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!

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Thoughts

Thoughts #21: Teen Fiction and Young Adult Fiction

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Recently, whilst organising my Goodreads shelves, I noticed I had both shelves for ‘teen’ and ‘young adult’. I was tempted to merge the two, but actually upon looking at the books in question I realised I do actually distinguish between them. I wondered if anyone else did this, or whether a lot of people lump all books for teens into young adult.

By ‘teen’ I don’t mean middle grade OR young adult, but in fact somewhere in between. Here’s how I distinguish between the two:

‘Teen’ fiction:

  • Generally for a younger audience than young adult fiction, perhaps ages 11-14 so just a little older than middle grade (which to me is 9-12, so there is some overlap).
  • I see it as a transition from middle grade books, but not quite reaching the content of young adult fiction.
  • It’s often focused on lighter elements, for example friendships, first crushes, shopping etc!
  • Tends to be more realistic or contemporary.
  • I’ve noticed that it’s more often gender specific.

Examples of ‘teen’ fiction:
Dancing in my Nuddy-pants by Louise Rennison The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Anne Brashares

Young Adult fiction

  • In my eyes these books are aimed at 15 year olds and upwards. Yes, even adults.
  • Contain ‘heavier’ issues such as relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, family problems, abuse etc.
  • It’s moved on from first crushes to first kisses and first loves.
  • Less of a gender focus.
  • Spans all sorts of genres: contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal etc.
  • Generally a lot more emotional, typically a darker feel.
  • That’s not to say that all YA books are full of these sorts of issues. I just feel that they’re much more likely to address them.

Examples of young adult fiction:
Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Do you tend to split up teen fiction and young adult fiction, or do you see them as one and the same?

Museum of Literary Wonders

Museum of Literary Wonders #3

Museum of Literary Wonders

Hello, and welcome back to the Museum of Literary Wonders! Are you ready for another part of the tour? Perhaps some of you have just joined us for the first time today, in that case let me explain. I am Rinn, the curator and your tour guide for today. The museum holds many wonderful objects from many different worlds and universes, preserved in this museum because of their importance – perhaps they hold a lot of meaning, perhaps they’re important plot points or maybe just because they’re pretty… For whatever reason, they have been carefully stored in the museum collection so that generation after generation can learn about them. Today we’re going to head into the Young Adult exhibit!


labelmockingjay

This Mockingjay pin was apparently the symbol of rebellion in a land called Panem. Supposedly, the citizens of Panem had to take part in a horrific event called ‘The Hunger Games’ every year, where young people from each of Panem’s districts would have to fight to the death. Their history books have recorded that one year, a young girl by the name of Katniss Everdeen managed to beat the system, and become a figurehead of a rebellion that changed Panem forever. The Mockingjay was her ‘symbol’, and apparently this was the very same Mockingjay pin that she wore!

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Image source


This glass slipper was discovered in New Beijing. As far as we can tell, it belonged to a cyborg by the name of Cinder – who also happened to be the best mechanic in all of New Beijing. Research into this artefact is still ongoing!

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Riptide

Riptide is the sword previously belonging to the demi-god and son of Poseidon, Percy Jackson. Previously owned by Hercules, Riptide was forged thousands of years ago from Celestial Bronze, and it has been passed down through the years to various gods and demi-gods. It can be disguised as a normal object, for example a pen, but we have succeeded in dispelling the ‘Mist’ (that covers the eyes of mere mortals as opposed to mighty gods!) around this particular artefact, so you can view it in its full glory. You can see that it is engraved with a trident, a symbol of Poseidon. Its original name was ‘Anaklusmos’.

Are there any questions about today’s tour? What exhibits would you like to see next?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #11: Fantasy Final Exam!

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 mix things up a bit, and set a quiz for my readers!

