Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Magic Systems

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes in which you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s topic is favourite magic systems.

“Kathy, why do you have like a thousand shelves on your Goodreads?”

Well, readers, I have them for moments like this. Because god knows I can barely remember the names of characters from books I read a week ago, let alone the ins-and-outs of their magic systems. So I had to go through my “interesting magic system” shelf to joggle my memory.

 

1. Unsounded – Pymary

pymary2

There are many reasons why Ashley Cope’s Unsounded is currently my favourite western comic series (and one of my favourite fantasy series–of any media). Aside from complex characters and insanely rich worldbuilding, it also boasts a fascinating, dynamic magic system that’ll have you waving your hands and squinting real hard at some random object on the off chance that maybe–maybe–the magic’s a real thing (no luck yet).

Here’s a quick rundown of how pymary works: the story’s continent, Kasslyn, rests on top of a spectral plane called the “khert” which governs every material and non-material thing that exists in this world. Pymary is the art of “speaking” to the khert to manipulate–condense, reassign, switch, isolate–physical properties of objects which include density, colour, pressure, temperature, contour, and so forth.

So wrights (pymary-users) can take the heat of a campfire and use it to incinerate an enemy. Or condense all the pressure of a waterfall to create the biggest KABOOM. People also use it for cosmetic purposes–like taking the scent of a rose and assigning it to their pet pooch.

It’s super exciting, the possibilities are endless, and I freaking love the balance of it. Do yourself a favour and go check out this webcomic.

 

2. Mistborn – Allomancy

Mistborn - Kelsier vs Inquisitors

While I adore the complexity of the Stormlight Archives magic system, there’s something about Mistborn’s Allomancy that’s incredibly attractive, addictive, and…marketable (kind of like the Maria Sharapova of fantasy). Maybe it’s the idea of using coins to fling yourself through the air. Maybe it’s the romanticism of quaffing down vials of metals to prepare for a big battle. Maybe it’s just my bird-brain seeing the list of Allomantic metals and going, “Ooh shiny!” Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that this is one hell of a magic system.

 

3. Manifest Delusions Series – Geisteskranken

manifest

I love magic systems that reflect and feed off of the characters’ psychological state, and Michael Fletcher’s Manifest Delusions series is the prime example of this. In this world, mental disorders shape reality. If you believe there are doubles of you running amok in the world, then there really are doubles out there. If you believe that the figure you see in the mirror is a whole other person with their own personality, then yes, they actually are.

The stronger your delusions, the more powerful your abilities; the more you slip away from reality, the more you can shape it. It’s twisted, dark, and the sheer imagination of it floors me.

 

4. Realm of the Elderlings Series – Skill and Wit

assassin's Apprentice2

The magic in Hobb’s series is predicated on the idea that there’s this massive, powerful life-force that flows through, over, or beneath the world. It allows the living people to use its energy to perform various “magics” using the Skill or the Wit or some bastardized form of both. With the Skill you can do things like heal and communicate over long distances via thought. With the Wit you can communicate and form bonds with animals. It’s much more complicated than this but I’ll avoid spoilers and just say that there’s a lot you can do with these two magics.

This is the least flashy system on the list, but it’s one that feels the most natural to me–like, I can very easily see it existing in real life. It’s also the only magic system on the list that plays such a huge role in character development. And I find that absolutely incredible.

 

5. The Chanters of Tremaris Series – Music Magic

the singer of all songs

This is probably one that none of you have heard of. It doesn’t have the most exciting magic system (at least, not by today’s standards) and I’m not sure how the series holds up as an adult, but it was the first fantasy series I read that introduced the idea of music magic, and I loved that. You never quite forget your firsts.

If you happen to be one of the rare creatures who have read these books, come find me. Close your eyes and turn thrice widdershins under the light of a full moon. And when you find yourself in an unmarked stretch of forest, walk around and lose yourself for a while. Eventually we’ll convene at the roots of the ancient white oak where we’ll spend the night drinking the nectar of gods and singing praises of this series.

Or I can yell-gush about it with you over the internet. I’m good either way!

 

flourish

And that’s it from me! What are some of your favourite magic systems?

September 2018 “TBR” – Procrastination, Witches, and Hard Choices

“Kathy.”

“Mm?”

“We’re pretty much in the middle of September right now.”

“Yep, I can see that. I have a tear-away calendar thingy on my desk.”

“Well, one generally writes a TBR post at the beginning of the month.”

“Eh, that’s debatable. There’s no Blog Police skulking around checking for these things, ready to clap you in handcuffs (and not the fuzzy ones). So you can technically write a TBR whenever. Hell, you can even write them at the end of the month and be like, ‘Here are all the books I thought I was going to read this month…and here’s what I actually read.’ Do whatever you want, you know? The world is your oyster. Break free from the shackles of conformity.”

