Top Ten Tuesday: Traits I Like in Characters (Sorted by Character Class/Type)

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by  The Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is “Traits I Like in Characters,” but I decided to get a little more specific, because honestly, there are a LOT of traits that I like in characters.

And a couple of years ago I realized that there are specific trait + character class combinations that I like more than others. And traits that I usually find annoying in one class I love in another. For example–thieves (rogues) and sarcasm? Been there done that. But sarcasm in, say…a medic type of character? Much more interesting.

So these are some of my favourite traits for specific character classes/types.

 


🔪 Rogues 🔪

 

Pirate Captains (or any leader figures, really):

1. Courteousness

I have a **thing** with people–er, characters–who have power and status and aren’t good, per se, but are sticklers about manners and respecting personal boundaries.

Just because you rob innocents out in the sea and commit a murder or two or a dozen every now and then, doesn’t mean you have to be rude about it.

 

2. Casual, Confident Confidence

This is actually a trait I’m meh about in assassins and thieves. But give me a feathered hat, a parrot, and a show of authority and POOF, magic happens, I guess.

These characters are capable and dangerous–cross them and they’ll run you through with a knife without a hitch in their moral compass–and everyone knows it, including themselves. But the confidence isn’t a forced act they have to put on. It’s like a second skin for them, and they know exactly when to dial it down and when to blast it in full-force. That awareness and control is a sexy, sexy thing.

 

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Favourite Example(s):

– Isabela (aka my video game wife) from Dragon Age 2

 

Assassins:

1. Kindness and Empathy

Because I’m a contrarian. And I fall hard for kindness in any type of character.

But genuine kindness in someone whose job is anything but kind–someone who deals out cold, calculated death on a regular basis–is something that’s especially attractive and fascinating to me. The fact that they’re able to retain their humanity when there’s so much blood on their hands is nothing short of incredible.

 

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Favourite Example(s):

FitzChivalry (Realm of the Elderings series by Robin Hobb)
Girton (The Blood of Assassins series by R.J. Barker)

 

2. Spiritual

Nothing hotter than an assassin who debates religious philosophy with you and says a nice prayer for your passing after they stick a knife between your ribs, eh?

(I’m 100% serious here)

 

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Favourite Example(s):

Thane Krios (Mass Effect 2 & 3)

 


🔮 Magic Users 🔮

 

Witches and Wizards:

1. Sarcastic

This is how I always want my sarcasm. Served with a big bowl of fireballs.

See, being a spellcaster is hard life, folks. You’re the easiest target in battle. You’re more often than not shoved into the role of a sidekick (when you’re not being burned at the stake, that is). And who gets most of the credit and glory at the end of the day? Yeah. The guy with the pointy stick.

So a wizardy or witchy type of character with a sarcastic, I’ve-had-enough-of-this-shit attitude is…cathartic? Satisfying? Something along those lines.

 

2. Brassy with Low Tolerance for Idiots

See above? I especially love female witches/wizards who are like this, because we can never have enough loud, outspoken women in fiction.

 

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Favourite example(s):

– Joan Clayton (Penny Dreadful)

 

Seers/Prophets:

3. Childlike Wonder

I look at seerhood in most stories as more of a curse than a gift. And as with assassins, I think it’d be incredibly difficult to retain your humanity (or sanity) in this particular line of work. So, to me, a seer who possesses a kind of bright-eyed innocence, even with the weight of millions and millions of lives bearing down on them, is someone to be treasured.

 

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Favourite example(s):

Quinn (The Tarot Sequence series by K.D. Edwards)

 


⚔️ Warrior/Fighter ⚔️

1. Shy/Introverted

This isn’t a character I come across all too often, and I’d love to see that remedied. Because people who enjoy charging into the thick of a fight, blades and guns drawn, don’t necessarily have to be extroverts. They may be anxious about socializing and quiet in a crowded room, which is perfectly fine and should be more normalized, in my opinion.

