Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #20: Historical Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: historical fantasy

I’m sorry, I’m aware it’s been a little while since I did a Fantasy Friday post – but these are always the ones that take me the longest to write, and as I haven’t been feeling too much up to blogging for the past month, they were also the first posts to get put aside!

Historical fantasy is a particularly wonderful branch of the fantasy genre, and to me it can mean two things. Either a story based on real events, places or people but with some magical or fantasy elements, or a new fantasy world that is inspired by real history or places. I wanted to share some examples of the sub-genre – they’re all ones I have either read, or heard very good things about.

1. Lion of Macedon (Greek Series #1) by David Gemmell

Lion of Macedon

To be honest, I can’t think of anything much better than blending ancient Greek history and mythology with fantasy fiction. And with Lion of Macedon, David Gemmell has done that.

2. Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori #1) by Lian Hearn

Across the Nightingale Floor

I read Across the Nightingale Floor about seven or eight years ago, when I had a great interest in Japanese history. It’s loosely based on the feudal era of Japanese history, with plenty of fantastical elements. I never quite finished the series, but I do remember enjoying the first two books a lot.

3. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana

I’ve been aware of Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay for a while now, but I only just recently decided to add it to my ‘to read’ list as I finally looked into what it’s really about. It is based on Renaissance Italy, which is an interest of mine – so definitely one to look out for! Would it be too much to hope that there are characters influenced by the Borgias?? I can dream.

4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian

I first read The Historian when I was about fifteen or sixteen, and it just completely grabbed me and pulled me right in. I devoured it in a matter of days. Following a young woman tracing her family’s history, she soon finds herself tangled up with the history of one Vlad Tepes, and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. It’s creepy and dark but very addictive.

5. Fool’s Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

Fool's Assassin

A very recent release from Robin Hobb, Fool’s Assassin is inspired by elements of medieval history. In fact there are plenty of fantasy series which draw from medieval history (including one that has been turned into a hit TV show…), but I wanted to showcase this book in particular as I will hopefully be reviewing it soon!

6. Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander

Kind of hard to ignore Outlander when it’s been everywhere recently, thanks to a recent TV show adaptation. I honestly hadn’t heard of it until a few weeks ago, despite the book being nearly as old as myself, but as soon as I read about it, it went straight onto the wishlist. It’s about a woman who gets teleported back in time, from 1945 to the highlands of Scotland in 1743. EVERYONE is raving about it!

7. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon

Napoleonic Wars? Check. Dragon combat? Check. His Majesty’s Dragon is an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars, imagining that they were fought with dragons. Do I need to say any more?

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Another one set during the Napoleonic Wars, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell features magic instead of dragons. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been recommended this book by various people, and how many times I’ve heard friends speak highly of it.

9. Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

I’ve spoken a lot about Sabriel in the past, so if you’re a regular reader of the blog then you will know of my love for the series. It’s set in an alternative early twentieth century England, but instead of the First World War the people of Ancelstierre have to fight the dark forces of Necromancy.

10. Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan

Another alternate history that everyone needs to read, Leviathan imagines that World War I was fought using beasts, developed using Darwinist theories, and machines. I cannot recommend this series enough, and as a bonus it has some gorgeous illustrations.

What are your favourite historical fantasy novels? Did you enjoy any of the ones listed here?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #17: Mythology in Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: mythology in fantasy.

It’s no secret that I love mythology. I just find it absolutely fascinating, no matter the culture. One of my focuses at university was ancient Greek religion, and I also wrote my dissertation on the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis. So today I want to share some fantasy books that are based on or inspired by mythology. Some are set in their respective countries, others are more modern takes, and some invent their own mythology! I also plan on doing a post on various mythological creatures that appear in fantasy in the future.

I found LOADS of books based on Greek mythology, as well as Arthurian legend, but it was quite tricky finding ones based on Egyptian mythology, as most books based on Egypt were ‘historical’ fiction. I say ‘historical’ because the ancient sources and evidence from Ancient Egypt are a lot less concrete than say, the Tudor period.

I also found barely any books based on Roman mythology that weren’t, once again, historical fiction (this time without the speech marks, Romans wrote a lot more down!) – lots of Roman mysteries out there! – but I think that’s because Greek and Roman mythology are very closely entwined. The Romans took a lot of their myths and legends from the Greeks, albeit with different names – and when people talk about the gods they tend to use the Greek names. For example, Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon but he would be the son of Neptune if we were talking about it in terms of Roman mythology. So for this reason, I’ve grouped them together.

Greek & Roman Mythology:

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell Ilium by Dan Simmons King of Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Heroes of Olympus series and the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan tell a modern day story of teenagers who discover they are demi-gods. The first focuses on the Roman gods, and the second Greek – implying that the pantheons are totally separate. I absolutely love Rick Riordan’s books, they’re just so much fun and are PERFECT for fans of mythology. David Gemmell’s Troy series is as it sounds – an account of the Trojan War, told from multiple viewpoints. I’ve had the trilogy for years and still haven’t gotten round to reading it… Ilium is the first book in a duology by Dan Simmons, a sci-fi/fantasy account of the Trojan War set on Mars. I loved Simmons’ Hyperion series, and The Iliad is one of my favourite classics, so I need to hurry up and read this one. King of Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe is the tale of Odysseus before the Trojan War – I read this one a few years ago and really enjoyed it. And oh, The Song of Achilles, you beautiful, beautiful book. Madeline Miller has written a haunting love story from the point of view of Patroclus, a Greek prince. Read it and cry.