“I mean, sure, shackles and oysters. But this one’s just a case of you being a lazy procrastinator.”

“Oh my god, you are ruining my brand. Why are you even here?”

“Well, I’m you. And you’re me. And this is an overlong conversation you’re having with yourself. And I feel like we should just get to the post before we scare off the readers. What’s left of them, anyway.”

“But I’m not the one who started–UGH. Fine.”

flourish

Right, so here we have the latest TBR post I’ve done to date! It’s a badly stitched-up mix of “TBR” and “What Did I Just Finish Reading?” and “What Am I Reading Now?” and “Hey, You Like Voting For Things, Right? (‘No,’ Said 50% of America) Well, Here’s A Thing You Can Vote For!”

It’s awkward, kind of ugly, and suffers from a heavy case of identity crisis.

My own little Frankenstein’s monster. Please treat it kindly. ❤

(Fun fact: that above conversation was originally twice as long and included a side-argument about adjectives. No, I don’t know what’s wrong with me either.)

 

Recently Finished

sept1.png

Bloody Rose (The Band 2) by Nicolas Eames:
Great sequel to a great debut. Review here.

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton:
Oh boy. I have a lot of thoughts on this one and I’m in the process of trying to sort them out. Review to come.

The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo:
A YA contemporary/fantasy/mystery/paranormal story that didn’t really work for me. Review to come.

 

READING NOW

sept4.png

Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon:
McCammon wrote one of the my favourite books of all time–Boy’s Life–and I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while now. It’s a doorstopper historical mystery (at nearly 800 pages) that centers around a witch trial and I’m loving it so far. McCammon’s gift for creating atmosphere and interesting characters really shines in this one.

Los Nefilim by T. Frohock:
A historical gothic fantasy (aka my favourite subgenre) about angels and daimons. I’ve had the book for a couple of years now and I figured now is a good time to get started on it, seeing as how the sequel’s dropping in a few months.

Equal Rites (Discworld 3) by Terry Pratchett:
I’m reading this as part of the Discworld Readathon and very much liking it so far!

 

YET TO READ

sept3.png

Nightingale by Amy Lukavics
YA historical horror set in an asylum and featuring an unreliable narrator. It’s also been blurbed by Paul Tremblay so I’m rather quite curious.

The Nine (Thieves of Fate 1) by Tracy Townsend:
Another book that’s been milling around on my shelves for a year. It’s about a mysterious, magical book and it’s set in a secondary world that’s kind of similar to our own…but not really? I don’t know. The blurb gives you a lot without really giving you anything.

The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang:
This one will probably/maybe/hopefully be a buddy read with Justine from Milkz Bookshelf!

sept5.png

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar:
A historical fantasy (yay!) about a (dead?) mermaid set in 18th century England. I’ve been hearing amazing things about this one and I can’t wait to dive in!

The Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust 2) by Anna Smith Spark:
Sequel to one of my favourite books of last year. I’m hoping it’s be as brutal and bloody and beautiful as the first.

 

Undecided (aka Oh God Choices are Hard Help Me)

Both of these are ARCs I want to knock out before October, but I have no idea which one to tackle first. So if you’d like to relieve me of my choice paralysis, vote for one and tell me in the comments below!

sept6.png

Time’s Children (The Islevale Cycle 1) by D.B. Jackson
A blend of high fantasy and scifi in which a 15-year old boy is sent back in time to prevent a war and finds himself in an adult body. I did say I was going to take a break from scifi for a bit, but the premise for this one is just too interesting to pass up.

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
Sequel to Lee’s Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in which the former protagonist’s sister is the new protagonist. It’s got adventures and pirates and well, petticoats, presumably. Should be good fun!

flourish

And there you go! See any that catches your eye? What are some books you’re excited to get to this month?

Review: Bloody Rose (The Band 2) – Zigazig Ah-ing its Way to Glory

Bloody Rose

Title: Bloody Rose (The Band 2)
Author: Nicholas Eames
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: August 28th, 2018
Genre(s) and Subject(s): Epic Fantasy, Humour
Page Count: 560 (paperback)
Goodreads

Rating: 8.5/10

 

 

 

 

Before we dive in, let me just mention that Chapter One of Bloody Rose sees our protagonist reverse-mansplaining to an idiot and then declaring she likes girls (to the readers, anyway). If that’s not one of the best openings of 2018, I don’t know what is.

flourish

In a land where mercenary groups are like rock stars of our world–with gigs, tours, groupies, and a penchant for drugs and sex–Tam Hashford is just an ordinary teenage barmaid. But when Fable, a mega-famous group led by a woman they call the “Bloody Rose”, comes into town, Tam decides she wants to join them as a bard instead of spending the rest of her life working in a tavern under her helicoptering father. What follows is a bloody, thrilling quest for glory (or death).