 


🤷 Normal People 🤷

 

Public Servants:

1. Unwavering Moral Conviction

Listen, I love vigilantes and anti-heroes as much as the next person. Characters who “break bad” because they believe society is rigged, and flirting with the dark side is the only way to achieve justice in the long run. They make for fantastic stories.

But I love the flip side of it even more: public servants who stay within the limits of the law because they believe, with every ounce of their being, that you can’t right wrongs with more wrongs. These characters never waver in their convictions, even when those around them–people they love and trust–are choosing to discard the law and societal order for personal gain. Or if they do waver, if they end up going through moments of crisis, they come out on the other side even stronger.

I may not always agree with them, but I find these characters admirable regardless.

 

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Psycho-Pass

Favourite Example(s):

Akane Tsunemori (Psycho-Pass)
Mulagesh (The City of Blades by Robert Bennett Jackson)

 

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Sooooo, if there are any cocky pirate captains and good-hearted assassins reading this…*cough* My DMs are open

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

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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

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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

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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!

 

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

Diversity Spotlight Thursday: Pirates Ahoy!| 3 Days, 3 Quotes [Day 2]

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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.

And this week’s topic is pirates! ☠️

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Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

The sequel to Scott Lynch’s incredibly addictive, high-octane fantasy heist debut, Red Seas Under Red Skies follows the misadventures of our beloved conmen Lock Lamora and Jean Tannen, as they end up butting heads with pirates. The captain of the pirates in question is a middle-aged black woman who also happens to be a mother, which is one of the most badass things ever. While it’s got more structural issues than the first, the entertainment value is still through the roof and I find myself rereading it time and time again.

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The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

I’ve been meaning to read this for a while now, because a plot that revolves around a monster-raising girl getting kidnapped by a pirate queen sounds fun, if a little romance novel-esque. I’ve heard great and not-so-great things about it, so I’m looking forward to finding out what the fuss is for myself.

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Compass Rose by Anna Burke

In the year 2513, the only thing higher than the seas is what’s at stake for those who sail them.
Rose was born facing due north, with an inherent perception of cardinal points flowing through her veins. Her uncanny sense of direction earns her a coveted place among the Archipelago Fleet elite, but it also attracts the attention of Admiral Comita, who sends her on a secret mission deep into pirate territory. Accompanied by a ragtag crew of mercenaries and under the command of Miranda, a captain as bloodthirsty as she is alluring, Rose discovers the hard way that even the best sense of direction won’t be enough to keep her alive if she can’t learn to navigate something far more dangerous than the turbulent seas. Aboard the mercenary ship, Man o’ War, Rose learns quickly that trusting the wrong person can get you killed―and Miranda’s crew have no intention of making things easy for her―especially Miranda’s trusted first mate, Orca, who is as stubborn as she is brutal.

Yet another book where the protagonist falls for a ruthless captain! I first saw it featured on one of Anna’s posts, and the combination of the words “2513” and “seas” and “mercenary” made me positively light-headed with excitement. Because if there’s one thing I love more than maritime mercenaries and pirates, it’s futuristic maritime mercenaries and pirates.

Releases July 10th

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For the second part of the post, we have Day 2 of 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

“Uh, Kathy, it says right there in the rules that you have to post the quotes consecutively. You haven’t posted one in fi–”

Now onto today’s quote! (From a book that also features pirates!)

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I can’t not do a quotes tag without including one from my favourite author of all time. And this one is rather timely considering how much of an unabashed dumpster fire the world is right now. One of the central themes of Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books is how the small actions of ordinary people can snowball into extraordinary, world-shaking events. And this quote is a loud call for such action. It’s disconcertingly easy to resign to weariness and think, “I can’t change anything,” but these books remind me that every step made, however small or shaky, is a step forward. And those steps add up to a lot.

(And I most definitely did not pick pirates as this week’s Diversity Thursday theme just so I could use this quote. Not at all.)

Today I tag:
– Justine from Milkz Bookshelf
– Alexia from The Bookworm Daydreamer
– Bibi from Bibi’s Book Blog

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite SFF Covers (that are Red and Blue)

“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. May is rewind month, and my chosen topic is: favourite SFF covers.

