Welcome back to the Friday Feature of our Fantasy writers group, A Drift of Quills! We Quills get together once a month to chat up aspects of reading and writing—and this time we’re talking about books we love best. Grab your chocolate, sit back, and get comfy.
Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark
When faced with the topic for this first Friday, Books We Love, I immediately considered the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but a commentary or review of any of those would take far more than my allotted space. Besides, by now, everyone knows the tale because of the movies.
Instead, let me share with you my love for author Stephen Lawhead and his revisionary telling of the story of Robin Hood in his King Raven Trilogy consisting of Hood, Tuck and Scarlet.
In Hood, we are introduced to a young man–heir to his father’s lands–who takes only his own pleasure seriously. When Norman invaders arrive and wreck havoc, he tries to buy back the land, but finds himself pursued, his life in danger. He abandons his father’s kingdom and people and runs to hide in the greenwood. There, Bran ap Brychan discovers the old growth forest in Wales is more than meets his wayward eye. He must come to grips with the mystery of this living, breathing entity. More than that, he must claim it in order to survive and become what he is truly meant to be: no common thief as the Nomans think, but a man with a mission ordained by forces far beyond his ken.
Lawhead writes with enviable knowledge. His research is deep and reveals fresh, relatable insights to times gone by. He draws the reader into the intricacies of politics, intrigue and life of ancient times that are not so very different from our own. His writing reflects in subtle and clever ways on our modern ideals and behaviors. I enjoy reading his books more than once–the mark of a great author. When I do, I am drawn again into a kinship with my own Welsh ancestors and Lawhead makes me yearn for that rich past.
Recently I read a couple works I found worthy of including in my list of favorites: the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson and the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks. In the Sanderson stories, characters “spin” magic via their use of different metals. In the Weeks stories, colors fuel the magic. I found only one real fault with Mistborn. While Sanderson drew a believable young female protagonist, she was not “whole” for me, perhaps because I found the relationships somewhat lacking. Having said that, the magic system is highly creative and great fun. As to the Lightbringer series, I found the characters fun and believable and the personal relationships, which are central to the story, satisfying and genuine. As a bonus I laughed out loud—fairly frequently.
As I consider these tales, I see a common denominator: each delivers a “new” world and unique magic. For Sanderson, it is the characters’ use of metals to “read” others’ emotions, bring about certain events, travel and communicate. For Weeks, it was the magic of colors to create things and the way those who wield the magic of different colors are prone to certain personality characteristics. These authors delivered something outside the standard fantasy tale (complete with a wizard and a troll and a fairy and an elf … and so on and so on). Each delivered a new kind of magic and a new category of fantasy character. Best of all, each opened a new world to me—a world in which I lost myself—if only for a time …
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Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
My website (You can use this link or you could use the menu at the top. Whatever browns your bird!)
The collection of books I like is pretty large, but the Books I Love are actually few. I considered Lawhead’s Hood, but Kristie nabbed that right up. No surprise, there! (And with good reason, too.) I talk about Tad Williams’s series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn rather a lot, so it’s clearly time for something else. If you haven’t read the Damiano Books (I’ve also seen them in a one-volume set called Trio for a Lute) you are missing a real treat. Damiano is set against the backdrop of the Italian Renaissance where faith-based magic is real. A wizard’s son, an innocent, a musician, Damiano is befriended and instructed by the archangel Raphael. To save his city from war, he sets out on a quest to find a powerful sorceress. Along the way he is beset by betrayal, disillusionment, and death—and still he must confront the power and darkness within himself in order to protect those he loves. Damiano wants to use his powers for good, yet he’s certain that since he’s a witch he’s automatically damned. MacAvoy’s prose is beautifully lyrical, and her settings come alive with allusions to historical events, people, and society. The characters are real, they’re believable, and they face truly difficult issues. She has a talent for revealing how lovely, wonderful and terrible the world can be, and how difficult the struggle to know what’s right and wrong.
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Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts on them? What are one or two of your favorite books?