Kings of the Wyld was a rollicking debut featuring a band of aging mercenaries. Eames could have kept the same formula–a group of male adventurers, a “damsel” in need of saving–and it would have been just as fun and wildly successful. But instead he does something that genuinely surprised me: he changes things up.

What he did in the first book, he improves on in nearly every way–introduce more diversity, add more character depth, explore more of the world and its history. In Kings of the Wyld, we had a gay side character with a dead husband; in Bloody Rose we get a lesbian main character with a F/F plotline. In Kings of the Wyld, we see middle-aged characters trying to reclaim old glory; in Bloody Rose we explore how the expectations we place on ourselves can become a crippling weight. The ending of Kings of the Wyld was exhilarating and sweet. The ending for Bloody Rose hits you like a goddamn freight train.

Tam is very much an observer protagonist (think Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird). She’s the narrator of the story and her POV is the only one we get, but she’s not the main character. She’s the chronicler. The witness. The Bard. Not the main attraction but the one who, more often than not, stays in the background. Does that mean she’s any less of a character than Rose or the rest of Fable? Hell, no. The trouble with observer protagonists is that they can easily end up being bland and underdeveloped. That is not at all the case with Tam. She’s capable, talented, and her youthful eagerness and naivete is a refreshing contrast to Rose’s fiery personality.

A bard’s duty was to watch, to witness. For Tam to turn an eye when glory faded, when heroes were forced to endure heartbreak and hardship no strength of arms could overcome, was to betray that duty.

Rose is, of course, the star of the show. Through Tam’s eyes, we see her shift from a legendary warrior to a woman who’s so desperate to surpass the glory of her father, she’s willing to sacrifice her own identity for it. Her struggles are at once fascinating and heartbreaking.

Eames is blessed with a prose that is addictive and so, so much fun. For those of you who avoid epic fantasy because sometimes the characters talk like, “It behooves me to mention that the King bespoke of my lord with indubitable respect”–well, these books are for you, because anachronistic, colloquial style of writing is Nicholas Eames’ game.

“What about Rose and Freecloud?” Tam asked.
“Don’t expect we’ll see much of them today,” said the shaman with an exaggerated wink.
“Okay.”
“If you know what I mean,” he added, winking again.
“I do,” Tam assured him.
“Because they’re having–“
“Bye,” she said.
“–sex, Brune finished, but she was already headed for the stairs.

But I think his greatest talent, prose-wise, is his ability to transition from ridiculous, laugh-out-loud humour to serious poignancy with fluid ease.

My only main criticism is that the plot follows a too-similar pattern to Book 1–lots of moving from point A to B and then defending a city from a horde of monsters. But if you love lengthy travel sequences in your fantasy (I usually don’t), you’ll probably love this. I also wish we got a little more from the villain than the typical “I want revenge” motive.

All in all, The Band series continues to be a love letter to gamers, fantasy connoisseurs, and anyone who enjoys a good story filled with friendship, action, and heart. If Eames keeps moving at this trajectory, I have no doubt his work will leave an indelible mark on the pages of SFF history.

(Also, I’m inordinately proud of myself for coming up with that title)

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Friend Groups #Squadgoals

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s topic is: Favourite Friend Groups.

Me: *Muttering* I will not make this post all about Dragon Age and Final Fantasy and anime. I will not make this post all about Dragon Age and Final Fantasy and anime. I will not–

Me #2: Oh, please. You know you want to.

Me: …….I will not–

Me #2: C’mon. Just do one.

Me: ….

I’m weak and it’s late (why oh why do I keep writing these posts at 1 AM??), so I added one Dragon Age to the list. But the rest are examples from books and you’re spared from having to scroll through a 5000-word essay on how much I love Bioware and Final Fantasy games. For today, anyway!

flourish

1. The Raven Cycle Kids

https://pagesbelowvaultedsky.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/36653-the-raven-cycle-series.jpg

I’m only halfway through the series right now but I’m already very much in love with the Blue + Raven Boys dynamic. These kids could not be more different from one another, but they still somehow manage to fit together perfectly. And I love how Gansey is the one who holds them all together.

 

2. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Carmen, Bridget, Tibby, Lena

Image result for sisterhood of the travelling pants

I have no idea how the Travelling Pants series holds up as an adult but I adored it when I was 12-14 years old. These girls supported each other unconditionally in every way, regardless of the distance between them, and I found that to be so inspiring and moving. It offers such a positive depiction of female friendships that we always need more of in YA.

