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Fantasy Novels Deconstructed – an Infographic

An oldie but a goodie – the folks over at Paste put this little geeky treasure together and I ate it up.

Whether it’s a story filled with adventure and heroic deeds or a fantasy land with a side of romance—any of these classic fantasy novels might just be worth the quest.

For your reading pleasure:

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The Braided Path

The Braided Path is a trilogy of novels written by Chris Wooding.  These books were originally sold individually as The Weavers of Saramyr, The Skein of Lament and The Ascendancy Veil though I didn’t know this at the time I picked it up.  All I saw was a big, fat, glorious red book with golden font on it that may or may not contain elusive, mysterious information unknown to the human race until now.  (Side note: there appears to be a new cover and it seems like you may not be able to get the cover shown – which is too bad.  To me this red cover just screams of secretive, intimate magic.)

This book is a huge, meaty, delicious read.  It is filled with imagery, exciting characters and probably some of the coolest descriptions of magic that I have read in a long time.  Before the geek in me gets loose, let me go over the synopsis.

The story follows Kaiku who starts off as an innocent young woman.  Her family is attacked and as she sets out to seek justice and find answers she eventually uncovers a hideous secret that affects almost every part of the world she knows and lives in.  The innocent, young and selfish Kaiku is forced to grow up and the growth of Kaiku is part of what makes this story so interesting to read.

Kaiku lives in a time of the Weavers; a group of men who practice magic by donning sacred masks.  It is when these masks are on that these men can enter into the world that essentially makes up the reality in which everyone lives – a quantum world.  We see only one physical ‘reality’ but the Weavers can see the connections underneath the physical (the quantum physics geek in me got really turned on with this story).  Basically, they can manipulate time and space, I just was trying to sound more poetic.

The Weavers (in their own minds) are keepers of the righteous and are generally employed by the rich or by royalty.  They use their magic to weed out the Aberrants; ‘impure’ individuals who are seen as monsters to the unknowing public and are told to be feared.  But impure by whose standards and why?  These are some of the questions this story asks.  However, the Weavers have gotten cruel and egotistical in their time and they soon plot to gain control of the empire for themselves.  It is in this mess that Kaiku finds herself.

For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of the book is the continued battle between the Weavers and a few select women.  Being the domain of men for so long, women are not allowed to weave.  We are told it is because they themselves are impure, however the reason women are not allowed to weave, we discover, is because they are too damned good at it.  The Weavers fear women as they have a natural connection to nature and the world as a whole, therefore they have the potential to become for more powerful than them.  This is a serious threat to the male Weavers and they will do anything they can to stop it from happening.  (Let me take this moment to give a glorious high five to the author and his dedication to describing a moment in the story where the Weavers discover for the first time that a woman is weaving and they all freak out.  I wanted to jump off the couch, scream at the top of my lungs and fist punch the air for days after that scene.  A-maz-ing.)

Again, kick-ass female characters and some solid men that deserve to be partnered with them.  Kaiku’s journey from petulant young woman to bad-ass warrior sorceress is well thought out and paced.  The great thing is that even though she grows a lot throughout the book, she is still who she is and her petulance still comes out at times, especially as she grows more determined and more powerful.  She did not start out as my favourite character but as the book went on, she worked hard to deserve my respect.

Okay, I could go on but I need to end this post or it will be so long that it will break the internet.  There are thrilling scenes of battles, both physical and magical and great moments of dialogue.  There is a solid story of politics and ethics and, the relationships that developed in this story are believable and felt genuine – not forced.

Bottom line is – I was just blown away by the imagination in this book.  It was dazzling and epic and I guarantee it will feel as though the Weavers have a hold of your heart, ready to squeeze the life out of you when you read it.

My rating:

Once there was a city of women

That is the first line of The Steel Seraglio.  That line had me at hello.  That line was only a breath of anticipation.  The rest that followed was an amazing read of rich and raw storytelling filled with so many delicious female characters that I was in feminist heaven.

First off, I’m not a feminist (I’m not an ‘ist anything’ – well, maybe a readist.  Oh who the fuck am I kidding, yes, I totally am a feminist, but a masculine-ist too.  How about just a humanist?).  I digress!  What I am is a person who enjoys solid, strong female characters in the stories I read (especially if they’re written by men, then I get the feeling the dudes just get it).  Well this story has strong female characters coming out of the wazoo.  A harem of them to be exact.  And some pretty bad-ass villains I might add.

Let me first comment on the beauty of the cover.  This is what first caught my eye.  Sombre, poetic, mysterious, ancient, feminine.  I knew this could be good.

It is a story about 365 concubines who are condemned by a mad man.  Cast into the desert they learn to rely on each other, to recognize their own strengths, desires, morals and will.  They join together to take back the beloved city from which they were cast.  It is a story about an army of women and it is breathtaking.

Different parts of the story are focused on different characters, the majority of them the women however there are a few good men thrown into the mix as well.  The three main female characters, Zuleika, Rem and Gursoon are fabulous beyond my expectations.  Each are so different from the other.  Zuleika is a warrioress, Rem is a librarian with the gift of sight and Gursoon is wisdom personified.  These three lead the women through the desert, through trials and tribulations culminating in a glorious, heart-pounding battle.  The story is well paced, well thought out and I believed every single character.  The mad man/villain of the story gets special props for being so creepy, mean and evil in his righteousness.