Now, there are many incredible SFF covers out there, and it’s impossible to include them all on this list, so I’m going to get a bit more specific and share some of my favourite fantasy covers that are red and blue, which happen to be my favourite colours.

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1. Certain Dark Things (US)

Certain Dark Things
The interplay of the dark shadows and the blood red is something I will never stop loving. There’s something elegant yet dangerous about it, which perfectly describes the  protagonist of the story, who happens to be a vampire.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Assassin’s Fate (UK) – Art by Jackie Morris

Assassin's Fate (UK Cover)
Jackie Morris did all the covers for the new UK editions of Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series. But this last one for Assassin’s Fate takes the cake. This picture doesn’t fully convey how beautiful this cover is. With gold foiling that shines brilliantly against a blue background,this is one of the most gorgeous books I own.

 

 

 

3. Deathless (UK Paperback)

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While I do like the Tor cover of Deathless, it’s a little too…sophisticated. The UK edition, however, isn’t quite so civilized–it’s rough, it’s textured, the feathers are drawn violently, and there’s a yellow eye staring right at you. And I love it to bits. I think it perfectly represents the themes of life and death explored in the story. Plus, it looks like something you would see right out of an old volume of fairytales.

I couldn’t find out the artist’s name so if anyone knows, drop me a comment!

 

4. Strange the Dreamer (UK Hardback)

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UK, you guys are killing it with these covers. While I do like the reflective blue of the North American cover, the contrasting gold and deep blue of the UK edition is nothing short of mesmerizing. This is one I could stare at all day long.

 

 

 

 

5. Amberlough (US Hardback) – Art by Victo Ngai

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Victo Ngai
is one of my favourite cover artists. She’s prominent in SFF, covering books like Vicious, Bark: The Elephant’s Graveyard, and the paperback edition of Neil Gaiman’s The Norse Mythology. The Amberlough cover is probably my favourite, though. It’s vibrant, it’s sexy, and she captured the personality of the two main characters perfectly.

 

 

 

 

Undertaking the Heroine’s Journey in Fantasy Books

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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.

 

The 20 Questions Book Tag

I was tagged by Amy from A Court of Crowns and Quills for this, so thank you, Amy! She takes the loveliest book photos and her reviews are just as wonderful. Plus, she’s a former aviator, which is the coolest thing in the world, so go check her out!

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1. How many books is too many books in a book series?

If I love the books, then infinite. Okay, no. With trilogies I often find myself craving just a bit more, so my sweet spot is around five. Eight is where things start to get a little too much. Then again, it really depends on the quality and the genre of the series. With urban fantasies, I will happily read 8+ books, no problem.

2. How do you feel about cliffhangers?

If they’re placed in the middle of an ongoing series, I’m perfectly fine with it. If they’re placed at the end of a series, and the author’s intention is to follow it up at the start of their next series, then there will be smoke pouring out of my ears.

3. Hardback or paperback?

Hardbacks for collecting and looking pretty on my shelves. Paperbacks for absorbing tears, scribblings, and just general abuse.

Harry Potter Goblet of Fire
Here’s an example of such abuse! My first copy of The Goblet of Fire has been through several continents, a bathtub dunking, dozens of falls–and all before I graduated middle school. (I swear, not all my paperbacks are like that, please don’t call book protection services.)

4. Favorite book?

Fool's Fate
Fool’s Fate
by Robin Hobb, just narrowly edging out Fool’s Quest. It’s got everything I love in a book: snowy/icy landscapes, an expedition to find a legendary creature, prophecies, and brilliant, heartrending character interactions.

 

 

 

 

5. Least favorite book?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint my least favourite book of all time, but Ready Player One is a hot topic lately so I’ll talk about that. I get why people love it–nostalgia trip and mindless fun and such. But for me, it’s a regurgitation of 80’s pop culture at best. At worst, it’s a book with an annoying protagonist, bad attempt at diversity, and casual transphobia and sexism. And like Clockwork Orange and Fight Club, I side-eye dudes who call it their favourite book of all time.