 

3. Kings of the Wyld – Saga

Kings of the Wyld

Saga used to be a mega-famous mercenary group back in the day and now, decades later, they’re a bunch of retired middle-aged men with families, beer guts, and confidence issues. And I love them to bits–especially their willingness to drop everything to help out one of their members.

As individuals they were each of them fallible, discordant as notes without harmony. But as a band they were something more, something perfect in its own intangible way.

 

4. The Gentleman Bastards

Lies of Locke

The dynamic of Locke, Jean, Calo, and Galdo (and later, Sabetha) is one of the main things that make The Gentleman Bastards series so addictive and compelling. They may drive each other crazy, but their love runs deep and wide and they’ll do just about anything–kill, rob (well, more so than usual), sacrifice–for one another.

“Bug,” Calo said, “Locke is our brother and our love for him knows no bounds. But the four most fatal words in the Therin language are ‘Locke would appreciate it.'”

“Rivalled only by ‘Locke taught me a new trick,'” added Galo.

“The only person who gets away with Locke Lamora games …”

“… is Locke …”

“… because we think the gods are saving him up for a really big death. Something with knives and hot irons …”

“… and fifty thousand cheering spectators.”

 

5. Dragon Age 2 – Hawke and Co.

Image result for dragon age 2 characters

 

I will defend this game until the day I die because, among other things, DA2 is the “found family” trope at its finest. In this ensemble we have a lady guard captain, a pirate captain, an elven blood mage, a storytelling dwarf, a former slave, a would-be revolutionary, plus Hawke the protagonist and their sweet sister/asshole brother. While calling them “friends” might be a bit of a stretch–half of them hate each other and the other half just want some peace and quiet in their lives–they’re most definitely family. A weird, dysfunctional family who go on murder sprees adventures together.

flourish

And there you have it! Tell me about your favourite friend groups! (I’m gonna take a wild, wild guess that one of them’s Harry/Ron/Hermione)

The Weather in Books Tag

pooh

I saw Lisa from Way Too Fantasy do this tag and it looked like a fun one! I have no idea who its creator is, so if anyone knows, drop me a note!

And speaking of weather, we’ve finally gone from Fire, Smoke, and Lung Cancer to rain–sweet, glorious rain–so that’s something! My sincerest condolences to those who lost their homes in a fire this summer. And an equally sincere F-U to a certain leader of a country who claims that Canadian lumber has been the cause of U.S. fires. Because global warming isn’t a thing, apparently, and neither is thinking. So–

*Furious cutting gestures from my imaginary assistant who’s hoisting up a sign that says ‘NO POLITICAL RANTS’*

…So yeah, tags! Fun, stress-free, non-political tags. That are about books.

Let’s get to it! 😀

 

☀️ Sunshine:  A Book That Made You Smile

The Adventure ZoneI don’t know what it says about me that this one took me the longest to come up with (a lie–I’m pretty sure I know what what says about me). The McElroys never fail to make me smile and laugh and there is a lot to smile and laugh about in their graphic novel adaptation of The Adventure Zone podcast. Even though I already know the story, I had a blast reading through it. The art is super charming and adorable and captures the humour of the “story” perfectly. I’ll definitely do a review on it sometime in the near future…Hopefully. *Glumly eyes my pile of unfinished reviews*

 

🌧️ Rain:  A Book You Couldn’t Put Down

Lies of Locke

I’m finding it harder to pull all-nighters with books as I get older, but Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards series is one I have no trouble doing it with. The combination of fun, eclectic characters, brilliant worldbuilding, and the best banter makes The Lies of Locke Lamora as addicting as any drug.

 

🌬️ Wind:  A Book That Blew You Away

Baru

There are a lot of books that fit the bill, but I’ll choose this one since its sequel isn’t too far away.

I dislike economics with a passion. I hated learning about it (in the one elective class I took in undergrad) and I hate reading about it fiction. The Traitor Baru Cormorant not only made me like the economics aspect of the story, it made me invested (excuse the pun) in it, it made me chomping at the bits to know more. That’s sorcery. Pure and simple. And I would just like to know what blood sacrifices Seth Dickinson is making to which god, because I could really use some of that magic myself.

 

☁️ Hurricane:  A Tragic Book

At swim, two boys

There are books that make me cry, and then there are books that make me sob until I’m hobbling around in a state of complete exhaustion. Guess which category this belongs to?

