We have all read the story before. A group of people join together from various walks of life and backgrounds to journey on a quest. They may have to traverse dangerous terrain, fight off bandits, or avoid pursuit by the forces of evil. The setting itself does not matter, only that this band of adventures embarks on a journey seeking something. But a quest does not just have to a physical matter. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a quest as an act or instance of seeking. It does not state that a quest is just about the travel or that what they seek is a physical object. Oftentimes, the point of the quest is not only to accomplish a mission, but to grow as well. While a character remains in one place, they are static. It is only through embarking on or joining the quest that they can change.
While this blog has been, and always will be, a great proponent of fantasy, most of the fantasy novels I have reviewed skew towards variations of high fantasy. Almost all take place in an alternate world; that is, not Earth in the present day or accurate history. For many authors, creating an entirely new world can actually be much easier than trying to base your fantasy in the real world. By creating your own world, you set the rules. Magic works, or does not work, as you see fit. However, even in these fantastical lands, authors are still able to talk about modern issues, usually through coded language and stand-ins. For example, the Na’vi in the film Avatar are used as a stand-in for the many indigenous tribes of North America around the time of European colonization. However, urban fantasy is a different beast altogether. By using the real, modern-day world, such subjects can be tackled head-on, without euphemism or substitution.
Fantasy is one of those genres of fiction that can be set in any world you can imagine. Authors can take as much, or as little, inspiration, from the real world as they like. The only boundary to the world in the book is the writer’s imagination. The setting and world can be as realistic as possible, adhering to real-world physics and the like. Or, an author can go completely wild and show us something with no resemblance to our world. So, why is it that so much fantasy just looks like medieval Europe with the addition of magic or strange creatures? Many, many books are written by cisgender, heterosexual, white men and feature cisgender, heterosexual, white protagonists. There are so many other voices out there, authors of diverse ethnicities, sexualities, and an entire spectrum of genders. Their books deserve to be read too.
As it says in the title, my review for Alina Boyden’s wonderful fantasy novel, “Stealing Thunder,” will be up tomorrow. It took me all month to get through this book, not because of the book itself or its length, but because of my own fatigue.
There is a lot of awfulness happening in the world, from an atrocious pandemic response to the constant police violence against Americans to J.K. Rowling revealing herself to be a raging transphobe. It’s a lot to take in, and it makes it difficult to enjoy the things I would normally enjoy, such as reading. Every time I picked up the book, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why am I reading when I should be doing something more?”
But it was important to me to finish “Stealing Thunder” and get the post up as soon as possible. This is a novel written by a trans woman author, about a trans woman heroine. Plus, it has some pretty cool fantasy aerial dogfights.
We need more books like this to go mainstream.
I already have the next two books on my list picked out, and I will try to get back on my schedule of reading/reviewing two to three books a month.
This blog believes that black lives matters and trans rights are human rights.
When once there was a single genre of fantasy, now there are many. Fantasy used to mean dragons, orcs, epic adventures, battle between good and evil, among other such literary tropes. But you can only tell the same story so many times, in the same setting, before it begins to get stale. Luckily, fantasy has proven itself to be a versatile genre, in that it is not a single genre anymore. Rather, it facilitates the mixing of multiple genres to create something new. Now, traditional fantasy can be more commonly known as high fantasy. It’s counterpart, though not its opposite, is low fantasy. The transplanting of traditional fantasy elements, such as dragons, into an otherwise mundane setting, such as rural Louisiana. Highfire is one of the latest in a heritage of low fantasy.
Artificial intelligence has become one of the most common staples in science-fiction, the embodiment of human concerns with being replaced. Our collective worry about creating machines smarter and stronger than us crystallized into its own genre. Artificial intelligence, or A.I., is all over fiction, yet very difficult to get just right. For every successful A.I. story, there are piles of unsuccessful ones. Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, and Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell all come to mind as stories about A.I. done right. Unfortunately, The God Game by Danny Tobey never quite reaches the heights its predecessors achieved.
It is difficult to finish a series, regardless of genre. There is great pressure on creators to create the perfect finale, wrap up every storyline, and provide every character with a satisfying conclusion. Sometimes the fans are satisfied, other times they are far from it. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is an emotional and filling conclusion to one of the most popular book franchises to exist, while Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker is altogether disappointing, undoing so much of what made its predecessors great. With The Lady of the Lake, the fifth and final novel in the Witcher series, Andrzej Sapkowski had to provide a conclusion to a series spanning two collections of short stories and five novels. A series following several main characters, a multitude of side characters, and major political upheaval. In The Lady of the Lake, however, something does not just end, something begins.
I have talked endlessly about the power of fantasy novels on this blog, and will continue to do so as long as this genre maintains its unique power. Fantasy is about all about creation and imagination, allowing readers to inhabit worlds wholly unlike our own. It is a measure of escapism that other literary genres can only dream of. Free from the pretentiousness of literary fiction, and liberated from the need for explanation in science-fiction, fantasy authors set their own rules in each new story. Crush the King is the third and latest novel in Jennifer Estep’s wonderful Crown of Shards series, preceded by Kill the Queen and Protect the Prince. Few would call this story literary fiction, but few series are more fun to read that the adventures of Everleigh “Evie” Saffira Winter Blair.
Memoir; from the French mémoire. A memory. Unlike a biography, which tends to be a relatively straightforward look at a person’s life, a memoir consists of their collected memories. It may be presented in chronological order, order of most importance, or how each memory leads into the next. As long as people have been committing words to writing, they have written memoirs. From the ancient world, to the modern, memoirs have only grown in popularity as a way to pass down one’s own legacy. Not all of us are destined to become legendary poets and writers, many people are forgotten as time passes. But a memoir can be an extension of a life. The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir in Pictures is what is known as a graphic memoir containing both her words and her artwork in a masterful combination.
Every chapter in a story has a responsibility to the overall narrative. This is most evident in trilogies, where the first novel sets up the stakes and the characters, the second builds upon the threat, and the finale contains the climax of all that came before. The saga of the Witcher is atypical in its structure and how each novel contributes to the narrative. On top of that, the story began long before the novels were written, in the world crafted by the original series of short stories. Despite its odd nature as a five-novel story, the fourth book, The Tower of the Swallow, still has a responsibility as the penultimate chapter in the tale of Ciri, Geralt, and Yennefer. It must continue the adventure that has come before, while escalating the stakes. Some characters begin the lead up to the finale, while others are brought to their lowest point in preparation for their eventual rise.