Friday, 13 September 2013

Fantasy Reading List

All the books on this list have been recommended to me by my sister and are currently all on her bookshelves. I haven't read any of these yet and I'm incredibly excited to delve into these new worlds. 

The Blade Itself 

First on the list is Joe Abercrombie's trilogy First Law. Googling it I found Forbes writer Erik Kain says 'it is truly wonderful fantasy, easily some of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.' I have seen the first book around many times, the front cover always catches my eye. 

The blurb reads: 

Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers and priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell, but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ, it’s a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular – a shade too popular for her employers' taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria’s least reliable drunkard, Styria’s most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Barbarian who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that’s all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started...

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

This sounds like an interesting book, the war and revenge really intrigue me and fits in with The Stone Men of Raksaka. 

Kushiel's Dart

The next book on the list is another trilogy, well, two trilogies combined into one legacy: Kushiel's Legacy, by Jacqueline Carey. Both my sister and mum have read these books, I remember seeing them lying around the living room and thinking the covers were really racy, I was only tenish.

The description says:

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.

This sounds like it will have a very strong female lead, and while that doesn't directly apply to my novel it is a character type I like to read.

Assassin's Apprentice 

Third is Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy. My mum loves all Robin Hobb books and says they're so easy to read, and that I'd really like them. Wikipedia says:

The Farseer Trilogy follows the life of FitzChivalry Farseer (Fitz), a trained assassin, in a kingdom called The Six Duchies while his uncle, Prince Verity, attempts to wage war on the Red-Ship Raiders from The OutIslands who are attacking the shores of the kingdom by turning the people of the Six Duchies into Forged ones; still alive, but without any emotion or soul. Meanwhile Prince Regal's jealousy and the indulgence of his own selfish whims threatens to destroy The Six Duchies.

Well, this one has assassins and the Six Duchies, which is similar to my character, Emin being chosen to assassinate the prince and to start a war between the Six Kingdoms. It's funny how you don't even need to read a book to see the links between it and your own work. 

Lion of Senet

Jennifer Fallon has written six trilogies, but my sister has recommended specifically The Second Sons trilogy. Here is a description:

On the world Ranadon there is no night as both suns shine brightly. The intervention of Belagren, High Priestess of the Shadowdancers, and the sacrifice of a child of royal blood, has banished the Age of Shadows from the skies. Belagren's position is unquestioned . . . until circumstances begin to tip political rivalries into a deadlier game altogether. 

A volcanic eruption rocks the seas separating the Kingdom of Dhevyn and the mainland Kingdom of Senet, and a mysterious sailor is shipwrecked on the island of Elcast. Badly wounded, his arrival stirs up old hatreds and unravels old secrets. His presence is enough to even bring Antonov, the powerful Lion of Senet, to the island and fear to the Keep of the Duke of Elcast.

A strong friendship develops between Dirk, second son of the Duke, and Kirshov Latanya, second son of the Lion of Senet. But will they, and their friendship, survive the chain of events set in motion by the ambitions of the ruthless High Priestess of the Shadowdancers and the domineering Lion of Senet?

This sounds a little confusing to me, I don't really know what I just read. Maybe the actually book will make a little more sense. 

The Curse of Chalion 

For once this isn't a trilogy, though it is still part of series of stand alone books, if that makes sense? My sister recommended this book because it was very character driven, with an usual hero. The internet says: 

A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril has returned to the noble household he once served as page, and is named, to his great surprise, secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is as assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions. But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion and all who stand in their circle. And only by employing the darkest, most forbidden of magics can Cazaril hope to protect his royal charge -- an act that will mark the loyal, damaged servant as a tool of the miraculous ... and trap him, flesh and soul, in a maze of demonic paradox, damnation, and death.

I think one of the problems with fantasies is that there are so many new made up names for characters and places that it does get a little confusing. 

Gardens of the Moon

My sister has this to say about Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series,'Very long, very complicated, and very epic. For people that have finished Game of Thrones this is the best series to read, but if you stop reading them you will forget what happened and have to start over again.' And I've just seen there are ten books in this series, so I'm going to be very busy! I do recognise these covers and I admit, they do look epic. They also remind me the covers of The Percy Jackson series, I think it's the little helmet motif.

Anyway, Good Read's blurb says this about the first book, Gardens of the Moon:

Bled dry by warfare, the vast Malazan empire simmers with discontent. Sergeant Whiskeyjack's Bridgeburners and surviving sorceress Tattersail wanted to mourn the dead of Pale. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities, holds out, Empress Lasseen’s ambition knows no bounds, and the gods intend to intervene.

I think I'll start this series last as it will obviously take me the longest. 