I’ve come up with a bunch of questions from various fantasy books – you’ll find the answer for each one under the spoiler link, as well as the title of the book it’s about (if that’s not already the answer 😉 )! Let me know how you did in the comments. If you’re unsure about some of the answers, or unfamiliar with a series, it may be worth looking at previous Fantasy Fridays. All these books have been featured in the past…

1. Who is Adarlan’s Assassin?

[spoiler]Celaena Sardothien. (from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, books include Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight)[/spoiler]

2. Which form of magic does the Abhorsen/Old Kingdom series centre around?

[spoiler]Necromancy. (the books in the series include Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen by Garth Nix. Apparently there will be a fourth book, entitled Clariel!)[/spoiler]

3. What are the four colours of the Istari?

[spoiler]Blue, Brown, Grey and White. Saruman also becomes the ‘Many Coloured’. (from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)[/spoiler]

4. What physical feature gives away a Graceling?

[spoiler]Different coloured eyes. (from the Graceling series by Kristin Cashore, books include Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue)[/spoiler]

5. Tywin Lannister is related to Joffrey Baratheon in what way?

[spoiler]Tywin is Joffrey’s grandfather. (from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin)[/spoiler]

No, of course I didn’t just want an excuse to use this GIF again…

6. What is the magic system in The Kingkiller Chronicles known as?

[spoiler]Sympathy. (books in the series include The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss)[/spoiler]

7. Death makes an appearance in many books of which well-renowned fantasy book series?

[spoiler]The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. AND DEATH TALKS LIKE THIS. WHICH MEANS I ALWAYS IMAGINE HIM AS SPEAKING VERY LOUDLY, NOT QUITE SHOUTING, LIKE HE’S A LITTLE BIT DEAF. WHICH IS FOR SOME REASON VERY FUNNY.[/spoiler]

8. Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy series, which opens with Shadow and Bone, features a world based on which country?

[spoiler]Russia. (from The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo, books include Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm)[/spoiler]

9. Who finished writing The Wheel of Time series, after the death of Robert Jordan?

[spoiler]Brandon Sanderson. (The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.)[/spoiler]

10. How old would Harry Potter be today?

[spoiler]He was born on 31st July 1980, meaning that he would be 33 as of 11th April 2014. (from The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)[/spoiler]

I’VE BEEN HERE!!

11. What is the name of the female elf featured in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but does NOT feature in the original book – and who plays her?

[spoiler]Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly. (film [mostly!] based on The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)[/spoiler]

12. In the book The Magicians, where is the gate that leads Quentin to Brakebills?

[spoiler]New York. (from The Magicians by Lev Grossman.)[/spoiler]

13. What is steel used for in allomancy?

[spoiler]Pushing. An Allomancer who can burn steel can use it to push off of things, or push it towards enemies. A Mistborn, who can also burn iron (which pulls), can combine the two to push and pull themselves around areas, allowing them to cover long distances in a short period of time. (from the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, books include The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages and The Alloy of Law.)[/spoiler]

14. Who wrote The Broken Empire series?

[spoiler]Mark Lawrence. (books include Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns)[/spoiler]

15. Percy Jackson is the son of which Olympian god?

[spoiler]Poseidon, god of the sea, earthquakes and horses. (from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.)[/spoiler]

How did you do? I’m excited to see the results! If you didn’t do well, I hope this dwarvicise GIF will placate you.

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #1: Common Themes in Fantasy Fiction

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my new feature, made to replace Why You Should Read This Book. It will be 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: common themes in fantasy fiction.

1. Royalty

In many fantasy worlds, there is a monarchical system, or the story often involves bringing back the rightful heir to the throne (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). Or, as in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, there are many rival houses fighting for the throne, each with their own aims and ways of life. Or in books such as Prince of Thorns, the story is told from the point of view of a member of the royal family – but Jorg is perhaps not your typical monarch! Like King Joffrey Baratheon, many royals are not best suited to ruling the people – it often seems to me that in fantasy fiction, rulers go either way. They are either evil and hated, or wonderful and kind. And you know, sometimes they just deserve to be slapped.

e.g: The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Broken Empire, Graceling Realm

GO TYRION!!

