Is this the real life? Is this just Fantasy?

Any opportunity to quote Bohemian Rhapsody, however slim, must be taken. Jamie from the Perpetual Page-turner wrote about how she binge read a fantasy trilogy and fell a little in love with fantasy, and it was glorious. And other people have talked a lot about Fantasy, and I’ve always really loved fantasy, to the extent that I was once asked what my favorite fairytale was, and all I could think of was the Hobbit. My mother read the Hobbit to me, not fairytales. I have read fairytales, I’ll just clear that up, and I’ve had them read to me, but they didn’t stick as well as the Hobbit. So this is a fantasy appreciation post.

The beginnings
As I mentioned, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, my mother read the Hobbit to my sister and me when we were kids. I don’t remember how old I was, probably six or seven. My sister being three or four. I have no clue, I might need to ask my mother. She grew up loving the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, and she decided we needed to know it, so she started reading it to us. And I fell in love. The Hobbit is a bit of a fairytale, dragons, adventures, wizards, dwarfs, and I currently own like four editions of the Hobbit, and the graphic novel version. I have started collecting it, because that’s normal. I think my mother also tried reading the Lord of the Rings to us, but it’s a bit too grown up, so we couldn’t really grasp it when we were that young, I think.

So my mother gave me the Hobbit, my dad gave me the Neverending story. I don’t know if it was some sort of favorite from when he was a kid, but I think he read it to me. And I love the Neverending Story. It’s just gorgeous, and beautiful, and oh the feels. It’s very, very different from the Hobbit, but is also about friendship. And there are dragons, and horses, and loss, and oh God Atreyu, and all the feels.

When I started reading on my own my mother and father would just give me books they loved, so I grew up reading Roald Dahl, which I don’t think I pictured as fantasy when I was younger, because they’re set in our world, but obviously there are fantastical elements; there are giants (BFG), girls moving things with their minds (Matilda), glass elevators and magical chocolate stuff (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and crazy medicine (George’s Magical Medicine). I also read, or had read to me, the Witches when I was six years old, or seven, I was really young. And I was completely convinced witches were going to come and kill me, seriously, I was terrified. I also saw the movie when I was young, around eight. The Witches is now ruined for me. I have a very strained relationship with the book and I don’t know if I can ever read it, but I’m fine. I’m not crazy at all.

The crazy continues, and escalates
Then I got a bit older and I just read everything, ALL the books. Then I was like 11, 12, and my mother gave me the first Harry Potter book, because my mom is awesome. It was the Norwegian version because I wasn’t really strong enough in English to read it in the original. And I fell in LOVE! I think I read it in two days, because I didn’t want to put it down. And then my teenage years were pretty much devoted to reading Harry Potter. That sounded crazier than I wanted it to. Anyways, I got really excited waiting for the books to come out, rereading the old ones, watching the movies when they came out. I love all things Harry Potter. I won’t go into what it’s about, because it’s been around forever, but I love it for so many reasons, one: MAGIC, it’s about friendship, it’s got a great message in tolerance and love, and love winning over evil, and growing up. And they are funny. And they’re about war, and loss and they’re so great. The older I get the more of the flaws I see, but this is what growing up means. It doesn’t mean I love them less, because you can still appreciate things that are problematic. I’m very glad that I got to grow up with Harry Potter, because it really shaped how I read and the books I read.

Harry Potter was pretty much the gateway book to fantasy literature. I read the Lord of the Rings after the first movie came out. And it’s awesome. I’m trying to reread it, but there are all the other books too. ALL the books. My mother (this is a recurring theme, my mother giving me books) gave me the first Wheel of Time book when I was like 15, 16, and I then got obsessed with Wheel of Time. It’s an epic fantasy story, and it’s really good, it also has some problematic stuff about it, and it was intended as a 6 book series, but ended up as a 14 book series, so some of the middle ones are sort of meh, but I love it. It also led me to another writer, because after the 11th book came out the author passed away, before he was done! He had been sick for a long while so he knew he was dying, so he left a lot of notes. Brandon Sanderson then took up the pen and he completed the last books. Which means that I had found a new author, Brandon Sanderson. It took me a long time before I actually read any of his books, the first one was Elantris, and I didn’t like it that much, but I kept going, thank God, because I have found Mistborn.

