January 17th, 2017

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Book Report: Thoughts on Fantasy

I might actually meet my deadline. I think I can finish the first draft this week, and that then gives me about a week for polishing. I’m heading into the big final confrontation stuff, so it tends to go more quickly, unless I have to stop and think.

I haven’t done a book report in ages. I guess I went through a bit of a “blah” reading phase. But I recently read one I want to talk about, The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst. It’s the kind of fantasy novel I’ve been looking for. I’m not sure I’d call it “light” because some pretty dark stuff happens, but it has a sense of optimism to it and the protagonists are honorable, relatable people, so it’s not too depressing. The worldbuilding is astonishing. The society and the physical structure of the world are unlike anything I’ve seen before. This is definitely not your standard-issue quasi-medieval fantasy world.

For one thing, the people live in trees! There are whole villages formed among the branches of giant trees. However, the forest isn’t entirely safe because there’s a delicate balance between the people and the spirits of the world. The spirits want to kill people, but people have managed to keep them in check and get their service at times. The story is about what happens when that balance goes off and how it may take a new approach to achieve a different kind of balance. Saying much more about the story would give away too much.

Between this and Uprooted, it makes you look at the woods in a totally different way.

I’ve also been doing some non-fiction reading. It took me ages to get through it since I was fitting it in around fiction reading and writing, but I read The Fellowship, by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski, which is about the group of writers around Oxford that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The book gets into the history and lives of Lewis, Tolkien, and the other main members of the Inklings, weaving their individual stories together in the ways their lives intersected and delving into their individual faiths and the influence of life and faith on their writing. It was fascinating stuff, if a bit dense at times.

In a way, it made me wish for a group of friends like that, people to get together with and talk about writing and myth and faith. But then the thought of reading my work in progress out loud to people is rather terrifying, and getting together a couple of times a week would be overkill to me. I wouldn’t have time to get any writing done.

Reading about their influences and their philosophies on fantasy was interesting because it echoes a lot of the way I look at it, as a way of exploring ideas and creating places where amazing things can happen.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this book to anyone who wasn’t really, really interested in the topic, though.