➽ What is your favorite genre?
High fantasy! I’m talking specifically about secondary world fantasy compromising detailed worldbuilding that takes you out of our own world completely. So even though I do enjoy things like urban fantasy or paranormal, high fantasy is where it’s at for me. Also, in the spirit of high fantasy, this post is looooong (it’s only fitting).
➽ Who is your favorite author from that genre?
I stumbled across N.K. Jemisin way before the publication of The Fifth Season, when I was coming off a Game of Thrones high but looking for more diverse fantasy fiction that wasn’t Anglo-centric. N.K. Jemisin was the name I kept seeing again and again, and when I went into my Goodreads, I realized that I had already added her debut, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, onto my TBR. It seemed like fate, so I started reading, and I absolutely fell in love with her style and her creativity. Her worldbuilding is utterly superb, relying not one whit on Earth cultures and structures but creating something entirely new and original and unique. She likes playing around with narrative structure too, which is awesome. The three books pictured above are my favorites out of all her work.
➽ What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?
Whenever I read high fantasy – good high fantasy that is – I get these shivers of delight. Good high fantasy is all about potential, possibility, creativity. It’s about larger than life plots; grand, epic situations; gods descending into the mortal world; cataclysms and huge stakes; complex magic systems. It’s a genre where literally anything can happen; it’s a no holds barred arena and a talented, creative author can create something so epic and so spine-tingling that becomes a reality all its own. That feeling? That shiver you get when you read something so magical and epic and escapist? I’m absolutely addicted to that feeling.
➽ What is the book that started your love for the genre?
I have three books for this, because I’m extra like that, but also because each of these was formative for me in its own unique way!
Aurian by Maggie Furey is what introduced me to old-school high fantasy. It’s one of those chunky (600 pages!), classic ’90s fantasies. I read it when I was sixteen, and I remember feeling such a sense of pure and absolute wonder while reading it. I don’t even recall much of what it’s about, only that it involves dragons and a power struggle over a magical artifact, so like, when I say classic fantasy, I mean it – but what I remember is being awed by this dense secondary world so different from anything I had ever read, with its own culture and history and strange names.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin might seem like a bit of a cop-out, given its popularity, but I think folks tend to forget that its roots are in classic ’90s fantasy as well! But what makes the series so intriguing is that Martin actually works to subvert so many classic fantasy tropes that had become cliched in the genre. I started the first book when I was seventeen, literally a few weeks before the first season of the show was set to air. I think that’s actually how I discovered the book; I saw a subway ad for the HBO show. It took me some time to get into it, by 2/3 of the way into the book, I was absolutely hooked, and from there I was a goner – I immediately got the next three books in the series and devoured them. A Game of Thrones reminded me what I love about high fantasy – if you wanna talk about dense worldbuilding, Martin is an absolute master at it! I’m not a huge fan of the show, but I think the books definitely inspire the sense of epic wonder and awe that I associate with high fantasy.
The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson is the first book in the Mistborn trilogy. Fresh off Martin and looking for more great fantasy, I found this series. Now, I’ll be the first to say that I have some issues with Sanderson’s writing – I find his dialogue stilted, his prose somewhat awkward, and I think he has a very particular way of incorporating female characters that bugs me – but his worldbuilding and plotting are SPECTACULAR. Like. I remember reading the final book in the series and nearly succumbing to tears of awe because Sanderson had managed to incorporate the tiniest, most insignificant details mentioned in book one, into the overall worldbuilding of the trilogy and I just. Damn. That sense of wonder and awe and sheer epicness. I love that feeling.
➽ If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?
I also have three books for this! The thing about high fantasy is that a lot of people tend to be intimidated by it. I totally get that. It’s a commitment. Most of the books are over four hundred pages long and they’re full of new worlds and magic system and tons of characters and often you’re confused and have to refer to a glossary and there’s maps and there’s so much to navigate and absorb before you can even get into the actual plot! Not to mention there are so many fantasy series that are can be literal year-long commitments for some people. I mean, look at the Malazan series! Twelve books that are all 600+ pages! That’s insane! Plus the author just throws you into everything and leaves you to sink or swim on your own. I definitely wouldn’t recommend starting out with something like that if you’re not a fantasy reader. There is something to be said for starting with A Game of Thrones, since it’s so popular, but I actually don’t think it’s that accessible for fantasy newbies – it’s actually pretty dense and has an astonishing amount of characters thrown at you right off the bat. Instead, my recommendations are:
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard is a YA high fantasy book. Some people say that YA fantasy is Fantasy Lite, which, fine, that’s fair (sometimes), but I think Truthwitch straddles that line nicely. It’s got really detailed worldbuilding, but not so detailed as to be overwhelming. It’s well-written and well-plotted, relatively fast-paced with great actions scenes. For someone who isn’t ready to commit to a super long and dense fantasy book, I think this is a great start into the genre.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang is being touted as a crossover adult and YA book, which I sort of agree with sometimes (and other times I don’t). This book is the opposite of dense, which I think is why folks are tempted to put it into the YA genre. It’s relatively straightforward, there’s not too much worldbuilding thrown at you all at once, and it’s very much focused on the coming of age of a single character. I think this is one of the most accessible adult high fantasy books out there and would be great for someone new to the genre. It’s also just a really good book.
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff is one I debated including, because it’s just…kind of a weird book on so many levels. Take the narration style, which includes footnotes! But I think that actually makes it easier to navigate for the fantasy newbie? It means the worldbuilding is just sort of in the background for you to absorb or not absorb or absorb as much as you see fit. It’s not super heavily worked into the plot so there’s not a ton of tiny details and historical tidbits that you have to remember to understand the story, but it’s fascinating for fantasy nerds like me who LOVE that extra worldbuilding. It’s the best of both worlds! Plus, like The Poppy War, its focus is on a single character and her story, so the plot is rather straightforward and not overly convoluted like fantasy books that involve a gazillion different stories across like five continents.
➽ Why do you read?
For the thrill of it. For that spine-tingling shiver. For knowledge. For adventure. For inspiration. So many reasons!
Since I wasn’t tagged I won’t be tagging anyone, but please do pingback to me if you do this tag! This was super fun!