Games. I know if I was selected I’d be one of the first to die. Actually there are a lot of dystopias I wouldn’t want to live in. I won’t list them all (that would be a different list) but really most of them sound pretty awful!

4. Obernewtyn in the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody– You could call this one a dystopia I suppose. It takes place in a pretty awful post-nuclear holocaust world. But Obernewtyn itself, after the first book in the series (where it’s a horrible place), becomes sort of a refuge. So I suppose if I had to live in that world this is where I’d choose, but I’d rather not live there at all thankyouverymuch. Just a note: these books are pretty popular in Australia but I think they deserve to be better known in the US.

5. Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– In this one, the biggest problem is the madwoman in the attic who constantly escapes the woman who’s supposed to be watching her, and starts fires. When picking literary houses, that’s an issue I just can’t overlook.

6. Wuthering Heights in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte– This one is pretty bad too. From the master of the house who is on a vengeful mission, to the ghost who wanders the moors outside, I would just rather not deal with any of them.

7. Neverworld Wake in Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl- Sort of a limbo state between life and death where the characters must relive the day of their deaths over and over again until they vote on one member of the group to be the sole survivor. Not only does the prospect of limbo sound bad, but reliving the same day endlessly until you make an impossible decision? No thank you!

8. Foxworth Hall in the Dollinganger series by VC Andrews– In this house I don’t know what’s worse: the religious fanatic owners, the greedy, heartless daughter, the sadistic butler, or the four kids locked up in the attic.

9. The Overlook Hotel in The Shining by Stephen King– Even if it weren’t for the malevolent ghosts that drive you crazy, I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that’s so isolated. Plus, the fact that you have to take care of the boiler carefully or the whole place will blow up, sounds very stressful. So the fact that it’s haunted just makes it a bit worse. Really any/every haunted house book falls in this category (similar to dystopias) but I won’t list them all.

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Plan To Finish Someday

For That Arsty Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

June 25: Series I’ve Given Up On/Don’t Plan to Finish (Submitted by A Book and a Cup). (Feel free to switch this to Series I’d Like to Finish Someday)

I decided to series I do plan to finish because it’s more fun. There are a lot of series I’ve given up on when the characters became caricatures of themselves and the plots became ridiculous. But who cares about those? Also, I’m doing only series that are currently complete, not series that are still being written. Basically, all the books in the series need to be out to make it onto this list.

1. The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

First book: The Game of Kings

I’ve read the first two books in this series

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This series features a really compelling hero, who is often a mystery both to characters an to readers. Set in 16th century Europe (the first book is set in England and Scotland, the second is set in France), the series follows the adventures of Frances Crawford of Lymond, a Scottish nobleman, who is a sought-after military leader, spy, and diplomat.  But Lymond’s motivations and goals are often a mystery to the reader, at least initially, and only become clear over time. He’s also a well-educated polyglot who enjoys making references to obscure sources, which can make some of his dialogue rather tough. Even though the books present a vivid historical background and a compelling character, they can be rather dense reading. I’m slowly making my way through the six book series.

2. The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody

First book: Obernewtyn

I’ve read the first six in this series of seven books. (In the US the 6th book is split in two, so there are eight books total)

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Elspeth Geordie is a young girl living in a world that has long since been destroyed by a nuclear holocaust. Elspeth must keep her mental powers a secret from the Council, the governing body in this new world, as well as the Herder Faction, a religious authority.  It’s a brutal world, and Elspeth finds herself sent to Obernewtyn, a place where people investigate Misfits and look for a “cure” for their mental abilities. Or so it’s said. When Elspeth discovers what’s really happening at Obernewtyn, she and her friends begin a rebellion to create a safe place for themselves in a hostile world. But as time goes on, they realize that the fate of their world is still being shaped, and they may be able to save it or destroy it forever. Carmody began writing this series at the age of 14 and finished the first book when she was in college. Like the Harry Potter series, the books become darker and more complex as the characters become adults. They’re hard to find in the US, and the later books in the series of quite large. My friend in Australia is usually the one who gets these to me. But the last volume is 1120 pages, which is a monster to ship!

3. The Jacobite Chronicles- By Julia Brannan

First book: Mask of Duplicity

I’ve read the first book in this six book series.

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Beth Cunningham is living a pretty happy life in the English countryside until her father dies. Her brother, Richard, who has been away in the military for most of her life, returns home, to find that his inheritance isn’t nearly as large as he’d assumed. He wants a military commission, and the only way he can afford it is to marry Beth off well. Richard reconciles with some extended family, that disowned their father when he married Beth’s mother and drags Beth to London, where she is launched into society. Here she encounters a band of Jacobite rebels (with whom she sympathizes) and the mysterious Sir Anthony Peters, an effeminate nobleman, who is hiding something that Beth may find very interesting. Since the series is known as “The Jacobite Chronicles” I imagine that Beth’s Jacobite sympathies will be explored more in the future books and that the rebels she encounters will take center stage at some point. But it seems like this was setting up some interesting characters and storylines.