2. A ‘Chosen One’

Often, our once normal seeming main character finds out that they are destined to do something. Just look at Harry Potter. It feels like a bit of an overused concept – the idea that this one person is the only one who can bring peace to the world – but it works. Peter V. Brett has a interesting spin on this with his Demon Cycle series, where the Deliverer could either be Arlen or Jardir. This sort of plotline often involves a prophecy of some kind, predicting the events that the hero(ine) has to undertake.

e.g: Harry Potter, Eleven, Percy Jackson and the Olympians

3. A ‘Dark Lord’

And with the Chosen One comes the Dark Lord! The evil foe that our Chosen One has to overcome, and many series actually just use the title ‘Dark Lord’ (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter). In many books the Dark Lord seems to do little himself, and frequently uses minions or messengers (Nazgul, Dementors, Death Eaters) to do his bidding.

e.g: Harry PotterThe Lord of the Rings, The Echorium Sequence, Mistborn

4. An epic quest

Many times in fantasy novels, our heroes have to save the world – and they’re the only ones who can do it. Whether it’s destroying a magical object or an enemy force, it’s normally a long and arduous process with many trying events.

e.g: The Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time

5. Elves and dwarves

Although fantasy novels tend to cover many different races, elves and dwarves seem to be the most common. And, as in Tolkien’s work, rivalry between the two is common. Of course, the two mythological races have been part of folk tales for many centuries – but it was Tolkien that gave elves their taller form that is frequently seen in fantasy today. In The Lord of the Rings elves are a proud and majestic race, in stark comparison to their down-trodden counterparts in the Dragon Age series, where elves are enslaved.

e.g: Anything by Tolkien, Dark Legacy of ShannaraDragon Age

You tell them, Gimli.

6. Dragons

Tough old beasts, dragons. Sometimes they’re not too bad. But other times… you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Smaug. I really see them as the ‘ultimate’ fantasy beast, there’s something about them that is both terrifying and fascinating at the same time. They often appear majestic, the fantasy equivalent of the lion. Often king of the mountain, rather than of the jungle though… 

e.g: The Hobbit, Dragonriders of Pern, A Wizard of Earthsea, Eragon, The Neverending StoryA Song of Ice and Fire

7. A question of loyalty

With our Chosen One and his epic quest, comes the trusty companions. But sometimes they’re not so trustworthy. Whilst it is not always the fault of the character – for example, Boromir turning against Frodo at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring/beginning of The Two Towers because of the influence of the Ring – there are many sudden betrayals and shocking twists when it comes to friendships.

e.g: The Lord of the RingsPercy Jackson and the OlympiansThe Demon Cycle

8. Knights

Brave knights in shining armour, swooping down to save the damsel in distress… yeah, not always a feature in fantasy. Often you’ll find that the knights aren’t quite as brave or honourable as they should be. A Song of Ice and Fire is full of Sers, and many of them are not at all deserving of such a title – but it’s the kind of place where you don’t rise up the food chain by being nice. Plus there are many fantasy novels based around Arthurian legend, which of course feature knights, and play upon the familiar figures in their own way.

e.g: A Song of Ice and Fire, The Mists of Avalon, The Pendragon Legacy

9. Assassins & thieves

I always find something fascinating with this particular type of person. In video games I tend to play the sneaky assassin type classes (my newest Skyrim character is a heartless assassin and a thief). There has to be someone for the knights to protect the common people from! But then there are stories like Graceling where the main character does not want to do these things, but has no other choice.

e.g: Throne of Glass, Graceling, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Assassin’s Apprentice, The Princess Bride

10. Magic

And of course – magic! A very, very common theme in fantasy, it works in so many different ways. In Harry Potter, it’s a case of waving your wand and saying the right words. In The Name of the Wind, magic, or ‘sympathy’, requires some sort of sacrifice. Magic in The Demon Cycle series is dark and involves demon remains – whereas the Abhorsen trilogy covers necromancy. And sometimes magic just doesn’t feel like the right word for the kinds of skills characters have; it feels too juvenile.

e.g: Harry Potter, The Name of the Wind, The Demon Cycle, The Black Magician trilogy, Abhorsen trilogy 

If you want to join in with this week’s Fantasy Friday, feel free to leave your link in the comments!