6. Love triangles, yes or no?

Generally, no. I hate seeing someone getting rejected and left out.

7. The most recent book you just couldn’t finish?

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton. I know a lot of people loved it, but the prose was just a little too florid for me (and I generally love poetic prose), and I didn’t think I could handle 400 more pages of it. It was like trying to eat an entire dark chocolate cake all by myself.

8. A book you’re currently reading?

Just started Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer! I loved her first book, Last Song Before Night, so I’m very excited for this one.

9. Last book you recommended to someone?

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett to a friend’s mom!

10. Oldest book you’ve read? (Publication date)

The Tale of GenjiI want to say Iliad and The Odyssey, except I haven’t read them completely from start to finish. So either The Tale of Genji (written early 11th century) or Beowulf, which is placed at sometime between late 10th to early 11th century.

11. Newest book you’ve read? (Publication date)

The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards. So new it hasn’t been released yet! It’s also my newest obsession and, I think, my favourite book of 2018 so far. I will most definitely be yelling about it for the rest of the year.

12. Favorite author?

Robin Hobb. Hands down. No questions. I will happily perform blood rituals in her name.

13. Buying books or borrowing books?

I’m greedy and materialistic when it comes to owning physical copies of things I enjoy–whether it’s books or video games or film/TV–but my bank account doesn’t always agree with me. Plus, I love my local library, and borrowing books is a surefire way to sample more books while dodging buyer’s remorse.

14. A book you dislike that everyone else seem to love?

A recent one? Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence, which is the second book in the Book of Ancestors trilogy. Everyone’s showering it with 5 stars and I’m the only one in the corner mumbling, “Um, yeah, it just wasn’t as good as the first…” You can see my review here.

15. Bookmarks or dog-ears?

Bookmarks. I form habits with disturbing ease, so once I start dog-earing books I’ll probably start doing it with all of them, including hardbacks, so I’ll stick with post-its, scraps of paper, tissues (yes), and more conventional bookmarks. 

16. A book you can always reread?

Fitz-Cover-CollageI’m a broken record, but The Realm of the Elderlings. I can read those books again and again, consecutively even, and never, ever get tired of them. How can I, when reading them is like coming home to a best friend?

17. Can you read while hearing music?

Instrumentals or quiet acoustic/indies, yes. I love making fan playlists for books, so listening to a bunch of OSTs while reading helps me find inspiration. 8tracks is a great site for finding music that suit the mood of a book.

18. One POV or multiple POV’s? (POV’s = Point of views)

Usually one. I’m a sucker for first person POVs, and with multiple POVs, I sometimes find myself skipping chapters to get to the POVs that I actually like.

19. Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days?

Multiple days! (Unless it’s a novella or a children’s book.) It just doesn’t feel right finishing a book whose story spans months (or years) in 24 hours.

20. A book you’ve read because of the cover?

Incarceron
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. The hardcover of this just looked so gorgeous so I nabbed it immediately at the bookstore. This was back when I’d bought books impulsively without checking out any reviews. Thankfully, the story wasn’t too shabby, either!

 

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I TAG:

The Book Nook UK
Lost In A Good Book
Arisutocrat

A Science Girl in a Fantasy World
Alex Reads and Blogs

(If you do the tag, please link directly back to this post! ❤️)

 

Top 5 Wednesday – Auto-Buy SFF Authors

“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: your auto-buy authors that write SFF.

I used to buy a lot of books on their release date without reading samples or consulting reviews. But I racked up enough buyer’s remorse to be a lot pickier about them nowadays. The following are authors whose books I’ll not only auto-buy, but buy (sometimes multiple) physical copies of.

1. Pat Rothfuss

Pat Rothfuss
Pat has only published two novels and The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle (which is an…experience and a category in itself) in the past 10 years, which might be considered low compared to some on this list. But his writing style makes my brain cells do happy little jigs. There are so few epic fantasies that laud such lyrical prose while still being entertaining and addicting–like vegetables and junk food all in one–so his books are always a must-buy.