4. The Tairen Soul Series by CL Wilson

I’ve read the first two in this five-book series.

First book: Lord of the Fading Lands

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A thousand years ago, Faerie king Rain Tairen Soul’s wife was killed. In his grief, he destroyed half the world. Now his people are dying out and an old enemy is rising. Ellie is a woodcutter’s daughter. At twenty-four years old, she’s entering spinster territory, when her path crosses Rain. Ellie is Rain’s soul mate, the first true mate of a Tairen Soul in history. Ellie is drawn to Rain, but she has some secrets of her own. The first book in the series is very much a Cinderella story, that sets the stage for numerous conflicts that begin to develop in the later books. Or at least, in the second book. I haven’t read farther than that yet!

5. Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal

First book: Shades of Milk and Honey

I’ve read the first four of this five-book series

51mmrr0hqcl-_ac_us218_If Jane Austen had written fantasy, it might have looked something like this. Jane Ellsworth envies her sister Melody’s beauty and Melody envies Jane’s ability to manipulate magical glamour. Mr. Vincent is a highly accomplished glamour artist, who has been hired to create murals in a nearby mansion. He’s brusque, mysterious and brilliant, with no interest in social niceties. When Jane discovers a secret that may destroy the Ellsworth’s and other local families, she finds herself torn between keeping it, and avoiding the trouble that she knows it will cause, or telling the truth for the sake of the greater good. As the series continues we see the family grow in a variety of situations both magical and nonmagical. The fantasy aspect of these books is pretty light most of the time.

6. William Marshal Series by Elizabeth Chadwick

First book: A Place Beyond Courage

I’ve read the first in this four book series.

51immr0h0gl-_ac_us218_William Marshal was an obscure knight who saved Elinor of Aquitaine, tutored her son, Henry, heir to the throne, and was eventually responsible in part for the Magna Carta. His descendants include George Washington and Winston Churchill. Of course, I don’t know much about him, since the first book of this historical fiction series focuses on his father, John FitzGilbert. John was also a knight of some renown, who backed a woman’s claim to the throne over the king, which forced him to take a gamble that he may not be willing to lose. We really only meet William as a child in this book, but it was an interesting read, and I’m very curious as to how William sees his father’s actions.

7. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell

First book: Justine

I’ve read the first of this four book series.

41lrxakb1ql-_ac_us218_Set in Egypt between WWI and WWII, the plot of the first book in this series is hard to describe. An unnamed narrator tells this story of his various friends and acquaintances. The plot essentially deals with the narrator’s affair with the mysterious Justine. Justine is a Jewish woman, married to Nessim, the son of a wealthy Coptic Christian family. However, her religious background keeps her from being truly accepted in her surroundings. This has writing that’s sometimes very beautiful and evocative, but at other times seems a bit too flowery. It’s also difficult because the story isn’t linear. In a way, this seemed hazy and impressionistic. It’s more about atmosphere than plot. Yet something about the ending suggested to me that there’s more to this plot and these characters than meets the eye in the first book.

8. MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

First book: Oryx and Crake

I’ve read the first book in this trilogy

510o1wih4jl-_ac_us218_Snowman (once called Jimmy) is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the only person left alive.  Humanity has been decimated by a plague. He mourns the loss of Crake, his best friend, and Oryx, who both Snowman/Jimmy and Crake loved. We eventually do learn what caused the plague, and it’s frighteningly easy to imagine this actually happening in our lifetimes. It’s compelling enough that I want to read more of the series, but I think I need to reread the first book because I don’t remember too much about it.

9. Asian Saga by James Clavell

First book: Shogun

I’ve read the first in this six-book series

51vjdahwfal-_ac_us218_Technically these books can be read as stand-alone, but when taken together, they all deal with the experiences of Europeans in Asia.  Thematically, they’re united by the ways that East and West impact one another when they meet. Shogun is set in feudal Japan in the year 1600, but other books take place elsewhere at different time periods. I read Shogun a long time ago. As I understand it, some of it isn’t completely accurate historically, but it’s still a good story that depicts the meeting of two very different cultures.

10. War at Home series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles 

First Book: Goodbye, Picadilly 

I’ve read the first two of this five book series.

51r2dchl-zl-_ac_us218_This series depicts WWI from the point of view of a wealthy (but not aristocratic) British family and their servants. Each book covers one year of the war. Yes, there’s a Downton Abbey vibe at times, but I found the characters compelling. Very little seems to take place on the battlefield. Rather it looks at how the war affected the people who stayed home. It looks at how they deal with loss and worry, and how they try to pursue a future in a world that rapidly looks like it might never be the same again.