Reading At Swim, Two Boys was like being pummeled by a rock slide and then flattened with a sledgehammer for good measure. And the funny thing is, most of the story isn’t tragic. Set in Ireland against a WW1 backdrop, it’s a tale of hope, friendship, and love, complete with beautiful characterization, heartaching prose, and quite a bit of humour. There’s nothing to suggest–Well, okay, maybe the “WW1” bit.

Anyhow, the book is a must read for all lovers of historical fiction and/or LGBTQIAP+ fiction. Just arm yourself with alcohol/chocolate/comfort food and a bucket beforehand.

 

❄️ Blizzard:  A Book You Had High Expectations For

The Final Descent.jpg

I could write a dissertation on the sheer brilliance of the first three books in this series and then write an equally long paper on how disappointed I was with this fourth and final book. The Monstrumologist series is a 19th century gothic horror story that follows the lives of an orphaned boy named Will Henry and his ward, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a man dedicated to the science of monsters. It’s gruesome, the writing is drop-dead gorgeous, and the characters are drawn with exquisite complexity.

So I expected much of the same for Book 4. Instead, I got the last season of a TV show that knows it’s getting cancelled so it tries to wrap everything up while also adding in new stuff because hell, we’re getting canned anyway, might as well be experimental.

The series is still one of my favourites of all time and I’ve listened to the audiobooks more times than I can count. I just, uh, pretend this last one doesn’t exist.

 

🌪️ Tornado:  A Book You Didn’t Like At First But Ended Up Loving

On the Jellicoe Road2

I had a bit of a hard time with this one because I can usually decide in the first 1/4 of a book whether or not I’m going to love the rest. Then I gave myself a smack and went, “Oh, duh!” Right. So this book. I bought it when I was 15 with what measly allowance money I had and got my first taste of buyer’s remorse within the first couple of chapters–“Is this even a contemporary?”; “Wha–are these kids fighting in a war?”; “What the HELL is going on???” I side-eyed the Printz award committee. Hard. I wondered if refunding it after already having read a part of it was an ethical thing to do. I didn’t think it was, so I gritted my teeth and read on. Best. Decision. Ever.

There are so many elements that make On the Jellicoe Road such a masterpiece, but at the core of it is the friendship. The book has, by far, one of the most beautiful depictions of friendship I’ve encountered in any genre. The kind that seeps into your heart and takes permanent root.

And it’s a book I even recommend to fantasy-only readers because Melina Marchetta has a gift for taking something as ordinary as a small rural town and turning it into an otherworldly place.

flourish

I TAG:

Dorine
Jennifer
Norrie
Paige

And anyone else who wants to do it! ❤

Diversity Spotlight Thursday: Royalty | 3 Days, 3 Quotes [Day 3]

Diversity-Spotlight-Thursday-Banner

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks. Each week you come up with three book for three different categories: a diverse book you’ve read and enjoyed; a diverse book that’s already been released and is in your TBR; and a diverse book that hasn’t been released yet.

Today we’re donning all the crowns, the jewels, the unwieldy layers of fabric, and exploring some diverse books that feature royalty! This was a hard one, but it was either royalty or diverse pilots (you’ll see why in the second half of the post).

Diverse-Royalty

A-book-I-have-read2
The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

Captive Prince was the first “royal” book that popped to mind, but that one has issues regarding sexual violence, so instead I’m picking the next diverse yet controversial book that immediately popped to mind (because I hate making things easy for myself, apparently), which is The Tiger’s Daughter. There are those who absolutely hated the representation of Asian culture in this book (Japan and Mongolia in particular), others who loved it, and others who didn’t much care. It’s a matter of inspiration vs. appropriation, and while I do think the worldbuilding is lazy in some respects, I don’t believe it portrays East Asian countries in a disrespectful or malicious manner.

So with that immediate digression…

The Tiger’s Daughter is an epistolary novel that follows the lives of Shefali, a child of the nomadic Qorin tribe, and Shizuka, the future empress of Hokkaro–two young girls whose fates were entwined from birth. The prose is breathtaking and the romance between the two characters is beautifully drawn out. The second book is coming out this October and I’m quite eager to get my hands on it.

A-book-on-my-tbrThe Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker is a standalone graphic novel that stars a prince who loves wearing dresses and his best friend who loves making those dresses. It seems like a sweet story reminiscent of the Princess Jellyfish manga series, and it’s been getting heaps of praises, so I very much look forward to checking it out.

a-book-releasing-soon
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

 
In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

~
This book doesn’t have a royal protagonist, but it’s set in a royal environment and has a king as a major character, so I figure it’s close enough. The premise reminds me a little of Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy (except more queer and Asian), and I find the “forbidden romance” aspect rather intriguing.

Releases November 6th, 2018

flourish

This is Day 3 of the 3 Days, 3 Quotes, for which I was tagged by Alyssa from Serendipitous Reads!

