If there’s one thing that competes with my love of books, it’s my violin. And this week turned out to be more of a violin week than a book week.
After writing this post, I’m not sure how much sense it’s going to make to anyone who doesn’t play. Just take it like reading a fantasy story–music, like magic, is sometimes hard to translate.
Strings were starting to sound old this week, so I had to get new ones right before a performance. As in like five days before? For non-string players, understand this can be stressful.
Performance was already stressful. I wasn’t keen on changing strings.
But I did, and they sounded fine. Stayed in tune pretty well. I changed my E string last of all.
I’ve had a Pirastro E string nestled in my case for a while, looking up at me from its little envelope. Waiting. I don’t usually get Pirastro strings (because starving artists…gorgeous strings can get pricey), but this one had come with a pack of my usual brand. I’d been saving it for a special occasion. Can’t really say what or why, but apparently the day had come.
I opened the little paper envelope. Took the string out of the inner paper envelope (you know it’s special if it gets two all to itself). Tuned it up to the right pitch.
No, not quite. Not the right word. Not like a bell or an ordinary string. It just sang out, like a sweet girl’s voice echoing over high hills, getting softer as it faded, but still beautiful, still there, still…
It still squeaks at times like any other E string I’ve had. But that soaring sound…
Performance today. I was playing Libesfreud, a beautiful piece. But I must have been concentrating harder than I realized (really did want those opening thirds in tune and to nail the timing with the rubato) because of the question after I finished–
“…can she smile?”
Apparently I must have forgotten that.
In case you were wondering, I can smile. And I did. But it actually was quite touching to listen to three string players talk over themselves about
“It was good…”
“….so good, the phrasing”
“But your face…” etc.
So apparently I played well but looked like a dead fish.
So in between working on NaNoWriMo (I’m still alive after 18,000 words in 6 days! Ha!), here is the promised blog post about Grand Bookish Adventure no. 2: Dragonfest Renaissance faire. Even though it’s been a couple weeks since it happened.
As word of explanation, I am a strolling player at the festivals–wander around, wear cool clothes, and play music (this is actually my job description. Simplified, of course. Don’t be too jealous). If you want to come to Dragonfest sometime, feel free to poke around on the website. And if you like this little adventure, I’m having another performance mid-November, so keep your eye on the blog.
Otherwise, here’s the story!
If you missed my ranting about how awesome Dragonfest and Renaissance faires are in general…Life off the Page. It sometimes happens.
Anyway, some of you may remember I was hoping in terror it wouldn’t rain. Because the violin does not get wet.
And yes, I went anyway.
Probably not the most logical of my logicless decisions in the last week and a half (please note, most of this was written before NaNo–but the point stands).
And some little droplets of water got on the violin I take to faires.
(Sound of Strolling Player internally dead. Not dying. Dead.)
(Feel free to imagine here whatever wet squelching sound, dry banshee wailings or aghast poetry you like)
Of course I wiped them off as soon as I saw them and was as careful as I could be. And for those of you holding your breath, when I scrutinized it later, the worst damage appeared to be light smudges on the high-gloss varnish. Similar smudges have appeared before because my hands typically sweat rivers when I play. So. Probably no lasting damage.
Didn’t help other musicians were quietly judging me by politely commenting how surprised they were I had come.
Can’t blame them. I’d be judging me too.
Let’s none of us tell my concertmasters/former or current teachers/professors/friends/employers/anyone remotely related to my music career who knows anything about music anything about this, okay?
Cloaks are wonderful things, do you know that? You can hide an entire violin and bow underneath it when you feel the first raindrop on your nose and run for cover.
I spent most of the day doing that and playing for people under the various tents I’d taken up residence in. No one seemed to mind. In a way, you can make more sales if everyone is forced into your booth to get out of the rain. And you suddenly have free entertainment.
Everyone was super sweet about tipping me too. I know a lot of performers station themselves in one place and put out a jar/hat/open case. Not that I blame them; faire life full time can be expensive. But it’s not my style. I like to wander, browse booths, visit the Queen, walk as I play…no copper beggar’s cup. I am a mummer, not a beggar. No offense.
