Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag

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.

woman wearing a costume holding a sword

Photo by Ferdinand Studio on Pexels.com Because every witch queen just chills with a longsword

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

For example:

  • 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.

15 thoughts on “Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag

  1. So glad you did the tag too! 🙂 I’m going to add that Merlin trilogy by Mary Stewart to my TBR. There was a time in high school when I was really drawn to that character.
    I also enjoy Thomas and Rachel’s content. Love their reviews.
    And I’m currently reading the Goblin Emperor and am loving it.

  2. I hope you enjoy Mary Stewart’s books! They’re so beautifully written.

    Yay! Another fan of Thomas and Rachel! They’re so much fun. I wish I could meet them in person someday.

    Are you reading The Goblin Emperor or listening to the audiobook? I would have had so many problems keeping track of the names without the audiobook.

  3. I’m reading it but I’m already looking forward to rereading on audio lol. I struggle with the names because I don’t know how they should be pronounced and there are so many! It could be because I struggle with the names, but it seems as if many characters are mentioned early on who I’m unfamiliar with.

  4. The names are definitely confusing! It took me a while to get used to them, but the audiobook’s narrator did them well, and I ended up getting accustomed to the rhythm of them so it was less confusing. I wonder what I would have thought of them if I’d read the physical book first.

  5. I also recently completed this tag. Neverwhere is a book I recommend to people new to Gaiman or fantasy. Good point about it being unique for the urban fantasy genre. I didn’t put Tolkien as my auto buy author. It seems obvious now that I should have, haha. I’ve never read Arthurian fantasy but I feel that I should some day! I’ll have to look into the Merlin trilogy.

  6. I hope you like the Mary Stewart books! There are one or two more in that series, but the Merlin books can stand as their own complete story, and I think they are much better than the fourth book, which is told from a completely different perspective.

  7. Confession: I almost always skip tag posts. I hate them. They are always shallow, contentless, and self-centered. Wow. I’m so glad I kept reading this! I feel like I know you so much better than before. I love this.

    I’ve never read anything by Lois McMaster Bujold, though The Curse of Chalion is now on my TBR. Does Bujold have any stand-alone novels? This and Jade City are now my top two contenders for when I get to pick our SFF Book Club book next… but I’m trying to get us to read more stand-alones so people don’t have to get deep into a new series.

    I loved the Mary Stewart books. I read them when I was a teen… I was probably a bit young for them, honestly. I should re-read them now. I loved Arthurian legends when I was a teen. I devoured them.

    AMEN TO FANTASY THAT ISN’T EUROPEAN. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love stories about knights and dragons. But… lately I’ve wanted nothing more than NK Jemisin and Addison and Arden. I’ve really craved Asian-inspired fantasy — if I can ever get my hands on Their Bright Ascendency I know I’ll devour them.

    Thanks for this post. It’s amazing.

  8. I’m glad you kept going, too! I try not to make my posts shallow…

    Lois McMaster Bujold is phenomenal! The Curse of Chalion is part of a series, but it works as a standalone. It’s a full story on its own, so if you don’t want to, you don’t need to read any of the others. If you do, though Paladin of Souls comes after it. The rest of the World of the Five Gods books happen long before them.

    Try the Mary Stewart books again! I’ve always found so much more in books I read as a kid, and go back to later.

    The second two books in Their Bright Ascendency (The Phoenix Emperor and The Warrior Moon) are on BookOutlet for cheap right now…

    For myself, though, I’m also a little tired of western European-based fantasy. I mean, I’m a total Anglophile, but I want to see a wider world. I have the first of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth books on hold from the library, so I’ll hopefully get to it soon…

  9. Nah, your posts are always thought-provoking. That’s one of the reasons I kept reading even though “tag” was in the title. I know you better than that.

    Ahhh. This is something that I’ve started to ponder about series — when can you say you’ve read a series? For example, Melanie and I are publishing reviews for the Valdemar stand-alone novel we read this week. It’s one of two in the whole collection of 35+ books. They are numbered as part of the series overall (this one is #18 chronologically in Valdemar), but they are stand-alone. So… are they part of a series? I have much to ponder on this concept.

    I’m sure I’ll love the Stewart books even more as an adult. I am more intimidated by tomes as an adult, though, so we’ll see if I ever pick them up.

    You’re the best-worst influence. I definitely just bought Their Bright Ascendency. XD Too bad I don’t have book 1 yet. I’ll find it. How have I never known of The Book Outlet?! This will not be good for my wallet…

    Ooooh, you haven’t read The Broken Earth yet? So good. I think you’ll really enjoy this trilogy. Have you read other Jemisin works?

  10. Aww, thanks!

    I think that, as long as a book is part of a larger world the author has been writing books/novellas/stories in, then it’s all a series, even if certain works are standalones. The Valdemar books are a ginormous series, but you can dip in and out, and not read certain books if you’re not interested in them. That’s how I feel about it, anyway. Though, admittedly, it is easier to call a series a ‘series’ when the books all follow a particular series of events.

    If you have access to the audiobooks of Stewart’s books, I definitely recommend them. They’re very well done.

    BookOutlet is definitely terrifying to wallets! I have to practice a lot of restraint on that site! I’m pretty sure you can get The Tiger’s Daughter from Barnes and Noble. That’s where I got The Warrior Moon.

    I haven’t read Broken Earth yet! I feel weirdly terrible for not having done so…… I haven’t read anything else by Jemisin, either. I feel like it makes me a bad fantasy fan! :-/

  11. I ordered The Tiger’s Daughter from B&N immediately after ordering the other 3. This morning my husband said, “Two book orders in one day?” He must have been checking our shared accounts. Oops. #SorryNotSorry
    You don’t need to feel like a bad fantasy fan for not reading Jemisin! There are so many well-known fantasy authors I’ve never read (Robin Hobb,Terry Brooks, Guy Gavriel Kay, Robin McKinley, HP Lovecraft, Piers Anthony… the list goes on). That said, I think you’d love Jemisin. Her worldbuilding is brilliant. But be warned: She will always throw you in the middle of things with little explaination. You just need to grow into the world with her story. It’s a bit confusing at first and worth it for the pay out.

  12. Oops! *Lol* oh, well. Books are worth it!

    I am perfectly fine with having to learn my way around a new world. I prefer that to a bunch of infodumps. Plus, I think I retain more information about the world if I’m having to figure things out.

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