2. N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin

Jemisin never fails to bring something different and important to fantasy with each book that she writes–an Egyptian-inspired setting, bi/pan-sexual gods, a mostly PoC cast, polyamory, and plots that brim with righteous anger. Her books remind me just why I love this genre so much.

3. Patrick Ness

patness
Another Patrick! Ness’ SFF stories never fail to be unique and/or emotionally gutwrenching. I read through the Chaos Walking trilogy more times than I could count and his work has only gotten better and better.

4. Seth Dickinson

Seth Dickinson
Okay, so the guy has published one book to date (with a second coming in Fall), but The Traitor Baru Cormorant whisked me up to the highest of heavens, smiled, and dropped me like sack of rocks. Years later, I’m still rummaging on the ground, trying to pick up the pieces of my body. If that’s not a great first impression, I don’t know what is. I’ll buy anything that Seth writes.

5. Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb portrait

And, of course, the Queen of Fantasy. I dream of one day writing a book that contains even 1% of the magic that her stories have. If tomorrow Robin Hobb decides that she wants to write Dickensian erotica starring anthropomorphic animals, I will support her all the way and smash the pre-order button to smithereens. Because Hobb at her worst is better than many at their best.

 

flourishes

And there you have it! Do you see any of your favourites featured on the list? And tell me some of your auto-buy authors!

 

Book Haul – March 2018

Book-Haul-March-2018
My March book haul was the biggest so far this year, mostly because the Canadian customs is annoyingly slow and inconsistent, so books I’d ordered months ago from the UK just now arrived.

Book-Haul-March-2018-2

  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
    I confess I haven’t read The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet yet, but this was stupidly cheap on Book Depository. And one of my goals in the next couple of months is to read the first two books before the third one drops.
  • Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton
    I’m a sucker for WW2 nonfiction and this caught my eye a year ago but I never got the chance to pick it up.
  • The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
    This took nearly FOUR months to arrive. I’d given it up for dead, said my laments and prayers and got my refund, and then one day it appears out of nowhere in a packaging that looks like something that crawled out of a war zone. Anyway,
    I’ve been meaning to read Mary Renault for years now and I figured one of her standalones would be a good place to start.

Book-Haul-March-2018-3

  • Imposter Syndrome (The Arcadia Project 3) by Mishell Baker
    Read it, loved it.
  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente I loved the first book so I’ll be slowly going through the rest of the series this year.
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
    My first Christopher Moore purchase and it certainly won’t be the last one.

Book-Haul-March-2018-4

  • Jade City (The Green Bone Saga 1) by Fonda Lee
    Currently reading through this and absolutely loving it. Look out for a glowing review.

  • The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
    This one’s a giveaway win. It’s been likened to Orange is the New Black, so colour me interested.

Book-Haul-March-2018-5

  • Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
    I’ve never read Staveley but I sampled a bit of his writing from The Art of War anthology, and it turns out the style is kind of my jam, so I’ll be reading this once I finish the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy.
  • The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 2) by Brian Staveley
    For some reason I had the first and the third book of the trilogy but was missing the middle one, so I had to remedy that.

Book-Haul-March-2018-6

  • The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
    I couldn’t wait until September for this one. It’s so, so good.
  • Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb
    My current mission is to collect every english version of Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books (which is my all-time favourite series), and I was lucky enough to find this near-pristine US hardback of Fool’s Errand.

And there you have it. Tell me if you see any of your favourites and any that you think I should read immediately!

 

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Mentors/Teachers in Books

“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: favourite mentors/teachers.

I had a lot going on this past week, so this was compiled kind of at the last minute. Which means it’s slightly less wordy than usual (yay!) Also, my first version of the list got scrapped because I wrote it and then promptly realized what a sausage fest it was. So I replaced a couple of dudes with women (sorry, Gandalf). Maybe my memory is just wacked, but why are there so few notable female mentor figures in fiction? For every eight men, I could think of maybe one woman.