Overall, I am looking forward to reading all these books. Giving myself a reading list also makes me feel more productive than I really am. The one I am most excited for from these blurbs is the Assassin's Apprentice. I feel that all these books will help me with writing my novel and be a great source of inspiration

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Fantasy Inspiration

As I'm currently writing my own fantasy novel it made me think of all the fantasies I have read and how they may have influenced my writing. If you haven't read any of these books, I recommend you do because they are all brilliantly written and a joy to read.

I suppose the fantasy that it it going to be on nearly everybody's reading list is the one and only Harry Potter series. So, with no surprise it's on mine. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was one of the first books I remember reading and being enthralled by. I zipped through the first three books then had to wait impatiently for the next four. Once they were out I had to then wait for my sister to read them first - luckily she was a super speedy reader. What I love most about Harry Potter is the depth of the characters and how each one develops throughout the series. No matter how many times I have read them, or seen them, there is still so much to talk about. Snape is a particular favourite. Pottermore is also great as it allows you to read the back-story of the secondary characters that you just love, like Lupin and McGonagall.

Although I have only just read the books this year I was in love with Lord of the Rings from the moment I stepped out of the cinema after The Fellowship of the Ring way back in 2001. This is one case where the films don't ruin the books; Peter Jackson is a directing genius. I love the journey that takes place throughout the trilogy, and this has probably inspired my interest in designing maps and intricate landscapes for all my fantasy pieces. I adore the world Tolkien created and how well it transferred into film. The writing task I had to do in year 7, Escape from Kraznir, was a total rip-off of LOTR but I enjoyed it immensely. I like how all the fantastical creatures are included, yet feel very realistic and not cheesy, like cave trolls and Shelob the giant spider.

A massive change from LOTR now. Ella Enchanted was one of my favourite young adult fantasy books, loosely inspired by the fairytale Cinderella. It was like a modern day retelling of a fairytale and as an eleven year old this blew my mind. I didn't know we could retell stories, amazing! Unfortunately, the film missed the point entirely and was comedic disaster, though I do like Anne Hathaway.

I guess in a way my love of fantasy really stemmed from fairy tales. Disney was a big part of my childhood, and princesses and talking animals are some of the conventions of the fantasy world. In my younger years I did prefer more fluffy fantasies, like Goose Girl and Enna Burning by Shannon Hale. Though they did still include political intrigue it was more about a young girls adventure, with a little romance, and no brutal killings, or at least not as much as Game of Thrones...

A Song of Ice and Fire series is brilliant. They may look dauntingly big but they are incredibly easy to read and they're so interesting you never want to put them down. They're not as fantastical as LOTR, there aren't elves or goblins, but they do have dragons, which are awesome! It is more about kingdoms, politics, betrayal and treachery. All very adult stuff, that does sound complicated but it's simple once you start reading, though remains complicated when you try to explain it to someone who's never read it, or watched it. My fantasy novel is a lot like GOT in the fact that I want it to be serious and a little bit gory, and leaves you on the edge of your seat. Most of my other fantasy pieces have been more childish with a strong focus on romance, so this is quite the change.

And after adding these images, I've realised that most of the fantasies I like have been made into movies/tv shows. This is great as one of my dreams is to have one of my novels made into a film. I have a lot more reading to do around the fantasy genre, and I'm really excited about it (My sister has recommended dozens of books, so I'm going to be a very busy reader). However, I'm not excited about having to hold the massive books open while trying to read in bed. That is why Kindles are so great. 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

To Do List: BLOG MORE!

Wow. A seriously long time since I last posted and I don't even have an excuse. This summer has flown by in a blur of nothingness (though I got to go on holiday, which was lovely). It's been a strange one. And I'm not even going back to some sort of education this September which is even weirder.

I feel terrible because I haven't done any writing, blog or otherwise, since July. I haven't entered any competitions since May either. But I have written a To Do List, and those are the top things on it.
I guess I've been bogged down with this 'being an adult' business. The stress of finding a job, especially one involving writing, is humongous, mainly because there aren't any. However, I'm coming to accept it as I will hopefully being moving to Bristol next year while my boyfriend does a Masters in Law, and there will be plenty more jobs in Bristol than in the dead-end town of Ivybridge.

However, I have looked into volunteering at my local library, and have a sort of informal interview/chat on Friday the 13th (unlucky for some). If I get this position it will give me opportunities to meet some authors, even if they are just local, and have a good nosey at some interesting books. I'm a very organised person so I think I'll be great at shelving books, I always organise mismatched shelves wherever I go anyway.

One of my goals on my To Do List is to reach 10,000 words of my novel project, the continuation of The Stone Men of Raksaka. I'm on around 4,000 words and have drawn plenty of maps, but I really need to knuckle down. I have a selection of fantasy books to read to get me in the zone (my sister is a fantasy nut and half her room is filled with massive tomes). Plus, reading all these long fantasy series will add to my target of reading 100 books this year.

So I may not have any more assignments to do, but I will keep you updated on the personal writing, the job searching, and the potential competitions.

Now leave me alone so I can write!