Before Sandeson though my book journey went through all kinds of fantasy books: A Song of Ice and Fire first of all, it’s awesome, it’s magical. I read the Kushiel’s Legacy series, and all the series. I’m currently working my way through the Kingkiller Chronicles, Mistborn and I’m waiting for the last books in a lot of series. Which is annoying, people need to write faster, I’m looking at you Pat Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin.

Why do I love it?
I love fantasy for being an awesome kind of escapism. I always think of fantasy as sort of Fairytales 2.0. It’s magic and adventure and like fairytales a lot of fantasy sort of teaches you something about the world. I really like that, I like double voices and messages in books. It’s interesting that the writers of fantasy can sort of put in lessons, and it seems less scary, I guess, because it’s happening to someone else, someone in another world. Like Harry Potter sort of teaching you acceptance and the value of love and friendship, or Lord of the Rings teaching you about dedication and friendship and hard work, and family and you know all that stuff.

I love that a lot of fantasy written for kids/young adults, but there is still something in there that appeals to adults. I’m a librarian and we talked about this for pretty much all the lectures about kid’s literature. Some children’s authors write books in a way that makes it appeal to older readers. It’s a bit like watching a Disney movie you loved as a kid when you’re older and you see all the jokes they put into the movies that you didn’t get when you were a kid. There’s a sentence I like. I know how to put words in order. Yeah.

I don’t really have a preference for what kind of fantasy, I will read anything, and I have more trouble with individual books. But I will read urban fantasy, low fantasy, high fantasy, epic fantasy, dark fantasy, ALL the fantasy. I really love epic fantasy though, journeys and adventure and dragons, it’s fucking awesome.

I feel like it’s my most read genre, which is good, I guess, but I should read other kinds of books too. The thing about certain fantasy novels is that some authors have a remarkable ability. When I read for example The Final Empire and finished it I wanted to never read anything but epic fantasy. It’s amazing. These are some of the reasons I like fantasy and I will end with some recommendations

The Hobbit – Tolkien, the creator of modern fantasy. The Hobbit is a children’s story, but it has elves, dragons, dwarves, treasure, and you know Gandalf. It’s about a young hobbit named Bilbo who goes on an adventure with 13 dwarfs and a wizard to kill a dragon and it’s magical.

Harry Potter – I realize this probably goes without saying, but Harry Potter is amazing. It’s what
really got me into fantasy. If you haven’t read it it’s about a boy, in our world who is told he’s a wizard, and he enters the world of magic and he goes to Hogwarts.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – This is a trilogy about a young woman named Karou, who hangs out with angels and chimera, and it is beautifully written, it’s so lyrical and gorgeous and wow. It’s probably also a good place to start, because it’s sort of urban fantasy-ish, so it might be a bit more digestible if you’re not used to fantasy. It’s always good to have a surrogate for yourself when it’s a new world, it’s why the Doctor has companions (non sequitur? Me? Don’t be silly).

A Song of Ice And Fire – This is a high fantasy series set in Westeros and it’s for more “experienced” fantasy readers. It’s probably not the best place to start if you’ve never read fantasy because it is high fantasy so the language is very regal and it’s a whole new world with different systems and culture. It’s about the different old families of Westeros, the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons and Targaryens (pluralizing made up words is hard) and it is sort of based around the death of the king and the war that follows. It’s got a lot of political intrigue and it’s amazing. It’s also quite explicit when it comes to violence and sex so it’s not for the weak of stomach. It’s been turned into a TV show (Game of Thrones).

American Gods – This is another urban fantasy, but it’s also based in mythology. It’s by the wonderful Neil Gaiman, as a warning it is not his easiest book, but it is gorgeous. It’s about a man named Shadow who was just released from prison and is “hired” by a man named Wednesday to be his assistant/bodyguard. It’s based on old gods from Norse, Germanic, Greek mythology coming to America and being replaced and trying to find their place in the new world, and it’s amazing.

I have a lot of other recommendations, but if I don’t stop now I’ll go on forever. I’ll make more recommendation posts later. Read fantasy guys, it’s fun.