Anyhow, here are the five!

1. Elodin (The Kingkiller Chronicle)

Name of the Wind2
Ah, Elodin. He’s just slightly ahead of Auri as my favourite character in the series. Genius. Kinda crazy. Mysterious. Tragic. The Master Namer is one of those profs that you constantly complain about at the beginning of the semester, because the lectures are so weird and unorthodox and there’s no sense to the grading system, but by the end you’re calling their lessons the most transcendent experience you’ve ever had in your academic life. Plus, he’s also one of the few people who’s able to ground Kvothe in humility.

“Re’lar Kvoteh, he said seriously. “I am trying to wake your sleeping mind to the subtle language the world is whispering. I am trying to seduce you into understanding. I am trying to teach you.” He leaned forward until his face was almost touching mine. “Quit grabbing at my tits.”

2. Jasnah Kholin (The Stormlight Archive)

The way of kings
One thing that is most definitely, sorely, lacking in fantasy is master-apprentice relationships between two female characters. But Brandon Sanderson does his best to remedy that with Jasnah and her ward, Shallan. Jasnah is a scholar and a self-proclaimed atheist. She doesn’t doesn’t suffer fools but is patient with her teachings. Serious, but possesses a wry sense of humour. Her discussions of philosophy with Shallan are some of the best scenes in the first book.

 

Shallan: You killed four men.
Jasnah: Four men who were planning to beat, rob, kill and possibly rape us.
Shallan: You tempted them into coming for us!
Jasnah: DId I force them to commit any crimes?
Shallan: You showed off your gemstones.
Jasnah: Can a woman not walk with her possessions down the street of a city?
Shallan: At night? Through a rough area? Displaying wealth? You all but asked for what happened!
Jasnah: Does that make it right? […] Am I a monster or am I a hero? Did I just slaughter four men, or did I stop four murderers from walking the streets? Does one deserve to have evil done to her by consequence of putting herself where evil can reach her? Did I have a right to defend myself? Or was I just looking for an excuse to end lives?

3. Chade Fallstar (Realm of the Elderlings)

Assassin's Apprentice
As the series progresses, we see Chade in many roles–assassin, spymaster, a secret relative, chief diplomat–but he was, and always will be, our protagonist’s first teacher. Chade enters Fitz’s life and imparts all sorts of higher learning–history, language, politics, comprehension and observational skills, herbery– alongside, of course, ways with which to kill. He teaches Fitz not to be a mindless killer but a scholar with a penchant for the deadly arts. His first and most valuable lesson, though? Your thoughts and opinions are valuable and it’s okay to express them.

“Learning is never wrong. Even learning to kill isn’t wrong.”

 

4. Helen Justineau (The Girl with All the Gifts)

The Girl with all the gifts
I don’t want to say too much about this one because spoilers, but Miss Justineau is our protagonist’s most favourite teacher. And for good reason. She truly cares about her students and exhibits compassion and understanding in a world where such things are deemed weaknesses. The relationship between Justineau and Melanie is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve encountered in recent memory.

 

 

5. John Keating (Dead Poets Society)

Dead Poet's Society
Is this cheating? Probably. But, then again, there is actually a book adaptation of the movie, so it totally counts. When I was in middleschool/highschool I always felt that this was the one movie they should show to all teachers at the beginning of each year. Mr. Keating shows that being a teacher isn’t just about teaching a subject. It’s about nurturing talents, broadening worldviews, encouraging students to carve out their own path in life, no matter how ludicrous others may view it.

 

He (and Robin Williams) will forever be “Oh Captain, My Captain.”

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

And there you have it! Feel free to tell me some of your favourite mentors/teachers in books!

 

“Champions of the Genre” – Explanation and Examples

As I write more and more reviews on this blog, you’ll see a small notation/badge (that I’ve yet to design) sometimes appear beside the review score: “Champions of the Genre.” You’ll also notice an identically-named shelf on my Goodreads page. It’s a designation plagiarized from inspired by video game critic Jim Sterling from the Jimquisition. And it means what it sounds like it means: the best of the best.