Egyptian Mythology:

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove

Yep, Rick Riordan has not only written about Greek and Roman mythology, but Egyptian too. His Kane Chronicles tell the story of two siblings with an archaeologist father, who discover that the Egyptian gods are real – and are pretty angry. I haven’t read this series but going on Riordan’s other writing, I really need to. Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White is a book that I spotted on another blog a while ago and promptly forgot about until researching books for this post. It follows a girl who is the human daughter of Isis and Osiris – and the cover is just gorgeous. The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove is another interesting sounding book – it works on the premise that all gods are real – or rather were, until the Egyptian pantheon defeated them all. They now have control over the Earth.

Arthurian Legend:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

A true Arthurian epic, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon is told through the eyes of several women in Arthur’s court. There are actually seven books to the series, the last three finished by a different author, and the first book alone clocks in at just over one thousand pages. The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell takes a slightly different take on the familiar story, told after Arthur has been banished from his own kingdom, and Merlin has disappeared. And finally, Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper is, unlike the other two books, a children’s tale about siblings who discover clues to finding the Holy Grail. I remember reading this when I was younger, but unfortunately I don’t remember a lot about it!

Norse Mythology:

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson Ice Land by Betsu Tobin

Joanne Harris’ The Gospel of Loki is a wonderful retelling of Norse legend, from the point of view of the trickster god Loki. With his tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, he recounts many familiar tales of Scandinavian mythology. The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson follows not Loki, nor any of the other gods, but a human man named Scafloc who must make deals with the ice giants in order to save himself, others and the gods. Now I have to admit when looking for books to fit into with Norse mythology, I was immediately drawn to Ice Land by Betsy Tobin by its gorgeous cover. It’s an epic quest to save the land sort of story, infused with Icelandic history and mythology.

Other:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman The Alchemyst by Michael Scott Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene

By ‘other’, I mean completely made-up mythology for the sake of literature, not based on one particular pantheon. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is one such example. I want to read this one so badly, Gaiman’s writing is just outstanding and it comes very highly recommended! Whilst the life of Nicholas Flamel is not one of mythology, there are many rumours of his being a legendary alchemist that many stories, including The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. I got this book as a freebie from BristolCon last year, and it has a pretty high Goodreads rating. Unfortunately the author’s name always reminds me of The Office and makes me giggle… And finally, Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene is a new release from Hodder (who ever so kindly sent me a copy!), and features a story of gods reborn as humans. I’m so excited to read this one, so I’m hoping to do so before I go off to university.

Do you have any recommendations for fantasy based on mythology? Do you have a particular favourite branch of mythology or legend? There are so many more books I could have listed, but I just didn’t have enough time!

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #3: Fantasy Sub-Genres

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: sub-genres of fantasy.

I did mean to post this one last week, but as I have proven in the past couple of weeks, I’m really good at double-booking myself and actually posted my Spooky Songs playlist for Horror October instead.

Fantasy isn’t all just witches and wizards. There are many different types of fantasy, for all different kinds of people. I’ve tried to sort them into sub-genres but some cross over into other genres, and you’re more than welcome to debate with me about it!

High or epic fantasy

e.g. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett

High or epic fantasy typically takes place in a completely different world from our own, and the author has often created new languages, a new religion and a whole new completely different way of life for the characters. Different races are often present, as well as monsters, e.g. hobbits in Tolkien’s work, or dragons in George R.R. Martin’s work.

Contemporary & urban fantasy

e.g. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Contemporary and urban fantasy tend to be set in our own world, but with added fantastical elements – the most popular example is probably Harry Potter. The books are set in the UK during the 1980s and 1990s, but there is another side to our own world within the books. As with Percy Jackson, where the Olympian gods are real and ancient places are connected to modern day landmarks in the USA. Urban fantasy often includes more paranormal elements, such as vampires and werewolves.

Science fiction fantasy

e.g. John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, The Queen of Air and Darkness by Poul Anderson

Science fantasy is typically fiction that is a bit of a mix of the science fiction and fantasy genres. It often gives ‘realism’ (in a sense) to things that could not really happen in our world, through sense. It is sometimes used to describe post-apocalyptic fiction.

Mythology based fantasy

e.g. The Dragon Queen by Alice Borchardt, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Helen of Troy by Margaret George, Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Mythology based fantasy is pretty much as it sounds – fantasy novels based on myths and legends. Some books stick to the legends, whereas others play off of the well-known stories. Common stories covered by these sorts of books are the legends of King Arthur, and the Trojan War – as both are possible historical fact, but there is no definite proof.

Historical fantasy

e.g. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn, Lion of Macedon by David Gemmell and The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Again, just as it sounds, historical fantasy is fantasy based on real historical periods, with a twist. Often elements such as magic are added to the story, or the world that the story is based in is clearly our own with some differences. Popular periods of history are the Viking age or feudal Japan, as well as Victorian England.

Dark fantasy

e.g. The Gunslinger by Stephen King, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks, Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Dark fantasy can be interpreted in a couple of ways. It can be used to describe fantasy novels where the main characters are anti-heroes or have questionable morals, such as Jorg in Prince of Thorns. He is part of a group of thieves and bandits, who rape and pillage others. It has also been used to describe horror fantasy, for example Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

Of course, there are so many different sub-genres, some books fit into several – there are lots of different ways of looking at it! Are there any books that you would define as a definite genre? What do you think about the way I have categorised these examples?