Earlier this week I posted some of the literary fiction authors that I thought fantasy fans might enjoy. When I was trying to think about the flip side of the coin for this post, I had a much harder time. Not because there aren’t dozens of beautiful writers working in the fantasy genre that I think deserve a wider audience — there are. But while I think I would not have too hard a time convincing most of the fantasy readers I know to take a chance on someone from outside their genre, I’m afraid I can’t say the same about those who self-identify as literary fiction fans. Those readers willing to take even the trippiest of trips with Murakami or go off with the fairies with Donohue if they are shelved in literature have a built in resistance to stepping over a few aisles to the SF/Fantasy section. Of course, that’s why displays exist, right? Pull those suckers out of their genre ghetto and display them with some of your LitFic fabulists and you just might make a sale. I would love for those who refuse to read anything marketed as fantasy to get a chance to read the gorgeous prose and bravura feats of imagination found in that genre. But I have tried to keep my expectations realistic. No dragons, no magic wands. Here are just a few of the fantasy authors that I think could work with the literary crowd. (more…)
Every time a new book by Haruki Murakami comes out, like this week’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, I am reminded how much I love him. The language, the characters, the totally bizarre stuff he sneaks in when you’re not looking — I love it. His books are always beautiful and often weird. But amazingly they are all also very different — weird in their own unique way. He is one of the most respected writers in the literary fiction field, and it is surely only a matter of time before he wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. But I also find he is a popular choice for the discerning fantasy fan. His books are highly erudite, and they deal with universal human desires for connection, the question of whether you can ever really know another person, and the search for a sense of self. But they are also very high concept in their trappings and sometimes downright bizarre. It made me think about other literary fiction standbys that could be happily read by fantasy fans. Some of these have wilder flights of fancy than anything with a “fantasy” sticker on the cover, but for one reason or another they never get the sticker. Others are books that tell a mundane story, but with an offbeat sensibility; a heightened sense of destiny at work; a hint of something not “normal”. I think these kinds of books would appeal to fantasy fans because they share that sense of visiting another quirkier world, even if just a half-step away. Here are some authors that I think live on the literary fiction shelves but deserve a place in a fantasy reader’s heart. Since turnabout is fair play, later in the week I will share some fantasy authors that I think should be read by literary fiction fans. (more…)
AUTHOR: Diana Gabaldon
PUBLISHER: Dell, 1991
SERIES: Outlander, Book 1
THE BOOK: As the new STARZ adaptation gets going, I’ve been thinking a lot about these books. When I first read Outlander (and I came late to the party, only reading this first book after many of the sequels were published), I had the series recommended to me by several people. What I remember is that the recommenders took completely different tacks in their pitch. (more…)
In fantasy there are often two camps of readers. Epic fantasy fans love the completely immersive experience of losing yourself in a new world, where everything is different and magic things are as normal as breathing. Urban fantasy fans prefer the familiar setting of our own world, with magic and monsters layered into the streets we know, as it has a lower barrier of entry in terms of believability and expectations. But there is a way to have your cake and eat it, too. There is a subgenre of fantasy known as portal fantasy. And some of your favorite books when you were a kid? Those were portal fantasies. Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Chronicles of Narnia books? All portal fantasies. (more…)