Many books feature beautiful prose, complex characters, dazzling worldbuilding, and deep exploration of human issues. But only a few among them shatter barriers with the violence to make the sky tremble and take notice. The barrier around the pre-conceived limit of a genre. The barriers of pre-packaged societal constructs. The barrier to the core of your heart.

These are books that I (read: subjective. Don’t send me angry messages) believe represent the best of what a genre can do.

They are the pathfinders. Ones that elevate the field to heights previously unimagined.

They are the defiant. Ones that look at all the injustice in the world and respond with simmering anger and purpose.

They are the clingers. Ones that tear through to the center of your being, latches on and stares into you, daring you to pull it away.

They are books you would buy multiple copies of without a single look of remorse for your weeping wallet. One to read to tatters. Two to read sparingly. Another to just lounge on your shelf looking pretty and pristine. And let’s not forget all the different editions. Before you know it, your shelf has become a shrine.

And today I present to you ten nine and a half examples of such stories.

~.~.~

On-the-Jellicoe-Road-banner2

The first time I read this, I nearly stopped after the first three chapters. Everything was vague and strange and confusing. But I’d bought it with what measly pocket money I had as a 15-year old, so, swallowing buyer’s remorse, I forced myself to continue. One of the best book-related decisions I would ever make, it turns out.

Imagine for a moment that you’re walking through the woods. Not quite lost, but just drifting…exploring. You let the world fall away from you until all you see and hear is the pulse of the moment. The moment where the past, the present, and future tangle all about you in a flurry of warmth
and then
just

stops.
And time settles around you in quiet repose. And in that moment you feel such a oneness with the world it’s enough to make you weep and laugh aloud at once.

Melina Marchetta takes that feeling and weaves it into an entire novel.

I disagree with Printz award selections more often than not. But On the Jellicoe Road deserves every accolade and more.

~.~.~

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Warchild takes your classic space opera plot–a war between the aliens and the humans, with pirates muddling things up in between–and swivels the focus onto the foremost victims of any war–the children. It can be read as a story about a young boy who gets trained to be a soldier and a spy. And it can be read as a story about child soldiers and the traumas of war and how they linger with deadly tenacity in someone so young. Karin Lowachee juggles many difficult subject matters and pulls them off with astounding realism. Her characters are compelling and multi-faceted, all of them being so much more than what they first seem. I absolutely adore it when a book makes me do a complete 180 on my feelings towards a character, and Warchild had two such moments.

Brutal. Heartbreaking. And necessary.

~.~.~

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At Swim, Two Boys is one of those books that makes you think, No human could have written this. And, Only a human could have written this. It’s probably the most beautifully-crafted piece of work I have ever read. O’Neil manipulates the English language with the finesse of a god and the pathos of a mortal. He has been (rightly) compared to James Joyce, but I find his work much more accessible than the latter (though no less groundbreaking). Because although story is a historical one–one that slides a lens over the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland–at it’s core, it’s a story of the endurance of love, friendship, and youth amidst violence and hatred. And anyone, regardless of sexuality, nationality, age, or gender, can relate to that.

~.~.~

The-Name-of-the-Wind-banner2
In the latest 10th anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind, there’s a blurb by Lin-Manuel Miranda saying, “No one writes like Pat Rothfuss.” And I’m inclined to agree. The Kingkiller Chronicles isn’t perfect by any means. I have issues with Kvothe and some of the side characters, as well as the pacing. But, my god, the writing. NotW opened my eyes to the fact that beautiful, just-the-right-side-of-purple, prose has a place in epic fantasy. And not just any epic fantasy–one about a magic school. It was completely mind-blowing to me at the time, and Pat’s work has since become a big inspiration to myself and countless writers.

