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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Dragons and Jetpacks, Top Lists

Most Disappointing Dragons & Jetpacks Books

Since 2013, I have run a book group called Dragons & Jetpacks on Goodreads. Originally set up with a couple of friends from university, we now have several other moderators on board and over 1300 members, all avid lovers of science fiction and fantasy. Most of the time, our monthly reads (one sci-fi and one fantasy, and a bi-monthly Mod Pick) are fantastic choices, and I frequently discover books I love and may have otherwise never heard of because of the group. But there are occasionally times where books chosen by the group just don’t work for me at all, and those are the books I wanted to discuss today.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick – I normally love PKD’s work, but this one just wasn’t for me. And interestingly, quite a lot of the group did not get along with it either. Although it was a clever idea, I found myself having great difficulty concentrating on it and taking in what happened.
  • Promise of Blood (Powder Mage Trilogy #1) by Brian McClellan – When I finished this and ultimately found it was not really at all what I’d expected, that I hadn’t enjoyed it and had barely focused on it at all, I blamed it on my mood at the time. I’d been studying a lot, I didn’t feel like reading that kind of fiction at that point… and more excuses. So I kept my copy with the intention of giving it a re-read at some point in the future, because I thought I’d enjoy it a lot more then. However, a few months later when sorting out my books, I got rid of it. I’d decided it was nothing to do with my mood – however much I wanted to deny it, I just wasn’t going to get along with this series.
  • Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie – I honestly don’t understand how this has won so many awards, and how so many people love it. I found it boring as hell. And at the time that the group read it, I thought I was the only one – but now, looking at my Goodreads friends’ reviews, I’m definitely not.

  • The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher – This makes me so sad. I really don’t know what happened here but this book sounded amazing. And then it was just… eh. It was a huge disappointment after a massive build up, and months of waiting to read it.
  • The Way of Shadows (Night Angel #1) by Brent Weeks – Very, very generic feeling fantasy. I’m sure Brent Weeks’ other series are excellent but I’m kind of hesitant to pick them up after this.
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – Oh, how it dragged. How little sense it made. Basically, the best bits of this book were the ‘normal’ everyday things.

The Martian by Andy Weir

  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill – This wasn’t a bad book, so much as it made me feel very uncomfortable. It was not a nice experience.
  • Blood of Elves (The Witcher #3) by Andrzej Sapkowski – So apparently whilst this is the third book in the series, it also works as a standalone and is fine if you’ve not played or even heard of the games. I have played the games, and I didn’t always know what was going on… I definitely felt like something was missing, so perhaps this isn’t so much the book as the fact that it shouldn’t be advertised as a standalone.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir – Controversial! Everyone loves it! And the film was great. This is one of the rare instances where I loved the film a LOT more than the book. However, I do plan on re-reading this at some point – I read it on my Kindle, which always changes my reading experience slightly.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: August 2016

monthlyru16

Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

Voyager The Aeronaut's Windlass Blood of Elves The Forever War Nevernight A Little Princess New Pompeii You're Never Weird on the Internet An Astronaut's Guide How to Build a Girl

Last month I read a total of ten books: Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon, The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher, Blood of Elves (The Witcher #3) by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Forever War (The Forever War #1) by Joe Haldeman, Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey,
You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day,
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield and How to Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran.

August was a month of pretty good reads! I started with Voyager, which I could not WAIT to read – I absolutely love the Outlander series and everything about Claire and Jamie. Both The Aeronaut’s Windlass and Blood of Elves were read as part of my book group, Dragons & Jetpacks, and both were sadly disappointing – especially considering how good the Witcher games are. However, The Forever War was a nice surprise that I enjoyed quite a lot more that expected – it’s not so much military sci-fi as a bit of cerebral, to be honest. How do those who have been into space and come back centuries later, when it has only been a couple of years for them, feel? How do they adjust to this new planet, and a life without family and friends? Nevernight was a really fun, dark fantasy that definitely caught me off guard toom and all my other reads for the month were highly enjoyable – especially Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost), which was so relatable.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I don’t remember how many books I read towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge, but I do know I defeated the villain! September’s villain is Deadshot, who is proving to be very tricky to beat with my current Novel Experiment – so I may have to make a few exceptions.
  • I have currently read 85 books towards my Goodreads goal – 17 books ahead of schedule!

 

Currently reading:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

How was August for you?

Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month, July 2016

DJ16

Dragons & Jetpacks is a science fiction and fantasy bookgroup, based on Goodreads. The group is open to all, all that is required is a Goodreads account. We read two books a month, one fantasy and one sci-fi – the second week of each month is when members make suggestions, and the third is used for voting. We’re always happy to meet fellow fans of the genres, so you’re more than welcome to join the group!

DJ_SF
Long Way

Goodreads

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

DJ_F
The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Goodreads

Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn’t real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn’t bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin’s yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they’d imagined.

And this month… a special moderator pick:

Blood of Elves

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #3: Supernatural

tottvheader

Welcome to my new Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I’ll be recommending books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: Supernatural.

supernatural

Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as “hunters” fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds including monsters, demons, and gods that roam the earth.

This is the second of this feature covering Supernatural, as I hope to be looking at this series in more detail. So many creatures and urban legends are featured that it opens up a choice of so many more books!

Enjoyed ‘Faith’ (Season One, Episode Twelve)?

Then how about Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett, for a more light-hearted look at grim reapers? Or Croak by Gina Damico, about a young girl whose family business is reaping – her uncle is the Grim Reaper himself. And then there’s The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, narrated by Death. The film adaptation has been recently released/will soon be released, depending on where you live. This is one of my definite reads for 2014, perhaps even this month!

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett Croak by Gina Damico The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Enjoyed ‘The Benders’ (Season One, Episode Fifteen)?

This episode was particularly disturbing. It featured a hillbilly family, Deliverance style, with a taste for torturing humans and human flesh. Although it didn’t ever show cannibalism, it was pretty strongly implied. So if you fancy um, reading some books on cannibalism… here you are. Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun series features cannibalism as a ritualistic practice, used to obtain memories of the deceased. Or if you’re after some YA cannibal fiction (I feel someone is missing out on a niche here? In fact me and my best friend at uni were totally going to write a cannibal love story based off the success of teen paranormal romances like Twilight. I think it will be a major hit. It was also going to be a musical) then Peeps by Scott Westerfeld might be what you’re after: a parasite from a comet causes people to become cannibalistic, and repelled by that which they once loved. And how can we forget Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs, that haunting tale of serial killer Hannibal Lecter, immortalised in film by Anthony Hopkins and more recently by Mads Mikkelsen?

The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe Peeps (Peeps #1) by Scott Westerfeld The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Enjoyed ‘Something Wicked’ (Season One, Episode Eighteen)?

This episode features a Shtriga, a vampiric witch of traditional Albanian folklore who sucks the blood of infants as they sleep. I’ve only managed to find one book, or rather series, that features this creature: The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski. It also happens to be the series that The Witcher video game series is based on.

The Last Wish (The Witcher #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski The Blood of Elves (The Witcher #3) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Have you got any other recommendations based on these episodes? Are you a fan of Supernatural?