As I said in yesterday’s post on mystery series with slow-building romance, I’m a shipper. I adore relationships that take a while to kindle, where you watch two people dance around their attraction before acting on it. Love at first sight kind of bores me (although attraction at first sight — YES), as it seems far-fetched and leaves no place for your couple to go. But a romance that has its ups and downs, setbacks and betrayals? That’s just more interesting. Series books have a great potential to string along a good attraction across multiple volumes. In paranormal romance, a sort of sister to urban fantasy, you are often dealt a different couple in every book, and the happiness of the couple is never really in any doubt. The worldbuilding might be important, but the thrust of the plot will be getting this couple to their happy ending. Urban fantasy that includes romance (and they don’t always — I promise to roundup some great ones that are love-free for those who don’t want any k-i-s-s-i-n-g in their fantasy) can have devastatingly swoony love stories, but that is not usually the point of the story. And because urban fantasy often runs in series, authors often spin out the arc of the couple over many, many books. Let’s face it: the obstacles to love in urban fantasy are high. You might not even be the same species as the object of your attraction. And then there’s the whole “have to save the world from monsters and evil” thing that can get in the way. But when it is done well, the slow burn romances of urban fantasy are some of the best around. Perhaps I should say here that there are SPOILERS for those who haven’t caught up on some of these series. While a lot of urban fantasy telegraphs the love interest to come loud and clear, there are at least a couple that caught me by surprise. In the best way possible. (more…)
Periodically, rather than focus on a Featured Blend, I thought it might be fun to look at a popular microgenre. Not sure what I mean by that? Many people have favorite genres — the big categories that books that share characteristics can fall into. And even in a genre there are subgenres that they are more likely to read and enjoy — readily identifiable groupings under the big genre categories. A example for genre might be “Fantasy” while a subgenre of fantasy could be “Epic Fantasy.” But any readers’ advisor worth her salt knows that there are sometimes even smaller subdivisions of genre that readers are drawn to. Particular story lines that are catnip to the reader or tropes that they look for in their reading again and again.
One popular storyline for epic fantasy fans is one that I call “The Hidden Heir.” This story follows a general opening pattern that a young man or a woman who was for some reason or another passed over as the ruler of a realm is suddenly brought forward to claim the throne. The story can evolve in many ways from this premise, including a regal coming-of-age story, a rags to riches odyssey, an exploration of political intrigue, or a full-out battle for the crown. But there are people who love the idea of a character who did not think they were going to rule suddenly stepping up as the rightful heir.
This week a much buzzed debut novel, The Queen of the Tearling (already headed to movie theaters with Emma Watson to star), takes this premise and runs with it, but there are some other popular examples of the microgenre. Some of my favorites are below, but what are yours?
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
The death of her mother prompts Kelsea to come out of hiding and claim the throne that is rightfully hers. She will have to prove herself quickly as her uncle has made an alliance with the the Red Queen of neighboring Mortmense and breaking the treaty with that sorceress ruler will bring her country to war. (more…)
Title: His Majesty’s Dragon
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Del Rey, 2006
Series: Temeraire, book 1
THE BOOK: Will Laurence is the Captain of a British frigate fighting Napoleon’s French Navy in the Mediterranean. He captures a French ship that happens to be carrying an unhatched dragon egg. It turns out that in Novik’s alternative world, dragons are used by the military to fight aerial battles. (more…)
Author: Amanda Stevens
Publisher: Mira, 2011
Series: Graveyard Queen, Book 1
THE BOOK: Amelia Gray is a young woman with an unusual job: she restores cemeteries for a living. Working in and around her home base of Charleston, she has built up a reputation as an expert in meticulous restorations of historic burial places. She learned the trade from her father, and grew up watching him work as a caretaker at a local cemetery. But it appears she inherited more than a professional aptitude from her father. (more…)
There are many, many fairy tale-inspired novels out there (if you wonder how many there is a pretty good roundup here) and many of them have some terrific blend-y things going on. Most commonly they are fantasy/romance blends, but you can find some great historical romances that lean on fairy tales as well. Some of these are fairly straightforward in their retellings, others are more fantasy (or romance) novels that use the bones of the stories and go off on their own narrative journeys. These are some of my favorites. Have I missed one of yours?
Beauty by Robin McKinley (Beauty and the Beast)
Title: Thorn Jack
Author: Katherine Harbour
Publisher: Harper Voyager, June 2014
Series: Night and Nothing, Book 1
THE BOOK: Seraphina “Finn” Sullivan and her father have moved back to the small college town on the Hudson River where her father grew up, in part to get a new start after the suicide death of Finn’s sister Lily Rose. (more…)