Those First Few Pages: 8 Hooks That Get Me

One of the criticisms I often hear levelled at books is that they take a while to “get interesting”. Even well-crafted first chapters can be a tad slow if the characters, world and story haven’t fully sunk their claws in yet. Nonetheless, I think most readers know to stick with a promising book even if it’s not immediately riveting, because they will be rewarded if and when those claws do sink in. Some of my favourite books had beginnings that didn’t powerfully hook me, so I don’t expect to be utterly wooed from the first line, or even the first few pages.

Occasionally, however, I am. Some books have striking openings that grab me and tug me forward, creating a level of excitement I might not normally expect for at least a few chapters. I always find these beginnings impressive, and enjoy trying to pinpoint what it was about them that drew me and other readers who raved about them in so completely. So for this post, I thought I’d do just that, and look at few “hooks” from beginnings that enthralled me: Continue reading

Three Year Blogiversary

Thoughts on Fantasy just turned three! Well, it actually turned three back at the start of this month but I am bad at keeping track of these things, so I only just noticed. It’s strange to think it’s been 3 years since I sat there figuring out how to use Wordpress and nervously hit “publish” on my first post. At least I’ve done a little bit of redesigning this year, so things don’t look quite the same as they did back then. Continue reading

5 Features That Make Me Fall in Love With a Book Cover

I’ve always loved beautiful book covers. I enjoy adding them to Pinterest boards and putting them in prominent places on my shelf. A great cover can help convince me to buy a book, and I’ll pay more to get an edition with a cover I prefer. However, a year or so ago I wrote a post highlighting some typical features of fantasy book covers, and since then I’ve paid even closer attention to the content and style of them. I’ve noticed there are certain features I have a distinct preference for – ones that catch my eye and make me want to reach out and grab the books they adorn. So I thought it might be fun to list some not-so-secret ways a book cover can enchant me: Continue reading

Tough Travels: Assassins

It’s Tough Travelling time again! This is a feature hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction (originally created by Fantasy Review Barn). Every month, with the help of Diana Wynne Jones’s classic Tough Guide to Fantasyland, it puts the spotlight on a particular fantasy trope, theme or cliché, and invites bloggers to list stand-out books related to that week’s theme.

This month’s theme is assassins: Continue reading

The Blogger Recognition Award

Badge: Blogger Recognition Award

A big thank you to Bookneeders and Red String Paper Cuts, who have kindly nominated me for the Blogger Recognition Award! Click the links to see their awards (and good blogging advice!) and check out their blogs. I know I’ve been slow to respond, but I’ve been looking forward to accepting and passing on the award love. Continue reading

Tough Travels: Beginnings

I always enjoyed coming across the ‘Tough Travels’ weekly feature on fantasy blogs – started by Fantasy Review Barn, every week it highlighted a different fantasy trope, theme or cliché from Diana Wynne Jones’s classic Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and participating bloggers listed books related to that week’s theme. Now Laura Hughes has brought Tough Travels back and is hosting it as a monthly feature on Fantasy Faction, so I thought I’d join in and become a tough (or not-so-tough) traveller myself!

This month’s theme is beginnings: Continue reading

Why Gods Are Usually Better Left Off-Stage in Fantasy

Call me old fashioned, but a God in fiction should have god-like powers. What exactly are those? Well, a snap of the fingers and they can bring drought, famine, flood or plenty, kill hundreds, create hundreds, change the world or influence people’s lives and fates. Hell, they are usually the ones that created the world in the first place. Most importantly, their powers trump everyone else’s. If they’re a god, they’re more than everyone else: they’re the ultimate power.

This leads me to why I often have a problem with gods traipsing around centre-stage in fantasy novels, TV shows, or films. If they’re no longer a mysterious, largely absent and only mildly-interfering power, they can become problematic. Here are a few reasons why (and I’m well aware other people may not mind these things as much as I do!): Continue reading

Getting The Last Line: 10 Kinds of Closing Sentences

Writers spend a good deal of time fretting about the opening sentence of their novel, just as readers enjoy quoting first lines from their favourite books. This is understandable, given so much is riding on that first impression. But what about closing lines? What about the final words that resolve the story and linger in a reader’s mind after they shut the book?
Continue reading

Why I Write Fairy Tales: Wee Folk and Wise

This guest post is brought to you by Deby Fredericks, whose blog Wyrmflight has taught me many an interesting dragon-related fact and myth. She recently edited an anthology of fairy and folk tale-inspired stories called Wee Folk and Wise, and has shared some reflections from Matthew Timmins, one of the collection’s contributors, on the age-old appeal of fairy tales: Continue reading

Crows and Ravens in Fantasy

Dragons are strongly associated with fantasy fiction, so much so that they have become a symbol for the genre. Given that these imaginary beasts only inhabit the realms of fantasy, fairy tale and legend, and thrill many a reader, this makes sense. However, I’d argue the humble crow or raven pops up in fantasy books and films just as often, even if it is sometimes in a more symbolic or background role.

Since I love crows, and recently changed the look of my blog to feature a crow rather prominently, I thought this might be a good excuse to take a closer look at these sometimes under-appreciated birds and their prevalence in speculative fiction. Continue reading