The Rules

1. Thank the person who nominated you
2. Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
3. Nominate three new bloggers each day

For this last day, I’d like to feature a quote from my favourite littlest prince of all time:

Little-Prince-quote

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is my favourite children’s book and one of my favourite books of all time. It’s one of those stories that sinks its claws into you and refuses to let go, becoming more and more meaningful as you grow older.

It also comes with a rather romantic and tragic backstory (or afterstory, rather). The Little Prince opens up with an aviator crashed on a desert, and Saint-Exupéry himself just also happened to be a pilot (he’d inserted his experience with his own near-fatal crash into the story). He’d flew with the Allies during World War 2, until one day, during one mission, he vanished without a trace.

A partial wreckage of his plane has since been found, but I like to believe that he flew himself all the way to Asteroid B-612 to be with the Little Prince. I hope that wherever he is, he managed to find some measure of peace and comfort as I found in his story.

flourish

Today I tag: You! Everyone! If you wish to be tagged, consider yourself tagged!

Top 5 Wednesday – Books You Want to Read Before the End of the Year

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s theme is: Books you want to read before the end of the year, which I’m interpreting as,already-released books I want to read before the end of the year.”

 

1. Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive 3) by Brandon Sanderson

Oathbringer

I’ve been debating whether or not I should reread the first two Stormlight books before starting this one, and this debate has been raging in my brain for roughly…oh, eight months? So I figure I should just swat myself over the head at some point and make a decision. Plus my friend’s been wailing at me every other week, “I just I found this Oathbringer thing I need to show you but I can’t because you haven’t read it yet,” and I should probably put him out of his misery.

2. Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious

I wasn’t a fan of Schwab’s Shades of Magic books, so I’ve been somewhat avoiding this one. But then the other day I read Meghan‘s awesome review where she breaks down the anti-hero qualities of the characters and now I’m thoroughly intrigued. Despicable characters that make you love them despite and because of their despicable ways? Hell yes.

3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

I’ve been living under a rock for the last year and a half apparently, because I still have yet to pick this one up. I’ll read it before the movie drops. Maybe.

4. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault

The Last of the Wine

Renault’s Alexander the Great trilogy serves as one of the best examples of what historical fiction can and should be–well-researched and informative, but still brimming with imagination. I’m fairly sure she was a time traveler of some sort, because no modern person be able to describe an ancient culture with that much confidence and intimate detail.

The Last of the Wine is another very Greek, very queer Renault classic and I’m very excited.

5. The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

The Book of Dust

When I was in middle school, The Dark Materials series rocked the foundation of my world. I wrote Pullman a long gushing (possibly incoherent) letter on how much I loved the books and received a written version of “Mr. Pullman can’t come to the phone right now as he’s busy with movie deals and being a superstar author. But he sure does appreciate all your calls!” And I didn’t even care because, holy shit, the letter had his signature on it.

So why oh why have I not read The Book of Dust yet? It’s hard feeling to describe but the phrase “paralyzed with anticipation” comes to mind. This book was a long time coming and I both dread and crave what lies inside (if that makes any kind of sense). Basically, it’s another case of me needing to kick myself into making a decision.

flourish

And that’s it for me! Have you read any of these? And what books are you looking to get to before the end of the year?

May To-Read Pile & Mini Break (Health Update)

Boy, this week has not been a fun one. At all. To be vague, something has happened (or, rather, not happened), and while it very much could mean nothing, my brain has been working in overdrive to churn out the worst possible scenarios. And the looming possibility that I unwittingly did something terribly wrong has been knifing away at my heart and siphoning off energy like nothing else. So I’ve been oscillating between getting too little sleep and too much sleep–and feeling exhausted regardless of which–with panic attacks in between. And it’s gotten to the point where I just don’t have the willpower or focus to write anything substantial for the blog (which is why I ended up skipping Top 5 Wednesday and Diversity Spotlight Thursday).

Anxiety is a fucking bitch, guys.

So I’m going to step away for a week so to try to figure things out. A part of me thinks that taking any kind of break or hiatus is going to make my content obsolete and my audience vanish–which I know is a common fear for most content creators–but, really, I don’t see much choice. I do apologize for the comments that I haven’t gotten to yet and for not being very active on some of your blogs this week.

On a cheerier note, I did get a May TBR list ready before this week, so we can still go through those today! I also have a half-completed Most-Anticipated list in the draft, so I might just end up posting that sometime early next week.

May-To-read

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang:
I’ll be starting a buddy read of this tomorrow with Alice from Arisutocrat and I’m pretty excited. The story apparently descends into brutal, bloody stuff in the second half, so I’m not sure if it’s a right thing to dive into in my current state, but we’ll see. I’ll kick myself later if I have too.