~.~.~

Boy's-Life-banner2
Boy’s Life stands as the prime example of what a coming-of-age novel should be. It reaches into the heart of childhood and draws out the magic that lies entwined with the reality of growing up. The author understands so, so well that being a child is not all carefree happiness and sunshine. That there are pains and fears and uncertainties mixed in with the joy and wonder. McCammon transcribes all of that through gorgeous prose and a vivid setting that you swear you can just reach out and touch.

~.~.~

Baru-Cormorant-banner2
The Traitor Baru Cormorant is many things. Less a fantasy and more of a political thriller set in a secondary world, it’s one of the few economic-centric stories that didn’t make me want to stick a poker through my eye–that made me actually invested (ha!) in the nitty-gritty details of how the flow of money controls an entire country. Its main character, Baru, is one of the most complicated protagonists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting–ruthless, clever, and often unlikable, but so determined to set the world right. It’s also one of only two book I’ve read (the second being The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue) that gives you a map with notations made by the main character. (I’m baffled as to why it’s not done more often. A notated map can show something–however small– about a character in a way that you can’t do in the actual story.)

But what really makes it an entry on this list is how masterfully the author uses the readers’ expectations against them. You think you know what’s happening and you cling hard to that belief. And then the book blindsides you. I was left physically shaking and rummaging through the pieces of my heart by the end.

~.~.~

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This book shifted the foundation of my world. It was the first time I saw words being used to create something so wholly different and yet so honest. A WW2 book like no other, it touts a weary Death as a narrator who tells the story of a young orphan girl growing up in Nazi Germany. Using a kaleidoscope of beautiful imagery, the writing juxtaposes the brutality of the time period with the beauty of kindness and underscores the power inherent in language, both written and spoken. I read it, cried a year’s worth of tears, and read it again…and again. And reread it at least twice a year for five more years. The Book Thief became the foremost inspiration for my own writing style, and a copy of the rambling letter I’d sent to Marcus Zusak, and the reply I got, is still stuck up on my wall.

~.~.~

The-Fifth-Season-banner2You can always count on N.K. Jemisin to bring something new and/or important to fantasy, whether it’s an Ancient Egyptian inspired setting, a cast that comprises mostly of PoC characters, or bi(pan?)sexual Gods. Though The Broken Earth trilogy is not my favourite of her books (that goes to the Dreamblood duology), I think it’s her most important. It belongs in the “defiant” category– a story of oppression and conquerors and motherhood. And anger. So much righteous anger. The Fifth Season not only introduces a brilliantly clever narrative structure, a unique world, and complex characters, it features diversity of all kinds–sexuality, race, gender. The series is everything that modern fantasy can–and should–be, and it deserves all the awards (Hugo 2018, here we come!)

~.~.~

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And the best for last. Technically, all of Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books are Champions of the Genre, but I figure you don’t want to scroll through 16 additional entries, all featuring the same comment: “I will conduct blood sacrifices in Robin Hobb’s name.”

I can say with utter confidence that nothing will top this series for me (I’ve gone into details of what these books mean to me in this post). And my advice to newcomers? Don’t trust the blurbs. They make it sound like any other fantasy story where a young boy trains to become a master assassin. But it’s not.

Why? Because of the characters.

No one, in any genre of literature, writes characters like Robin Hobb does. Her characters feel like people you can pluck out into our world and have conversations with. Their relationships mirror the complexity of our own, spanning years and decades, filled with awkward bumps and painful distances. You will cry and yell and rejoice and despair alongside them. I’d heard someone say that you don’t read a Robin Hobb book, you live it. And that’s exactly it. It’s a long, winding journey through all the strangeness of life (plus magic and dragons and wolf brothers). And you sit there at the end of it a different, better, person.

~.~.~

And because I was short on time, a quick half-mention to The Isle of Blood (The Monstrumologist #3) by Rick Yancey. It’s horror. It’s beautifully philosophical. And it incorporates Nietzsche quotations without reading like a quirky contemporary indie feat. white teens. Read it.

~.~.~

And there you have it! I’ll probably compile a full list on a separate page and add to it as I go along.

Feel free to tell me some of your Champions of the Genre and throw some recommendations!