Guilty Pleasures in YA Fantasy

When get tired of the complexities of Game of Thrones #88 and life in general, I head for YA fantasy.

MairelonMy most recent guilty pleasure was reading Patricia C. Wrede’s Mairelon the Magician and its sequel, The Magician’s Nephew (1991). In them, I saw a more than passing resemblance to the romance novels of Georgette Heyer—another guilty pleasure.

And I was pleased to note that Google confirmed my diagnosis, both in an article by Mari Ness on Tor, and in Wrede’s blog.

Okay, I have now blown what few academic credentials I still possess by admitting that I read Georgette Heyer. But Mari Ness points out that Heyer started the whole Regency Romance trope, which should count for something among popular culture PhDs. Ness also notes that many fantasy writers have followed in Georgette’s footsteps.

Wrede is one of them. The two books about Mairelon borrow liberally from Heyer’s diction, and the finale of Mairelon the Magician is a lunatic scramble that goes way beyond the diving-into-the-cupboard ending of Heyer’s Cotillion. Almost too far—I soon began to lose count of the participants

Wrede also has collaborated with Caroline Stevermer to create a collection of Regency fantasies, Sorcery and Cecelia, The Grand Tour, and The Mislaid Magician. These are a little too cute and lightweight for even my degraded tastes—that is, I don’t re-read them.

But I do re-read Caroline Stevermer, especially her A College of Magics (1994). Stevermer’s other  CollegeOfMagicssolo novels–A Scholar of Magics, Magic Below Stairs, When the King Comes Home, and River Rats–are good, but A College of Magics stands out from the pack. Although Amazon calls it a book for the 10 to 14 set, the complexity of the characters and the strange ending to the queen-commoner romance might daunt fans of the silly sweetness of Sorcery and Cecelia.

I have no guilt when re-reading A College of Magics.

Fantasy Novels: Jane Lindskold

ChildOfRainlessChild of a Rainless Year

I love this book. It’s magical realism, a favorite style with me. And it’s a story of a middle-aged woman who has lived an ordinary life, but now must come to terms with her strange inheritance and unusual gifts. In so many fantasies, the hero is young, perhaps because publishers think that only young people read fantasy. I’ve been reading it all my life, and am happy when the heroine is someone more like me.

The book is also about a house, a house with history and opinions, although both of those emerge slowly, as in a good mystery. And it’s about finding love late in life–both romantic love, and a sense of one’s own purpose.

I’ve also read the first two of Lindskold’s Firekeeper series, now at number 6. It’s straight fantasy, about a woman raised as a wolf, who has to learn to be human and manage the politics and wars of humans. But book series are like television series—there’s a point where I give up. Sometimes the premise wears out; that is, the idea is only good for so many books or shows. Sometimes the author wears out, repeating the same tropes and images. And sometimes I wear out—a few are fun, then I want something new.

I wondered where Child of a Rainless Year came from, because it’s so different from Lindskold’s other work. Here’s what she has to say about it:

“I have always loved in between places – alleys, dry stream beds, median strips – all those places that are neither here nor there. . . . Child of a Rainless Year is a novel about those spaces in between. It is about the dichotomy between expectation and reality, about past and present, about parents and children, mothers and daughters, loving and the fear of love. Color weaves through these contradictions, not so much pulling them together as highlighting differences and similarities. Historical events prove to be as important as current events, and even a house has opinions on how things should be done.”

I’m one of those people who re-reads books that I love. I’ve now read Child of a Rainless Year several times. It doesn’t wear out.

Fantasy Novels: Introduction

Here, I begin to review fantasy novels.casa cogumelo

What I usually don’t like: epic fantasy full of strange beings. Except, of course, Tolkein, who rules them all.

What I really like: magical realism, such as the work of Sarah Addison Allen,  or Diane Setterfield.

But I’m omnivorous, especially with Kindle and Scribd, where I don’t have to purchase a print book to squash into my overloaded shelves

I read fantasy for fun. And I watch fantasy on TV and in movies for fun. For serious, I go to a lot of theatre, and read theatre history, such as Brian Seibert’s What The Eye Hears: a History of Tap.

Credentials: Years of reading. Degrees in theatre. Playwright. And I’ve written two fantasy novels…well, one of them is refusing to settle down, but the other, The Dry, can be found on Amazon.

Watch this space to learn about some great reads!