But people tipped me anyway just because they liked me playing. There’s one man who sells swords (ah, beautiful swords.) that tips me every year. A pirate asked if I knew the tune Katyusha, and after hearing Maria Lazareva’s version…well, that was a very good suggestion, indeed. He tipped with coins. I appreciated the authenticity but found them very difficult to put into my belt pouches one handed.
He wasn’t the only one to request music. Two boys early in the day wanted to try my violin, and yes, I did let them.
One reason for this– a story my mother never tires of telling. When I was a wee little girl myself going to the faires, I met a lady who played violin with a little band. Even that young, my genetic must play violin had already kicked into gear. Short attention span or not, I think I would have stayed planted in front of her all day long. Despite all the other magic of the faire.
She asked if I wanted to hold it.
Her violin. If I wanted to hold her violin.
Yes. Yes, I did.
She showed me how to hold it and play a note. And I can’t say I’ve ever completely forgotten her, or the violin that was easily three or four sizes too big for me.
So when two young lads came up and asked if they could play, I said yes.
I began to reconsider after they’d done it two or three times each during the day. Despite the happy faire memories, there is a darker, jealous side to musicians.
I have never heard it said better than Kvothe in The Name of the Wind.
Asking a musician to play his instrument is roughly the equivalent of asking a man if you can kiss his wife.
As best I can remember it. Don’t have a copy yet and can’t find the quote anywhere. Bother.
While he uses stronger terms than I would…he isn’t wrong. If I hand you my instrument, you can either conclude it isn’t my Precious, that I trust you very much, that I am watching your every move, or I am partially-brain dead or have no other options before the world goes up in smoke.
I was watching their every move.
I imagine watching them play was rather like skydiving. No, I’ve never done it. But it has that sensation of standing on the edge of a cliff with nothing under you.
From a few words and the way they clutched and crunched the bow, I soon learned they were both 2Cellos fans. Unusual, but approvable. Also explained their horrible form.
Don’t think I’m being cruel. Everyone has horrible form when they first pick it up. If they don’t…I suspect wizardry or the mythic Inherent Talent which I have yet to come across in full glory.
Eventually, I agreed to learn Thunderstruck for them by next year. Since they didn’t know how to play it themselves. And why not? I like 2Cellos. Maybe more than I should.
Between performing, I stopped by Lady Jillian’s booth and bought my very own LillaRose hair clasp, which I’d been meaning to do since the first Dragonfest. It has a dragonfly with Celtic knotwork designs. I am very satisfied. Next time I’ll buy one of the gaudy ones with trailing beads to wear to symphony performances.
There were also gentlemen who made me a bit too amused at the prospect of using the clasps to pin back their beards.
Yup, that’s still funny. I think they were pleased to have entertained me.
Also stumbled across a booth selling rings while I was there…so I bought one of stone and one of wood. I was thinking of Kvothe again, of course, with his rings of bone and fire and blood. They’re both a bit big for me, but most rings are. I have small hands. I don’t know why I picked the black stone ring. They had orange and jade-green and a brownish color…somehow I just felt like the black one.
Speaking of Kvothe, I did run into J. Christopher Wilson again, writer of Wards of Iasos. We have had a few tentative book discussions since Dragonfest Year 1.
I read Iasos. He reads George R.R. Martin. I therefore had no compunction in recommending The Name of the Wind. Well, very little anyway. If Game of Thrones is half of what I’ve heard as far as content…he’ll be fine.
My recommendation was somewhat solidified by a woman who appeared behind me while we were talking. As soon as she heard Rothfuss, she firmly seconded my opinion.
Then apologized for interrupting. A true bookworm, I presume.
Actually, as soon as she said Mr. Wilson should read the Rothfuss, her head swiveled to me and she said:
“Are you Kvothe?”
I burst out laughing. She shook her head and mumbled no, guess not.
I couldn’t help thinking–should I be offended? Flattered? I know where she got the idea, wandering minstrel just happening to recommend that book to someone.
Should I have been offended at the comparison to a blade-tongued musician who lies freely and spends far too much time noticing the appearance of young women?
