#WyrdAndWonder Fantasy Five Tuesday: We’re Going On A Quest
Back in November I ran a series of posts called “Sci-5 Tuesdays” to celebrate Sci-Fi Month, so for Wyrd & Wonder, I thought it would be fun to do something similar to highlight some of the fantasy tropes and themes that I find simply irresistible! In the last few years, I’ve also been fortunate to read some wonderful new books in the genre, so to give them some extra attention, for each Tuesday’s topic I will also be featuring five titles that I recently enjoyed.
In Week 3, we’ll be looking at QUESTS, arguably the most timeless, classic trope in fantasy literature. These often begin with a goal that our hero (or group of heroes) will need to fulfill, usually involving a long journey through multiple exotic locations thus allowing plenty of opportunities for “side quests” or other mini-adventures along the way.
It’s always good to get back to the basics. Brian D. Anderson reminds us all that an epic fantasy novel isn’t required to be filled with sweeping battles, an indecipherable morass of politics and magical systems, or enough characters to fill a small village in order to be a hit with readers. Sometimes simple is best, even though finding that sweet spot between originality and conventionality can be tricky. However, I think Anderson manages to strike the right balance. In this opening volume of The Sorcerer’s Song, we meet Mariyah, the daughter of a wine merchant, as well as her betrothed, a talented musician named Lem. They two of them live in Vylari, a peaceful realm magically protected by a barrier hiding it from Lamoria, the dangerous world beyond. One night, Lem returns home to find a stranger claiming to have come from Lamoria, which shouldn’t be possible, as no one should be able to breach the magical wards. Except, as Lem later learns, it’s actually happened once before. Lem’s mother had purportedly passed over and come back, bearing him in her womb. Rocked by these revelations, Lem is driven by the need to know the truth of his origins as well as to fulfill his quest on this new path destiny has set for him. To stop a rising darkness and protect those he loves, he will need to leave Vylari—and, as much as it breaks his heart, Mariyah. (Read the full review…)
Told through multiple perspectives, Black Sun takes place in a world inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas. As the winter solstice descends upon the holy city of Tova, all the members of the Sky Made clans under the newly appointed Sun Priest would normally be preparing for the upcoming celebrations. But this year, the event would be coinciding with the solar eclipse, a sign of great disturbance. In Carrion Crow, disgraced among the clans, a fanatical group of renegades believe that it is a sign of the imminent return of their god who will take vengeance upon those who stripped them of their power generations ago. Meanwhile in the city of Cuecola, exiled far from home, a Teek captain named Xiala finds herself taking on an unusual assignment. The job sounded easy enough when she agreed to it, involving the transport of a single passenger across the seas to Tova. As it turns out though, the passenger in question is a strange and unnerving young man—blinded, scarred, and rumored to have the ability to speak to crows. Called Serapio, his very presence makes Xiala and the crew uneasy, added to the fact that their benefactor has stipulated a nearly impossible deadline for their journey through treacherous waters. Beautifully crafted and filled with lusciously detailed descriptions of exotic locales and memorable characters, Black Sun is as close to perfection as you can get. These are the kinds of stories we live for, richly woven adventures that whisk us away to imaginative worlds full of complex magic. (Read the full review…)
Taking place in a fantasy world inspired by history and culture of feudal Japan, Shadow of the Fox is told through the eyes of three characters from very different walks of life. First we have Yumeko, a half-kitsune girl who was raised by monks at the Silent Winds temple. Her whole life, she has been taught she must hide her true nature or else she would be hunted down for her part yokai heritage. However, one day her home comes under attack by demons trying to steal a powerful scroll hidden in the temple. Yumeko, the only survivor of the massacre, manages to escape with the precious artifact, vowing to do all she can to transport it somewhere safe. Almost right away, she encounters a lone samurai working on behalf of the mysterious Shadow Clan, who has also been tasked to retrieve the scroll for his masters. Kage Tatsumi is a demon hunter, who’s only following his orders. When he meets the girl named Yumeko who claims to have fled from the ruined temple and knows where the scroll has been taken for safekeeping, he has no choice but to follow her and keep her safe while she leads him to his goal (not knowing, of course, that what he seeks has been on her the entire time). Like a roleplaying game, our party of heroes combine their knowledge and skills to solve the problem, and as things took a turn towards a quest narrative, these became wonderufl opportunties to cement their alliances. (Read the full review…)
Steeped in rich history and mythology, the world was Starless was a delight to discover and experience. Deep in the deserts of Zarkhoum there lives a brotherhood of warrior-priests who dedicate themselves to the god Pahrkun the Scouring Wind. It is here that we find Khai, identified as the Princess Zariya’s “shadow”, destined to be her protector. But being chosen by their god also meant that Khai was entrusted to the Brotherhood of Pahrkun to raise and train as a warrior—and there was just one major complication. While the solution ultimately presented itself in the form of an age-old desert tradition, it meant that Khai had to grow up without knowing an important truth. Split into several parts, the story first begins in the desert, where readers get to catch a glimpse of Khai’s early years growing up within the Brotherhood. The second part of the book opens up the world a bit more, introducing readers to the court of the royal family. Khai also finally gets to meet Princess Zariya for the first time, making a shift from a monastery full of men to close quarters dominated by women. Finally, the story shifts gears almost completely for the last part of the book, throwing readers headfirst into a more traditional fantasy quest narrative which puts more emphasis on action and adventure. Most impressive of all is that Jacqueline Carey was able to pull off this powerful, multi-faceted tale in just a single volume. (Read the full review…)
Set in the 19th century on the Irish coast, the story follows protagonist Miren who is last of the “true” O’Malleys, an old family which has long held sway over the local community. But even as their wealth has dwindled over the years and their ancestral home of Hob’s Hallow stands in near ruins, the O’Malley name still much power and influence. For this reason, Miren’s grandmother Aoife has arranged a marriage for her to her cousin Aidan in the hopes of restoring the family’s fortunes. In a twist of fate though, Miren soon discovers a secret revealed in a collection of her late grandfather’s old letters. Growing up, she’d always been told her parents died when she was a baby, which was why she was raised by her grandparents. But now, she has reason to believe her mother and father are still alive, living at a place called Blackwater. No one knows where that might be, but Miren is determined to find it and confront her parents on why they gave her up. Besides, she has no desire to lose her freedom or to stay at Hob’s Hallow—especially once she realizes the awful bargain her ancestors had struck to ensure the O’Malley’s prosperity, and that Aoife wants to Miren and Aidan follow in their footsteps. With the sudden death of her grandmother, Miren realizes she has no reason left to stay, and so she makes her daring escape. What follows is a beautifully written tale, with as much excitement as there is danger and unknown wonders in this fairy tale inspired adventure. (Read the full review…)