Armistice (The Amberlough Dossier 2) by Lara Elena Donnelly:
Last year, Donnelly’s debut Amberlough took my heart in its beautiful art deco hands and crushed it to smithereens. The first book was unapologetically, gloriously queer and explored the creeping emergence of fascism–making it very, very topical–and I expect the good things to continue in the sequel.

 

May-To-read2

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Native American urban fantasy is not something you see everyday and I’ve been looking forward to digging my fingers into this debut for a while now.

The Rig by Roger Levy
When I first read the blurb for this book months ago, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I mean, just listen to this:

On a desert planet, two boys meet, sparking a friendship that will change human society forever.
On the windswept world of Bleak, a string of murders lead a writer to a story with unbelievable ramifications.
One man survives the vicious attacks, but is left with a morbid fascination with death; the perfect candidate for the perilous job of working on a rig.

Welcome to the System. Here the concept of a god has been abandoned, and a new faith pervades: AfterLife, a social media platform that allows subscribers a chance at resurrection, based on the votes of other users.

So many Lives, forever interlinked, and one structure at the centre of it all: the rig.

May-To-read3

A Lite Too Bright by Samuel Miller
I didn’t know this book even existed until several days ago when I saw it among the deals of the week on Chapters Indigo, but I couldn’t not preorder it. It’s a road-trip story in which a teenage boy embarks on a quest to uncover truths about his grandfather who had been a very famous writer. In other words, it’s right up my alley. I fell in love with the premise and the cover and hopefully the content will be as equally wonderful.

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
This books has a similar premise to The Hate U Give and from what I’ve heard, it’s just as much of a gutpuncher. Give me all the books, contemporary or otherwise, that tackle matters of societal injustice and brim with righteous anger.

flourish

I’ll definitely be checking out other books this month, but these are the definite ones.

I hope the rest of your week is much, much better than mine. See you all on the flip side.

 

Undertaking the Heroine’s Journey in Fantasy Books

Journey banner

The Hero’s Journey. We all know it. We’ve seen it played out countless times–from the classic Greek myths to more modern stories like Star Wars, The Lord of the Ring, Eragon, and the game Journey.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell was the first to propose the archetype. Seeing a common pattern across various mythologies, he suggested the term “monomyth” and broke it down into 17 stages. The gist? Hero receives a quest (usually by some higher being) and leaves the comfort of his home to venture out into the wide world. The hero encounters a mentor and a ragtag band of companions on the way and, through a series of tests, becomes stronger. He succeeds in his goal and returns to the mundane world to share his wisdom and power.

Okay. Simple enough. But what about the Heroine’s Journey?

What about the experiences that pertain to women? Because while the hero’s journey can be undergone by anyone, it has a definite masculine taste and is most often associated with male characters. I mean, one of the stages is named “The Woman As Temptress.” (*raises eyebrow*)

Many people scoffed at the mere notion of a heroine’s journey. Campbell himself had reportedly said in an interview, “Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological journey, the woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.” (Which, if true, is enough to make you sprain your eyeballs from rolling them so hard).

Undeterred, women in the past couple of decades have come forward with their own model of the heroine’s journey. But my absolute favourite would have to be Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s interpretation, as outlined in her book, 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters.

The Heroine's Journey Chart

“The feminine journey is a journey in which the hero gathers the courage to face death and endure the transformation toward being reborn as a complete being in charge of her own life.”

The gist of Schmidt’s version is this: the protagonist starts out living in what they believe is a perfect life. Then something, or someone, shatters their bubble. They are yanked away from their former life–either literally or metaphorically–and they realize they must take some kind of action. Trials and tribulations follow and they fall into some dark times but crawl out of it in the end with the help of others. Fears and baddies are faced, the day is won, and the heroine returns home with a better understanding of themselves and the world.

The important difference between this and the hero’s journey is that the heroine, at some point in their journey, has to fall (Stage 6 – Death). A moment where everything goes to hell and the heroine is left dejected, defeated, and lost. Then, in stage 7 (Support), they realize that they can’t do this alone, that it’s okay to accept the help of others. This is a reaffirming of bonds between the heroine and their companion(s). And with it comes newfound strength and resolve to face their fears.

Another major difference is that the ultimate goal of a Heroine’s Journey isn’t external. It’s not the search of the holy grail or the defeating of a big bad evil. It’s a wholly personal one–an exploration of the inner self; the acceptance of one’s strengths; the proving of oneself to oneself. All that happens on the way, like facing a big bad evil, are just stepping stones.

