Saw this on YouTube and on Acquadimore’s blog; Bree Hill originally created this tag as the Get to Know the Romance Reader Tag, and The Book Pusher adapted it for fantasy readers. I haven’t done a tag in ages and ages, and what’s more appropriate than this one?
1. What is your fantasy origin story? (How you came to read your first fantasy novel)
I realize I could give a variety of different answers to this question depending on how one chooses to define “fantasy.” As a child I devoured Goosebumps and Fear Street novels and was obsessed with all things vampire. I also developed an early obsession with Harry Potter when I was eight.
But really, when I think of fantasy, I think mainly of high fantasy, or secondary world fantasy, and my official introduction to that came later, around tenth grade, when I picked up Aurian by Maggie Furey, which is the first book in her Artefacts of Power series. I have no idea how I came by this book, especially considering I was living in Egypt at the time, but I distinctly remember reading it and then sharing it with a friend. Aurian is what I like to think of as Old School Fantasy. It was published in 1994 by Bantam Spectra, it was a battered little mass market paperback, it was about good vs evil, there was a journey to find fabled magical items, there was a dragon…lots of classic fantasy tropes. But I remember that I was absolutely enamored with this book and the scope of the world the author had created, and it really did serve as my introduction to the world of high fantasy, which has now become my favorite genre.
2. 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’m gonna skip most of this question because I’m boring and I don’t really have a good answer for it, but I’ll just quickly say that one of my favorite tropes is what TV Tropes calls the Morality Pet, as exemplified by this Klaroline quote: “So you’ve never felt the attraction that comes when someone who’s capable of doing terrible things for some reason cares only about you?” To clarify: I’ve never shipped Klaroline, but this is a trope I happen to love; I just didn’t like it on these two for some reason.
3. What is a fantasy you’ve read this year, that you want more people to read?
Resenting the Hero by Moira J Moore! I wish I could remember how I came across this super obscure book, but I remember I saw the absolutely bizarre cover and was immediately drawn to it. I…wouldn’t say this is a great cover, necessarily, but it’s interesting, and it certainly fits the tone of the book, because this book is Comedic Fantasy. You don’t really see much of that, generally, though I think it’s becoming more popular, with books like Gideon the Ninth and The Unspoken Name.
Resenting the Hero is secondary world fantasy, set in a world where there magical people called Sources and Shields, who have to form a kind of lifelong bond to protect their world from natural disasters. The protagonist, Dunleavy, is this kind of curmudgeony, judgemental, reserved woman who ends up being paired with a man with a reputation for being an arrogant womanizer. When they’re assigned to a city constantly plagued by natural disasters, they have to try to work together while also figuring out who is responsible for the death of all the other bonded pairs in the city.
It’s short – barely 300 pages – and absolutely hilarious. Dunleavy is a really snarky narrator, so it’s just fun to be in her head all the time. She’s also a very unreliable narrator in terms of her emotions and judgements, making her an intriguingly unlikable female character. This is the kind of book that’s all about hijinks – and I’m intentionally using that word – because it’s just a lot of good fun.
There’s a lot more I could say about this book, because there’s so much else about it that’s fantastic, but I’ll leave it at that, and just say that I highly, highly recommend it.
4. What is your favorite fantasy subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?
I think I kind of touched on this in my answer to the first question, when I talked about high fantasy, or secondary world fantasy. I never cease to be impressed with the way authors can create entirely new worlds from scratch. Having to come up with entire histories, religions, economic systems, cultural touchstones…and when it all comes together and feels so real, it’s just so awe-inspiring to read!
The subgenre of fantasy I haven’t read much of would probably be urban fantasy. I used to read more urban fantasy when I was younger, I think, but recently I’ve gotten a lot pickier about all the books I pick up, and the tropes usually found in urban fantasy just tend to get on my nerves a lot quicker. But that’s a very broad statement, and urban fantasy is a very broad genre with its own subgenres in and of itself. I’m definitely not opposed to reading urban fantasy on principle or anything like that; in fact, on Goodreads I’m always adding urban fantasy books to my TBR, but I just never find myself reaching for them.
5. Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?
That would probably be Tasha Suri, who wrote the Books of Ambha series, which were very quiet, beautifully written, introspective high fantasy books, and she’ll be coming out with a different trilogy soon. Another author would probably be Gareth Hanrahan – granted, I’ve only read one book by him thus far, and that was The Gutter Prayer, but it was my favorite book of 2019; it had some of the most amazing worldbuilding I’ve ever seen, with lots of elements of horror. And I also want to mention Silvia Moreno-Garcia; I hesitate with her only because she doesn’t write exclusively fantasy, but I think five out of the six books she’s published have some kind of speculative element, so I think that counts. Her writing is absolutely incredible, as are her characters.
6. How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram..)
A mix of different things. Mostly Goodreads, probably, but also Twitter. Sometimes if I’m looking for a particular brand of fantasy I’ll google lists or things.
7. What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?
I’ll mention three!
I’m really excited for The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan. Set on the high seas, it’s about a war between dead gods and human mages, centering on a private detective character who’s been described as a teenage Alexander Hamilton. The world building sounds incredible, and I love fantasies with a mystery at their heart.
I’m also really hyped for Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education, which is apparently a novelization of the concept/folk legend of a Scholomance, a fabled Transylvanian school for black magic. From the summaries I’ve seen I feel like there are hints of a villain romance here, and also magical schools are my jam, and it’s Naomi Novik, whose writing is gorgeous.
And Alix Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches! I wasn’t the biggest fan of her debut, but I will read anything that mentions witches in its summary. Plus I love historical fantasy and I love Harrow’s writing!
8. What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?
That’s it’s an old white boys club. Women have always written fantasy, even if sometimes you have to dig a little bit for it, or is sometimes not recognized or praised in the same way. But these days, there are so many fantasy books written by women and people of color that it’s really unfair to categorize all of fantasy as a genre exclusively beholden to white men. I still see this notion casually getting tossed around and it does a disservice to all the women and people of color working in the fantasy genre right now.
9. If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?
I think this entirely depends on a person’s taste, as well as the subgenre of fantasy we’re talking about. Like, if I were talking to someone who had never read high fantasy before, I wouldn’t recommend the Malazan series, for example. With high fantasy in particular, I think of it as being very high investment, high reward, but you have to be willing to put in that initial work to learn the world before you see any payoff, and not everyone is willing to do that.
But I’m not gonna cop out of the question, so I’ll still recommend some books.
For high fantasy, I’d recommend Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger, which is super fun and very accessible while still having really great worldbuilding and a very cool magic system.
For more historical fantasy, I’d recommend The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, which is set in Regency England and features an upper-class lady fighting demonic creatures.
I also have to recommend A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab. It’s solid and accessible, not quite historical fantasy, not quite high fantasy either. I actually did recommend this to a friend when she asked about fantasy books to read!
10. Who is the most recent fantasy reading content creator you came across that you’d like to shoutout?
I don’t know. Weirdly enough I feel like most of the creators I follow don’t really focus on the kind of fantasy content I consume. I would actually love to follow some more people – here and on YouTube – who talk more about high fantasy!
Talk to me about fantasy, especially high fantasy! Are there any bloggers/creators you recommend?