And is also very handsome with bright red hair and one of the best musicians ever penned?
Am I okay with that?
Apparently I am okay with that.
Maybe. Sort of. Not like I’d go around telling people that. More like “Oh. I guess I’m Kvothe to you now. Okay.” I guess there are worse names. Maybe. Ish.
I should have said “One family,” the way all Ruh do, but I was too surprised to think of it in time. Anyway.
Whoever you were Bookish Lady of Dragonfest–you made my day. A deep curtsy to you and your library.
Of course, that’s saying a lot. Most of the day was fantastic (minus the rain).
There was a booth full of wooden wands where the carver said to “Feel free to swish and flick.” I was tempted, but holding my violin at the moment. They were about the prettiest wands I’d seen around.
The jousts were, as usual, very good. The final joust of the day a little girl in full armor came to watch. Of course one of the knights chose her as his Lady. I love that they choose little girls so often–you know it makes their entire year. Especially this little girl getting her yellow rose.
We actually had an unhorsing. The knight stayed still so long I actually started to hold my breath, worrying he’d gotten hurt. Then he bounced up light as you please and threw his arms in the air for applause.
He got it. You have to know that hurt. He also took two more passes in the lists at least.
We have amazing knights.
New steel fighting group The Order of the Red Boar this year. They are…intense. Very intense. To the point I hope they don’t actually decapitate each other. Historical martial arts groups are graceful, one hand disengaged, foil flicking like the tail of a cat. The Red Boar, with their broadswords and fury, well, they’re more like tipsy Vikings who grabbed the sword instead of the hammer. Expect much shouting, falling, and slamming.
They also invited me as resident musician…it is a highly tempting offer. And slightly flattering.
And for the last event of the day…you are now reading the narration of a minstrel who has officially played in the Rat Puck.
Somehow I missed mentioning this game before in my description of the faires. Not sure how.
The Rat Puck is a game I’ve never actually heard of outside of the Hartville faire. One of my distinctive early faire memories involves a woman and baby (both in garb) standing on one side of the road, gentlemen rat pucking on the other.
And when they pucked it in her direction, she belted out if they would be so kind to keep their rat on their side of the road.
Never blamed her for that, but after playing it and almost being whacked and whacking others with flying rats…woo, she was right.
The rules are simple. Everyone gets a hollow bamboo pole with an end chiseled to look like the mouth of a recorder (delicate rules regarding pole width I don’t fully gather). You are also bequeathed with a color coded felt “plague rat.” And it is your duty to wedge stick under rat and fling it halfway across the faire shouting “Cheese!” and hoping to be the first to get it to its wooden circle.
It’s rather like a bizarre game of golf.
Not sure why we shout “Cheese.” Apparently affects the accuracy of rat puck. Kind of cheese does not matter. Adding other food words to cheese does.
Not going to question that.
How did I do? Badly.
But it was all in fun, and I didn’t really care. I’d wanted to play the game for years, but thought it was gentlemen only (and I wasn’t there/didn’t have the nerve to ask/was probably smaller than the poles at that time). Whenever one of the seasoned players made a bad puck, they howled “Shame, shame, you are a shame to the clan” at each other. It was…highly amusing.
Also pucked rats over the main road that bisects the faire. At that point we were pucking rats toward people, even thought the faire was almost over.
Nobody got hit (that time), but I did hear about it afterwards.
One of Queen E.’s ladies had offered to hold my violin while I played, and when I hurried back to the court area, the Queen herself was holding it very carefully, like you would delicately rest a bare sword across the palms of your hands.
So undying respect to the Queen and her court. They understand a musician’s fierce-toothed possessiveness and how to handle an instrument properly.
So in the midst of working on posts chronicling book review/symphony trip/Dragonfest 2019/fall book haul…I am faced with a dilemma.
It’s almost time for National November Novel Writing Month. The madness where a passel of questionably sane writers gather together, bonded by the singular desire to complete one novel in 30 days.
And a question.
Should I do it?
Last year was my first go. Something in my brain said “Hey! You’re busier than you’ve ever been in your life (quite literally), why not add one more thing?”
