Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #29: Books Inspired by Eastern European Culture

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 share some books inspired by Eastern European culture.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

  • Inspired by Polish and Slavic cultures
  • References many fairy tales, including the Baba Yaga. The Baba Yaga is normally represented as a hideous old woman who lives in the woods, in a hut that normally stands on chicken legs. She is not always a villain, but can also help people.

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha… and the secrets of her heart.

  • Inspired by Russia, more specifically Tsarist Russia of the early 1800s
  • The influence is obvious from the very beginning – from the names of the characters and places, to the imposing building on the cover

The Witcher Series by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish (The Witcher #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin.

And a cold-blooded killer.

His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world.

But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

  • Inspired by many different tales of Eastern European folklore
  • There is a very successful video game series based on the books, and here is an interesting article discussing the different monsters that appear, and the folklore they are based on

Do you have any other suggestions to add to this list?

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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 #10: A Gateway Into The Fantasy Genre

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: gateway fantasy books.

I know that fantasy can sometimes receive a bit of a bad reputation – some people seem to think it’s either a really difficult genre to read, or really geeky, or they just have no idea where to start. So I want to share with you today a three stage process for people new to the fantasy genre. I’ve split them into three ‘stages’, with the idea that you tackle them in order, to build up confidence reading the genre. It was really hard to split these books into stages, and I hope my explanations of why and how I split them make sense and don’t offend anyone!

Stage One: for younger readers AND/OR fantasy set at least partly in our world

Sabriel by Garth Nix Inkheart by Cornelia Funke The Magicians by Lev Grossman The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett Song Quest by Katherine Roberts

These books come under ‘Stage One’, as they are either aimed at younger readers so the fantasy world is not as complicated as say, The Lord of the Rings, or they are set either partly or entirely in our world. I think these are pretty good books to start with, particularly the ones set in our world: Sabriel by Garth Nix, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and The Magicians by Lev Grossman (this one is definitely an adult book!). This way you won’t be immediately thrown in at the deep end, and at least some elements of the story will be familiar. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett and Song Quest by Katherine Roberts are set in fantasy worlds, but are aimed at younger readers so you know you won’t need to worry about keeping up with a huge cast of characters, assortment of strange languages and entirely new and vast geography that you might find in books for older readers.

Stage Two: aimed at Young Adult audiences and older AND/OR set in a ‘less detailed’ fantasy world

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas Graceling (Graceling #1) by Kristin Cashore The Wind Singer by William Nicholson Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta Mort by Terry Pratchett Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I say ‘less detailed’ because I do not mean in ANY way that the author has only half-heartedly created their world, or that these books are seen as ‘lesser’ fantasy. I just mean that the scale of the world-building is as not big as some of the books in the next stage. ‘Stage Two’ includes these sorts of books, as well as Young Adult Fantasy, which often falls into the category anyway. Throne of Glass (my review) by Sarah J. Maas, Graceling (my review) by Kristin Cashore, The Wind Singer by William Nicholson, Finnikin of the Rock (my review) by Melina Marchetta and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo come under Young Adult fantasy fiction, and all are fantastic examples of the genre. Mort by Terry Pratchett, like the rest of the Discworld books, is primarily aimed at adults but Pratchett’s brilliant sense of humour makes it a lighter read.

Stage Three: ‘heavier’ fantasy

The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien The Painted Man (The Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett Mistborn (The Final Empire #1) by Brandon Sanderson The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Feeling ready for ‘Stage Three’? By ‘heavier’, I mean that these books have more detailed world building than those in Stage Two – perhaps the author has created an entire history, a new language etc. If you’re prepared to take a dip into the world of heavier fantasy, then I’d recommended starting with The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan. And if you’re not too scared of reading some Tolkien, then give The Hobbit (or even The Lord of the Rings) a shot! So many people are unsure about reading his work, but I was recently interviewed by Pages Unbound for Tolkien Reading Week, where I shared my love for Middle-earth – hopefully that will convince some people! As you feel more confident with reading fantasy books, I would highly recommend the following: The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett, The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Are you going to give any of these books a try? Have you read any of them already, or are there any others you’d recommend for new fantasy readers?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #2: Favourite Fantasy Book Covers

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: favourite fantasy book covers.

 

  • Mort (Discworld #4) by Terry Pratchett – I love the artwork of Josh Kirby, who does all the Discworld covers, and I think it really suits Pratchett’s work. The cover images always capture the essence of the book, whilst injecting that Pratchett-style humour.
  • HarperCollins’ covers for The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – the effect isn’t obvious looking at the image on screen, but these covers are just lovely. Within the ring on the front (yellow for Fellowship, red for Two Towers, green for Return) there are light grey patterns relevant to the specific story, as well as runes along the top and bottom edges of the books. It’s not just The Lord of the Rings that has these covers – most of Tolkien’s Middle-earth based works have similar editions.

 

  • Lirael (Abhorsen #2) by Garth Nix – a darker cover than the first book, I think this captures the story very well: a lonely journey, through a dark landscape. The rune also has a pretty nice effect, as it’s raised from the rest of the cover.
  • Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo – known as The Gathering Light here in the UK, our cover isn’t as nice as this US one. I really like the vector images and the colours used, plus the text intertwining with the horns/branches.

 

  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling – a gorgeous cover because of the colours used and delicate illustrations, it also looks suitably aged and you could almost believe it is the same edition that Hermione herself has!
  • Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas – whilst Throne of Glass also has a beautiful cover, I love how Celaena is really herself on this one – she looks deadly. I like that it’s almost a greyscale image, but for the bits of red.

What are your favourite fantasy covers? Share them with me and my readers in the comments below!