It’s a story structure that I find myself loving more and more as I grow older. So today I showcase some fantasy stories that I think are great examples of this archetype (note: as with the hero’s journey, heroine’s journey can be undergone by anyone regardless of gender):

1. The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy by Robin Hobb

fitz-cover-collage.jpg

The life of FitzChivalry Farseer as a whole can be seen as a heroine’s journey, but I think the structure is most easily evident in the final trilogy. In Fool’s Assassin, Fitz starts out with his loving wife and his adopted children in their beautiful country estate. But, as you learn learn throughout the course of the Realm of the Elderlings series, nothing is ever easy. Things–bad, terrible things–happen and Fitz must undertake his most harrowing journey yet. Fitz has never been able to easily accept love and help from those around him, and his struggles to find himself in a world that is so confusingly hostile has always been the main focus of the series for me. These struggles remain up until the very end of Assassin’s Fate, a point in which all truths are revealed and the circle is closed shut.

2. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the ForestMost of Juliet Marillier’s stories fit the bill, honestly, but Daughter of the Forest remains my favourite of hers. Sorcha is the only daughter in the Sevenwaters family. Though ignored by her father, she is wholly loved by her six brothers and her life at the Sevenwaters estate is more or less idyllic. Then a jealous stepmother steps into the picture and turns her brothers into swans. This curse will only be broken if Sorcha can make six shirts out of nettle plants and remain silent through the duration of the task. Thus begins her quest– an arduous one with many enemies and many friends.

It’s worth noting that while she finds love and support in Red, the British lord who finds her and takes her to Britain, at no point does he swoop in and carry her on his back. The journey is all Sorcha’s–all the pain and losses and tribulations. But while her inner strength is ultimately hers to uncover, it’s not done without the help of a warm hand holding onto hers.

3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted

Uprooted tells the tale of Agnieszka who is unwitting taken from the comfort of her small village to the home of the Dragon, a powerful wizard who keeps the valley safe from the dark forces of the Woods. In her journey, Agnieszka transforms from an awkward village girl who is ignorant of her magical gifts to a young woman with confidence in her abilities and the knowledge that compassion and understanding are some of the greatest weapons one can have in the face of hatred and anger.

4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls
There’s no sweeping epic journey in A Monster Calls. At least, not of a physical kind–most of the story is set either in the protagonist’s house or his grandmother’s. But emotionally, it is a tale to rival any epic fantasy.

Connor is thirteen years old and dealing with the fact that his mother has terminal cancer and that a tree monster has taken to visiting him at night. The monster makes a deal: it will tell Connor three stories and at the end of the third, Connor will tell his own.

It’s a strange and sad story. And what I love most about it is that, at the end of it all, Connor’s main support comes from the unlikeliest of places.

Letting go can be a form of strength. And Connor’s journey is about realizing that.

 

flourish

I’m always on the lookout for stories that follow this pattern–and there are a lot of them out there–so feel free to comment with your recommendations and suggestions for other books (of any genre) that you would include on this list.

 

Diversity Spotlight Thursday: High Fantasy

Diversity-Spotlight-Thursday-Banner

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme I first found on Aurora Libralis. It’s hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks and the idea is that each week you come up with three book for three different categories: a diverse book you’ve read and enjoyed; a diverse book that’s already been released and is in your TBR; and a diverse book that hasn’t been released yet.

It’s just such a great way to introduce new diverse books to other readers and to keep challenging yourself to read broadly. I’ll start with general topics and maybe choose more specific ones once I get settled in.

 

diversity1

A-book-I-have-read2
The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns 1) by Django Wexler

Django Wexler’s flintlock series should honestly be the benchmark for modern adult epic fantasy in terms of LGBTQ representation. In the first book, we start out with a single lesbian protagonist. As the series progress, this number grows and grows, and by the fifth and final book, we have not one, not two, not three, but nine major side characters (plus one lesbian protagonist) who are queer. Not only that, it’s chock full of thrilling action, political intrigue, and just plain fun.

A-book-on-my-tbrThe Cloud Roads (Books of the Raksura 1) by Martha Wells

This series has been on my TBR forever and I’m determined to get through the first three books this year, at the very least. The books are set in a fantastical, alien society where matriarchy is the rule and bisexuality and polyamory are the norm. It also features one of my favourite tropes: found family. I loved all of Martha Well’s other books so I’m sure this one will be no exception.

a-book-releasing-soonThe Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
~

I’ve been hearing very interesting things about this book. A story inspired by Chinese history, it features asian characters and a plot that apparently moves from The Name of the Wind to the abject brutality of Schindler’s List. I can’t wait to check it out.

Releases May 1st, 2018