I did it. And I sort of loved it. 50,000 words, several weekends of staying up until 2:00 in the morning, and a lot of Thomas Bergersen’s “Into Darkness” on loop later, I had the better part of a novel. To call it complete would disgrace my inner editor. To call it a waste would be a lie.
I think it was April that I started getting emails again to write a little each day. I can’t remember if it was during NaNo or then that loved ones began expressing concerns that I was fostering something of an addiction.
Well, they’re not wrong. And I did express symptoms–incoherent speech, deep distraction, withdrawal from social interactions, suddenly heightened emotional state. Also wasn’t getting much rest, which wasn’t helping my case. I have never earned the “looking-after-your-health” badge on the NaNo site. In case you couldn’t tell. Sometimes I just look at it and laugh. Sure, sure, people do that. Right? Two of you? Three of you?
So most people that know me well are softly counseling me to step back. Rest. Rejuvenate.
They’re not wrong. It’d be nice to relax. Take some time off work stuff. Read. Sleep. Let my gaming kin know I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Blog more often. Not feel over-stressed about upcoming gigs/final exams and the like.
It’s a solid argument.
So why am I still wavering?
Because I miss writing. A lot. And I have a project in mind.
So if there are any WriMos out there who can help shove me over the edge into doing this or back into the field of sanity, talk to me. Tell me if Tales from the Legendarium should be done next month, or if it should wait a while. I don’t usually ask for advice…but I could use some words of wisdom.
And to all of you forging ahead without looking back, may your files auto-save, may your computer battery never die, may your inspiration be endless and your stamina last you until December 1st, 12:01 A.M. May you write the best thing to flow from your mind to date, utterly free of cliche. May you succeed and survive.
Stock up on your caffeine. Especially the dark chocolate. You’re going to need it.
I love September. And I guess I hate it just a little, too.
Not entirely certain when this started. I imagine it was sometime after what I call my Summer of The Lord of the Rings. You know, about the point where you read Frodo always felt like going on adventure in the fall of the year. And I can remember looking out the window and considering it for a long time–maybe in some ways I still am.
I like spring for adventuring, I thought, when everything is new and I can’t wait to get out of the house and go running through the cool grass and feel the dew between my toes and my hot breath coming ragged out of my lungs in the air that’s still cold on my skin.
Alright, so maybe I wasn’t so poetic at the time. You get the point.
After that, I started to understand what he meant. Sure, in springtime you have all summer to wander over your adventure if it goes too long. But fall, ever since then, maybe before and I can’t remember, has made me a little crazy. The coolness in the air. The wondering if I started walking, just walking one day, when the sun went down where I would wind up. If I’d keep going, all the way back to the sea, or if I’d go home, and where that would be.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring.
I’ve never done it. But I’ve always thought about it, every year. Sometimes every day.
And besides going or not going on adventure, there are other things I love about September.
Frodo’s birthday is September 22 (is it on your calendar yet? It is on mine!). And while I’ve never been to the Oxonmoot festival, someday perhaps I will and celebrate the day in fine Hobbit style, back in the beautiful country where the story began. And I like to remember my Hobbit friends just the same, wherever I am.
It’s almost time to break out the sweaters again. I have a worrying cardigan habit. But unfortunately, it’s still too hot where I live for anything remotely fuzzy. Pity.
I named a character in a short story September. Just because. The way it sounds. What it means. The feel of the word. Blue jewels and scarlet leaves. The number seven. Romans making a calendar and ostentatiously naming everything after themselves.
The last fireflies. I don’t have words to explain this. Just go outside. Sorry if you get mosquito bites. I always do, too.
Waiting for the first leaves to turn so you can go stomping through them and collecting a bouquet of all the brightest colors, Autumn’s own flowers (am I the only one who does this? It feels like it when I’m carrying a bouquet of colored leaves on a walk and getting odd “she’s just a special kind of person” pacifying looks from suburban dwellers.).
The apples are ripe in September. You haven’t truly lived life if you don’t know what it’s like to climb and apple tree and eat your first fresh apple of fall sitting in its branches, tasting of wild earth and thievery and sweet juice and a little dirt. They’re the best that way. And apple picking itself–I was always the climber, so I got the fun of picking the apples at the top and chucking them down at everyone below.