Review

Review: The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2) by Rick Riordan

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
Rick Riordan has done it again. He has created another wonderful series – although this is admittedly more of a ‘spin off’ of the first Percy Jackson series – based on ancient mythology. This time round, it’s the turn of ancient Rome.

 

Of course, Rome borrows heavily from ancient Greece in its mythology, so there isn’t much strictly ‘new’. But Riordan uses the idea cleverly – just like Camp Half-Blood, the camp for Greek demigods, there is a Camp Jupiter, for Roman demigods. Both camps are completely unaware of each other – until now. And just like between the ancient Greeks and Romans, there is animosity. For someone like me, who loves ancient mythology (I studied it quite a bit at university, my dissertation was based around an ancient Graeco-Egyptian god), this series has everything.

It was exciting to see the entwining of the two cultures, and Riordan showcases their similarities and differences very well. It was also fun to meet ‘familiar’ figures and see them brought to life by someone who has clearly done extensive research on the legends of ancient Rome, as well as the military and politics. I was really impressed by Riordan’s use of knowledge of ancient Rome to create Camp Jupiter, but after the first series I would not expect any less of him!

I actually picked this one up thinking it was the first book in the second series, when in actual fact it is number two – but I was not hindered at all by having not read the first one. Percy has memory loss for much of this book, and I believe that most of the first one is about another character who is mentioned in this one. All necessary back story was explained very well, without dumping information.

Unlike the first Percy Jackson series, this one switches point of view – it flicks between Percy and his two new companions, Frank and Hazel. Frank is new to Camp Jupiter, having only been there for a few weeks before Percy arrives. He is unsure of his parentage, and it was fun trying to guess who his father was, and other factors about his family history. For a kid’s book, it can really test the reader on their knowledge of mythological figures! Hazel has been at the camp for a while longer, and is equally as mysterious although her story gets cleared up a little sooner. I thought both new companions were well-rounded, and it was nice to have different points of view – as well as a story written in third person, rather than first person like the previous series.

Although the age on the back of the book says ‘9+’, I really feel that Rick Riordan’s stories are for all ages. Like Harry Potter, it’s a ‘childrens’ book that is so well-written and fun that you feel drawn into the action, whatever your age. I’m also excited to see that he has written a series based on ancient Egypt, and will be keeping a look out for that, as well as the rest of the books in the series!

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #3

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This is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

  • Doctor Who: The Feast of the Drowned by Stephen Cole – I love Doctor Who, and I spotted this in the library today, so I thought I’d give it a go. This is a Ten/Rose novel.
  • Doctor Who: The Many Hands by Dale Smith – Same as above, but this one is Ten/Martha.
  • Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth – I own Divergent, and really quite enjoyed it – I’m sure you’ve heard the hype! I wanted to buy Insurgent, but since I can’t find it second hand locally and I don’t want to buy it brand new as I’m trying to save money, I ordered it from the library and picked it up today.
  • The Gathering Dark (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo – I just spotted this in the library today, and the cover made me pick it up. They’ve obviously just gotten it in, and it was only published a few months ago.
  • Company of Liars by Karen Maitland – I found this in the local charity shop for 50p, brand new. I have Maitland’s other book, The Owl Killers (which I still haven’t read…), but the covers combined with the setting made me snap them up. I’m really in the mood for some historical fiction at the moment so I think I’ll be reading this one soon!
  • Burning Embers by Hannah Fielding – Hannah held a competition on her website to win her book and an Amazon giftcard, and I was one of the lucky winners! Thank you, Hannah!
  • Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4) by Rick Riordan – I’ve already read all the Percy Jackson books and I really enjoyed them, because I love Greek mythology. I borrowed them all off of a friend, so I’ve been trying to build up my own collection. So far I have half of them, all from charity shops. This one cost 40p for the hardback.

That’s all for this week, no e-books as I’m trying to get through my to review list – although it didn’t stop me from buying/borrowing physical copies! Whoops…