I wanted to write a post, but I’m too lazy to write a review or a discussion, so a tag it is.
I most recently saw this on ZeeZee with Books’ blog. It originally came from Booktuber the Book Pusher, who adapted it from Bree Hill’s Get to Know the Romance Reader Tag. It’s like an origin story, but for fantasy readers.
What is your fantasy origin story? (How you came to read your first fantasy novel)
Aside from the big green book of fairy tales my dad used when he taught me how to read, the first fantasy book I remember reading was The Grey King by Susan Cooper. I was, I think, in first grade and I remember being drawn to the dog on the cover (not the cover shown below. A different cover). I don’t think much of the story would have made sense to me at the time (I was six, and it was meant for teenagers), but it was the first one I remember reading and rereading later on, and I wanted more stories like it.
After that, I went on to some unmemorable books (they must have been, because I don’t remember them), and then one of my friends in sixth grade kept going on about this book called The Hobbit. He was so excited about it that I wanted to know what it was all about, so I read it, fell in love, and wanted to read anything else I could find by this Tolkien guy, and it just so happened that my school library had these three books known as The Lord of the Rings, and the rest is history.
If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author, and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?
I would want Lois McMaster Bujold to write it, and for there to be a wise mentor. I like those wise old mentors. And they don’t even need to be wizards. Or old. In the Penric and Desdemona novellas, Desdemona is a mentor to Penric. Her wit alone could slay dragons. So give me a Desdemona or a Cordelia or an Umegat-type figure from a new Lois McMaster Bujold novel, and I’m sold.
What is a fantasy you’ve read this year that you want more people to read?
K. Arsenault Rivera’s Their Bright Ascendency trilogy is a brilliant and terribly underrated series about two warrior women in love who must rise to meet their destinies or watch their world fall to demons. It is exquisitely written with an intriguing structure, has brilliant worldbuilding based upon Mongolian and Japanese lore, and features complex characters who grow and change over time. It includes The Tiger’s Daughter, The Phoenix Empress, and The Warrior Moon.
What is your favorite fantasy subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?
I suppose epic fantasy is my favorite subgenre, if only because of The Lord of the Rings. But I read a variety of fantasy, and many of my favorites don’t really fall into Big Name Categories.
- Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy (The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower, The Winter of the Witch) is a fairytale retelling, but from Russian folklore, not Grimm Brothers
- The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold is closest, I think, to epic fantasy, but it’s a standalone.
- Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment) are definitely Arthurian, but more mystical than most Arthurian retellings I’ve read
- Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is, I guess, an urban fantasy, but it’s unlike any other urban fantasy I’ve ever read. Perhaps it’s closer to an urban fairy story?
As for what I DON’T read much of…I don’t read very much grimdark. I find plenty of morally gray characters in the books I read without everything having to be terrible all the time. If I wanted to read about places where everything is awful, I’d just read the news.
Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?
I don’t automatically buy everything my favorite authors write. Neil Gaiman, for example, writes children’s books, which I don’t read. I don’t absolutely love everything Lois McMaster Bujold writes, so I haven’t made an effort to buy all of her books. I guess the closest I have to an auto-buy author is J.R.R. Tolkien. I have a few editions of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion, and I’m probably going to be purchasing the complete History of Middle-earth series this fall, and I own most of his lesser works already, so… I guess it’s Tolkien.
How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram, etc.)
Lately, I’ve found most of my recommendations from BookTubers like Rachel at Kalanadi, Thomas as SFF180, and Elizabeth at Books and Pieces. Tor.com has been another great resource, but their books have been pretty hit or miss for me lately. Awards lists are also some great tools for finding excellent work that doesn’t always show up on the bestseller lists. I’ve been getting more recommendations from Bookstagram lately, but they’ve all been historical fiction so far.
What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?
The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison is the fantasy novel I’m looking forward to the most right now (it comes out in June), though my most anticipated release overall is The Seven Sisters by Neil Gaiman. The release date for that is supposed to be sometime this fall, but there is very little other information for it, so I’m not sure if that will happen or not.
What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?
I would love it if readers would realize that there is more to fantasy than medieval European-based stories written by a handful of straight white men. Fantasy is and has been a diverse genre featuring all kinds of stories about all kinds of people, and it doesn’t take that much effort to find amazing books set outside of white, medieval-Europe-like settings.
- The Tiger’s Daughter (Their Bright Ascendency #1) by K. Arsenault Rivera- two warrior women in love must fight a demon invasion in order to save their world, based on Mongolian/Japanese folklore.
- The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison- a young half-goblin prince unexpectedly becomes emperor and must overcome a past filled with abuse and neglect while learning what it means to rule an empire.
- Witchmark (The Kingston Cycle) by C.L. Polk- a doctor, war veteran, and magic-user must hide his powers from his society’s strict class-based system while investigating a series of murders committed by his fellow war veterans in an Edwardian England-based world.
- Jade City (The Green Bone Saga) by Fonda Lee- a crime family in chaos must fight to stay in power as the trade in the magical jade that grants them superhuman powers begins to slip out of their control- based upon modern Asian metropolises.
- The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle- a young black man in 1920s New York City faces racism from the police who hassle him and his father, until one day, Tom is hired to deliver a magical book, and finds his world being turned inside out in this novella based upon H.P. Lovecraft’s eldritch horror stories.
These are just a handful that I can think of off the top of my head. There are many, many more adult fantasies that don’t feature white guys in worlds based on 1300s England.
If someone had never read fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?
This is a harder one than it seems. Fantasy is full of long series filled with thick books, and though a longtime fantasy fan won’t think twice about diving into a fourteen-book series of 800-page books, a newcomer might be frightened away by such an endeavor. So I would recommend a standalone that is accessible and doesn’t require a previous understanding of the tropes and archetypes typical of the genre. You also want something relatively short and unintimidating. When you’re recommending something to a newcomer, you want to whet their appetite, not clobber them with an overly complex, multi-course extravaganza.
So my recommendations would be:
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien- the starting point for many, many fantasy fans, wherein an ordinary little Hobbit goes on an unexpected adventure that changes his life.
- The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany- This otherwordly tale of the marriage of and Elf princess and a mortal man is, along with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the precursor to modern fantasy.
- The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold- a man broken in body and spirit returns to his former home to seek work. He is given a place in the household of a young princess and finds himself ever more entangled in an ongoing tale of magic, curses, and divine powers.
Who is the most recent fantasy reading content creator you came across that you’d like to shoutout?
I’m not sure who I’ve come across most recently, but the one who made me laugh most recently was Rachel at Kalanadi. She was describing a book as ‘slow as molasses’, then stopped and said, “That’s not a knock against molasses. I like molasses”.
It’s still making me laugh. Rachel’s great.
That’s all for now. If you want to do this tag, consider yourself tagged.