Now that’s a fun job.
And there would always be one–I don’t know how–that would be just where you almost couldn’t reach it, just where your fingertips could brush, bathed in golden September sunlight, as ripe and fat and beautiful as you could hope for. The Apple. It hangs in every tree. It hung in trees for for my mom when she picked fruit at my age, and it’ll be there a hundred years from now, and in every story in between.
Everyone knows about The Apple. Even if they’ve never seen it.
And tonight, somewhere, there’s a man unpacking a bag full of apples he picked off those same trees I climbed last year in all their rosy, bruised, worm-marked glory. I wonder who he shared them with. I wonder if he’s eaten one yet. I wonder if The Apple showed up for him today, too.
It isn’t September until I’ve tasted one of those apples (and could explain why I’ve been craving fresh apples lately, even if they are bought). So I guess for me, it isn’t September yet. But with my maddening, careening life, I’m afraid it won’t be September for a while. I seem to have been quite carried off in the rush, unable to dig my feet in the earth and go where I will.
Last year might have been my last September, at least from those trees, anyway. I don’t know if I’ll get to go back again.
It’s strange what things will set off my mind down a different path.
Four days ago, it was a single photograph of a Neolithic sculpture depicting a conquering warrior. In a dry history text, no less.
It wasn’t as if I’d traveled halfway across the world to look at the original stone, thinking about the fingers that had etched it so long before mine were ever formed.
No. I was sitting in my bedroom, barefoot, toying with a ballpoint pen looking at a mass-distributed history text.
But I kept staring at the photo, perfectly fixed, not really seeing it anymore. And the words just suddenly started burbling up, crowding my thoughts until I grabbed my “will-write-these-in-full-eventually-ideas” notebook and started scribbling away, disregarding the other things I needed to be doing.
My “life” can wait, I’ve discovered. Stories do not.
Yes, I thought. This is what I want. I’ve never written something quite about this before. Conquering warlords…in high epic narrative style…
And it’s odd what things attach to a story once it emerges. First I had warriors in early civilizations…then it was some random fact I’d picked up about the Achilles tendon and how it enables you to walk…then it was Norse mythology…then giant birds and giraffes…a desert…willow trees…
It isn’t particularly unusual for me to blur the distinctions of what belongs in a story and what doesn’t at this point. Instead of beautiful, lofty, pure epic narratives, I tend to serve up creations stitched together of whatever scraps were left unattended.
One of my recent stories started out as fantasy, got robots, then Italian masks, Japanese marriage gift traditions, the abandoned Capsule Tower in Japan, superheroes, some type of exceptionally strong metal I can’t remember the real name for now, a little bit of flair nicked from Assassin’s Creed images, and oh yeah, an abandoned roller coaster.
Because I wanted to write a roller coaster in the middle of a fantasy story.
It was weird. Believe it or not, the story I wrote after that might have gotten even weirder.
It’s funny how when I try to write, I get disgruntled occasionally because I’m trying too hard. But if life gets crazy busy and I know I have other things I should do…there it is! Right at the most inopportune moment, demanding my full attention.
Love ya, characters.
I think it will be good to write this story. Sometimes I get bogged down in the traditional forest-y Robin Hood-type fantasy setting, and I think I know what I’m doing, so I stop smelling the wild roses or looking up at the patches of sky between the trees. I love it, but I think I know it when I don’t.
I remember seeing images of extensive caverns, and thinking about a cave in one of my forest-y fantasy stories, thinking “Why didn’t I describe that? Why didn’t I go exploring?”
So even though woodsy fantasy settings are my absolute favorite…it’s probably good for me to take a break once in a while. See something different and remember that writing is often about breaking the rules.
Including my own.
So we’ll see where this goes. It might just wind up being Unfinished Short Story #3 Currently in Review. Or it might be my next Writers of the Future entry. I never know what turns the next roller coaster of a story takes me on until the wind is whipping my hair from my face and I’m screaming my breath away.
