Must Fictional Parents Always Be Absent?

I recently started a series looking at “uncharted territory” in fantasy fiction, and in the comments I.W. Ferguson very rightly pointed out that something you don’t often see in the genre is parents and their children doing things together:

“I rarely see children and their parents doing things together in fantasy. So often the parents are dead, missing, out of town, unhelpful or antagonistic, or even not mentioned at all. There are many, many books I haven’t read, but if you’ve also found this rare, I would enjoy a post about it. Also, I’d love to learn about examples showing how it can be done well.”

I’ve noticed how common it is to encounter orphan characters in fantasy, but this comment got me thinking about absent or evil parents in general, and I wondered if it would be possible to find examples of more positive, visible parent-child relationships in popular fantasy tales. Continue reading

Tough Travels: Strongholds

It’s the first of the month, so time for a bit of tough travelling again! This feature was originally created and run by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction. Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s humorous classic The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, every month 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 strongholds: Continue reading

Where Are All The Female Magical Mentors?

Earlier this year I was hunting for examples of good fantasy beginnings for a Tough Travels post. The topic for that month’s feature was inspired by a quote from Diana Wynne Jones, which pointed out that the typical fantasy protagonist usually starts out in poor circumstances until they are contacted by their Mentor:

“you will be contacted by your TOUR MENTOR (normally an elderly male MAGIC USER with much experience) who will tell you what to do, which is almost certainly to discover you are a MISSING HEIR.”

In my hunting, I tried to find an example of a book that flipped the cliché a little bit, and had a magical mentor character that was neither elderly nor male. The elderly part I managed, but finding a female magical mentor? Harder than I thought it would be. Continue reading

Uncharted Territory: Things I Rarely See in Fantasy

Because I write and think about fantasy fiction quite a bit (as the title of this blog might suggest), I occasionally notice interesting spots of “uncharted territory” in the stories I read and watch – i.e. concepts, ideas or character types I rarely come across. I don’t mean obvious things that no one would expect in the genre anyway, but small, specific things that I try to find examples of and am intrigued when I come up with close to nothing. So I thought these might provide good inspiration for a series of posts. Continue reading

How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover

I’m not averse to a few fantasy clichés on a book cover – they let me know at a glance that I’m looking at a fantasy fiction novel, and can be nice if used in creative or appealing ways. As with all clichés, however, they become eye-roll-worthy when used en masse, i.e. when several standard tropes are all packed into the one artwork. If a book tries to cover too many bases, it can start to look a little silly.

I’ve encountered a few covers that take it a bit far, but I thought it’d be amusing to go even further, and have a bit of fun with the tropes of my favourite genre… so here is my recipe for a no-holds-barred, all-boxes-ticked, epic high fantasy book cover (accompanied by examples from the most clichéd design I can muster). I’m no graphic designer, but I imagine that will add a nice level of unprofessional shine to my examples. Continue reading

Tough Travels: Adepts

I’m on the road doing a little real-world travelling at the moment, so I’m glad to still be able to join in for a little fantasy travelling too. This feature was originally created and run by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction. Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s humorous classic The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, every month 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 adepts:

The Tough Guide defines an Adept as ‘one who has taken what amounts to a post-graduate course in Magic. If a Magic User is given this title, you can be sure he/she is fairly hot stuff. However, the title is neutral and does not imply that the Adept is either Good or Evil.’

Ah, the study of magic – who doesn’t secretly want to be trained as a witch or wizard? Sadly I don’t have that option, so here are three well-trained fictional magic-wielders through whom I’ve enjoyed the vicarious experience of magical excellence: Continue reading

An Unexpected Potter Pilgrimage

I recently visited a friend of mine in Edinburgh, and although I didn’t know much about the city beforehand, I did remember it being mentioned in relation to J.K. Rowling. In particular, I’d heard there was a café there where she wrote parts of the first Harry Potter book. So when my friend asked if there was anything specific I wanted to do, I mentioned that I’d quite like to stroll by. I didn’t really expect anything too impressive or Potter-ish, though – it was just a café, after all.

Fortunately, my friend turned out to be far more knowledgable about Rowling and the history of the books than I am. She took me not just to the café, but to many other Potter-related places. I admit, I had trouble concealing my fangirl excitement. For some reason I had not expected Rowling to have drawn so much inspiration from the city around her, and in such obvious ways.

I’m sure many fans know these things already, but I thought I’d share a few pictures and details for any who, like me, have hitherto remained oblivious to their existence: Continue reading

The Problem With Multiple Narrators in Audiobooks

I love audiobooks, and listen to them regularly. In my experience, most audiobooks have one narrator who reads the entire book. However, it’s also common to have two narrators, particularly if there are two main point of view (POV) characters. Often a male voice artist will read the male character, and a female artist the female character. As long as the narrators are good, I enjoy both of these arrangements.

However, I’ve occasionally come across audiobooks that have four or more narrators, one for each POV (I’m sure it helps that I love fantasy, a genre well known for having many POV characters). It sounds great, right? Each character gets their own unique sound and you get to listen to a variety of voices. Unfortunately, I’m rarely as impressed by multiple narrators as I am by one or two. Here’s why: Continue reading

The Dark Corners of Fiction: Lovecraft’s Effect

What does it really mean to be Lovecraftian? This week I’m delighted to host a guest post by historian-turned-novelist Kathryn Troy, who has just released her dark romantic fantasy novel A Vision in Crimson. Her historical expertise in the supernatural and the Gothic informs her fiction at every turn, and she’s stopping by on her blog tour to take a look at the influence of Lovecraft on speculative fiction:

Howard Phillips Lovecraft is one of the most influential authors in American literature. His craft, his universe, his subject matter and underlying themes are so pervasive in speculative fiction—fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and everything in between—that his impact is seen and heard the world over, even when it isn’t recognized as such.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a speculative fiction author today who doesn’t know who Lovecraft is, or doesn’t attribute him with having at least a modicum of influence over their own writing. But what does it really mean to be Lovecraftian? Continue reading

Tough Travels: Non-Human Heroes

It’s the 1st of June, which means it’s Tough Travelling time once more! This is a feature hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction (originally created by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn). Every month, with the help of Diana Wynne Jones’s classic The 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 non-human heroes: Continue reading