Mike Carey, Linda Carey and Louise Carey did an amazing job with this story – a story worthy of the women in it.  Mixing in a little Arabic flavour, this is a book to please anyone who loves a combination of lore, fantasy, rebellion, myth and poetry.

One tiny complaint: There were moments that some very modern dialogue crept into the women’s speech.  It really stood out in those times as the majority of the story is told in a very ancient type style.  But, it is a small complaint and should by no means stop anyone from picking this up.

My rating:

A dark and unsettling Peter Pan

I had passed by The Child Thief a few times, not certain if I wanted to read a re-telling of Peter Pan, as Peter Pan is my least favourite fairy-tale character.  Peter Pan for me has always been a one dimensional symbol of someone just unwilling to move on with their life.  A big suck who’s own shadow doesn’t even want to be around him.  In addition, I tend to stay away from books that mix a fantasy “other” world with our current “real” present-time world.  It has to do with being burnt in the past with stories that tried to do this but failed miserably at it (usually because the story just jolted me in to a new world without a lot of explanation or work leading up to it – I need foreplay people!)

However, this book converted me on both points.

After passing it over about three times, my curiosity finally got the better of me and I bought the book. I then got home, opened it, noted with pleasure there was some amazing art work throughout the book and began to read.

I then could not put it down.

I finished this book in three days – it completely consumed me with the story and the characters. The Peter Pan that Brom has created is so frustrating, flawed, hateful, desperate and devastatingly beautiful in his child-ness that I found myself switching back from wanting Peter destroyed to wanting him saved.  Both the real, present-time world and the world in which Peter lives are unforgiving and hopeless, yet there is still light that shines through them.  The way Brom introduces the reader to Peter’s world is seductive, like Peter himself.  I couldn’t wait to go.  It is a dark and despairing story at times and there were moments where I didn’t know if I could take it anymore – especially the scenes that show the children in a bloodthirsty and savage light.  These were scenes of an unsettling violence and yet, I get the sense that without this the book would not have had the profound and exhausting effect that it did on me.  I didn’t want this book to end and was devastated when it did.

An excellent twist on the Peter Pan story with amazing graphics drawn by the author himself. This book had me on emotional meltdown by the end and when I went to bed that night I eyed the window tentatively, wondering if I should open it or keep it shut.

My ratings:

The Perilous Order of Camelot

I rarely re-read a book once I am done with it but there have been the few books that I’ve turned to again and again.  My unwillingness is just simply that it’s not new anymore.  I’ve read it.  I know the story and I’ve either loved it, hated it or thought – meh.  End of story.

But there is one book, or one series of books that I have now re-read about a dozen times: the Perilous Order of Camelot by A.A. Attanasio.  I remember coming across the books over 10 years ago as the covers caught my eye (and yes, I do judge book covers – will get into that in another post).

The first book is called The Dragon and the Unicorn and it was a triple whammy that called to me; the cover, the fact that I love stories with dragons in them and that it was a new telling of King Arthur (and I have always loved reading different imaginings of this legend).

I don’t want to write a long post about each book so all I want to say is that I came across this series at a time of my spiritual awakening.  I was considering things that until then were strange and void to me, that couldn’t possibly hold any ground in the “real” world of which we lived.  And then I read this series and shit, I hardly understood any of it!  But it called to me, from the first line to the last, my spirit recognized itself in this story.  Eventually I came to understand so much of what was being said.  It was the first time I read of the concept of Yggdrasil, the sacred and world tree (and Attanasio’s description of it when young Ygrane first enters it at her peril is imagery at it’s finest).  The lessons Merlin gives on Quantum Physics were so unknown to me at that time but it left me breathless and wanting more.  It put me on a path of thought that has led me to a place where I am now thrilled to be.  It was the first time I read a version of Uther that wasn’t based on him being a pig or cruel.  And Attanasio’s imagining of Ygrane?  Goddess bless him, he built a fine, strong warrior queen, a commanding feminine presence that was sorely lacking in most of the fantasy books I had been reading at that time.  I could go on and on about this series.  It’s conceptions, theories, lessons and the beauty of each character (how Attanasio presents the dragon and the fire lords is still so wonderous to me) are pieces that, without each other, would not have the impact on me that it did.  This isn’t just story – it is a spiritual journey.  You will feel the power of Merlin, the human man who used to be a demon and you will both hate him and love him for how human he is.

When I first started reading fantasy, I wasn’t the huge fan that I am now.  This series converted me.  The downside at times is that it is hard to find a series that comes close (though a few have) and I can never read another re-telling of the Arthur legend again.  Attanasio’s version of events is the epitome for me.

Beautiful language, vivid imagery, flawed and powerful characters and, a perspective that is both so otherworldy, yet strangely familiar make this series an experience, not just a read.

The series:

The Dragon and the Unicorn, The Eagle and the Sword, The Wolf and the Crown, The Serpent and the Grail.

My ratings:

Want to know what my ratings mean? Review them here: My Rating System.

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