Or banging my head against my keyboard because my characters are off on adventure and I’m stuck at home, wondering what they’re up to.
So recently a friend/writing buddy and I were talking fantasy and she hadn’t read much of the genre. As you all should have guessed by now, fantasy is my world. My game. My happy place. My life.
I told her I’d pick out some titles to help get her going, since she wants to write in the genre, and as they say, the best way to write it is to read it first. A lot.
Which led me to think, “Hey, maybe I should just make a list of fantasy books, from easiest to read to hardest,” for people who aren’t familiar with the genre, since, on second thought, it isn’t always best to start someone new off with Master Tolkien. Even if he is the best. Sometimes you need to warm up to it.
And it is science fiction and fantasy week on Goodreads, so why not? We’re all in the mood, right?
But as fun as it would be, I can’t just go through the list of all the fantasy books that I’ve read in my lifetime and choose the best to represent the genre. This post would never get finished. So I’m limiting myself to 10 “To Read” and 5 “To Not or to Never,” in order of intensity of magic or difficulty in absorbing. More than 5 “To Not” would get depressing. There’s a lot of sad books out there that get labeled as fantasy (spoiler alert: they’re not). The 10 on the list aren’t necessarily the best. They’re just the ones that came quickest to mind. I can’t make a list of the best without wondering if someone important got left out.
So here’s a list (far from complete!) that I’ll probably be sorely tempted to edit in the coming days of high fantasy, low fantasy, alternate reality, magical realism, science fiction, allegory, dystopia and steampunk (because why not? They can be magical!) that will warm you up to the last on the list: greatest, deepest, and most glorious of all, Master Tolkien’s tale of the Lord of the Rings. There are some on this list I haven’t rated or reviewed yet, but they’ll get their turn eventually. So consider this a preview, and happy reading!
The List of Fantasy to Read First:
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. High fantasy, allegory, and reality all rolled into one in a style appropriate for any age. It’s easy to grasp and impossible to beat as a first fantasy series. And there’s seven books. So why not?
The Fog Diver by Joel Ross. This one was a fantastic steampunk-y dystopian science fiction for middle grade readers full of superb humor relating to how people in the future would make sense of our world, develop their own slang, and build anew. With a science fiction element that’s actually well explained. The sequel isn’t bad either, and I love the style.
The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas. What The Fog Diver is for middle-grade science fiction, The Magic Thief is for wizardry. It’s good. Very good. And very original, proving that even though magic and fantasy are almost as old as mankind, you don’t have to do things the same way every time.
Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath. Three jewels from Cornelia Funke. Possibly her best, in my humble opinion. Magical realism/high fantasy with a conceit (sorry, magical element for ye uninitiated readers) that is totally believable, thoroughly explained, and appeals to every bookworm’s heart. And read The Thief Lord when you’re done. There’s some bizarre magical realism for you. Just the way we like it.
“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard and “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” by Ken Liu. Two award-winning short stories that are mind-boggling science fiction, pushing the boundaries of form and proving that a genre with a highly developed world is still fully viable in the short form. Both are included in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2014, along with some other stories that aren’t half as good.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. A classic in the world of high fantasy, whatever the critics grumble. I love this book to death, and firmly believe none of the retellings, (yes, even the thoroughly enjoyable Always Neverland) do it justice. It’s weird. It’s bizarre, even. Doesn’t always make perfect sense. And it’s classic fantasy that follows its own set of rules and shows you just how fabulous things can be, while drawing just a little on myth and what everyone knows.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Back to high fantasy. A fantastic one that talks about wizards and how to become one directly, rather than only implying the presence of magic at times like The Lord of the Rings. Mesmerizing descriptions and conceit that leaves you hanging on every word. And the prose is also intoxicating, by the way.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. It’s a hard epic fantasy that will whisk you away. Full of head-on wizards and magic talked about openly and a plot entirely unpredictable. She covers great swaths of things in only a few words and leaves you wondering where you just were. The Tombs of Atuan is perhaps an equally successful sequel.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Read it. All of it. Then write yourself a note in Elvish runes that says he is the Lord of the Books. And read The Hobbit first, because you’ll only have the chance to read these for the first time once. Better do it right.
Now you’re ready to storm the shining silver gates of The Silmarillion, right? Well…maybe not. Go read Tolkien’s essay On the Fairy Story while you’re thinking about it. It will blow your mind more than any other thing I or anyone else can tell you about fantasy.
Which brings us to part II:
What Fantasy/Science Fiction Books Not to Read First
(in order of worst to consider fantasy to…well, slightly less worst)
A Dance of Cloaks by David Daglish. Just don’t. Don’t read it at all. It’s a worthless piece of garbage. I try not to be cruel when reviewing books, but I can’t be nice on this one. I hate that I even have to acknowledge this as a published book. And, for the record, it barely even qualifies as low fantasy. So please, somebody kick this pornographic book off our section of the shelves.
The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan. Some nice fight scenes and snarky characters, but to be honest, it isn’t even low fantasy. I know I suggest The False Prince when it’s equally magic-less, but The Crown Tower doesn’t sit as well with me. It’s not what I would suggest as defining the genre to someone just starting it. Hence the BookmarkedOne 5/10. Full review here for the curious: https://bookmarkedone.home.blog/2019/07/31/the-crown-tower/.
The Sword of Shannarra by Terry Brooks. Too much history lesson-y-ness at the beginning that will bore readers and make them think that all sword and sorcery fantasy is written by stuffy little nerds with thick glasses. Perhaps it picks up later in the book, but the first forty pages or so are too slow to lure a reader in. Sorry.
Landon Snow by R.K. Mortenson. One should not study theology invented by writers, nor fantasy written by men who are only theologians. Doesn’t work out well. The first one is cute, but after three or four, they no longer even make for good allegories and actually feel like the Scriptures Mortenson reveres are actually being pulled out of context just for the sake of a story series that isn’t that great. To be fair, I read this immediately after The Lord of the Rings. So I could be a little over-demanding about this series intended for young children.
Land of Stories by Chris Colfer, Half Upon a Time by James Riley, or Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with them. In particular. I’ve read them. Sometimes I like them. But I’ve yet to come across a fairytale retelling book that actually does the old tales justice while having enough novelty of its own. And yes, I have a right to talk about this! I’m the kid who read the entire volume of Grimm’s Complete Fairytales from cover to cover one summer. And the Arabian Nights. And a handful of Irish tales. I know this stuff, in my blood and my brain. And if I see one more person claim that they know the tales as well as I do and then murder their characters in too much glitter or complete alteration of character and total loss of originality or clinginess to the well-known Disney versions simply from a lack of imagination, well, I might just push them all aside and write my own with a few old-style Vikings and plot twists entirely of my own invention. At this point retellings aren’t entirely fantasy. It’s repetition, almost half fan fiction. And most of it’s bad. So go be inventive! Read and write something that’s either good and old or good and new. Don’t steal what you didn’t invent. At least, not unless you can really do it well.
So that’s the list. For all you new to fantasy out there, I hope it helps. And for the diehard fans who know how much I left out….I’m sorry! Feel free to add comments with your favorites. Who knows, maybe you’ll have read something I haven’t. Surprise me!
Welcome all, to BookmarkedOne. A blog about books, reading, my writing life, and book reviews.
Honestly, I always thought I would start something like this when I published my first book. That still hasn’t happened yet, but with other exciting projects in the works, it seemed like a good time to start it anyway. Maybe by the time I get that first book finished, I’ll have an audience waiting for it.
So. About me.
I’m an avid reader rapidly devolving into a fantasy novel addict, weekend writer, voice actress, and violinist. I stay almost as up to date on the juvenile fiction genre as a children’s librarian, and think YA needs a thorough purge of flirtsy teenage romances. I love good books like a best friend, like Elinor from Inkheart loved them, like Isildur from The Lord of the Rings loved the One Ring. Yes, that much. I read so much, at my desk, on long trips, by a flashlight at night, that I’ve gotten a little nearsighted. Which is why I consider myself bookmarked. My reading has left its mark on me.
I also hate introductions.
So that’s enough of that.
On to book reviews! To writing updates! And whatever else websites are for!