Hi guys, today I’m discussing fantasy reads for contemporary readers – and I’ve got a giveaway of a special early edition of Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (I KNOW)! Keep reading for more!
So last week, I was having dinner with a couple of book bloggers, all of whom love and read fantasy and speculative fiction much more than I do. And I, being the dissenter, said what I always say when confronted with this issue: “I’ve tried to love fantasy books, but I’ve failed.”
It’s true. Fantasy – mostly YA fantasy – doesn’t seem to work for me. As many of you know, I’m a mostly YA contemporary reader. I like real situations with real girls and guys, and I like to get to the heart of the character.
I get bored by all the description in fantasy. I get lost in the slow pacing because of the description. And I can’t seem to connect with the characters because I can’t find them in all of the description.
Which is ridiculous, because when it comes to fantasy on television or movies, I’m often all for it. (see: Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Buffy, Lost, Battlestar Galactica).
But that’s not really why it doesn’t work for me.
My long-time friend and book blogger Ardo (Women Write About Comics and Panels) pinpointed it. She told me that it’s actually that I like my fantasy as a backdrop to the story, not as the story itself.
And as I ran through the speculative fiction that I do like, I realized that she’s right. I don’t delight in a fantasy for being a fantasy. For me, fantasy is a backdrop to tell stories that I really connect with: ones about people who are real and true and have emotions and learn something.
Basically, I want to connect with the human (or persona or whatever) story behind the character more than I want the sword fights, faeries, and magic.
But, you say, that’s what everyone wants in all stories! Including fantasy.
Well, maybe. But for me, fantasy literally has to be just the setting. I don’t want the setting to overtake the story I want to read. And sometimes, it does that.
But not always. Sometimes, a series or a book has enough character, theme, and presence that I can’t say no. And that’s when I become the shippiest, the fiercest of all fantasy readers (not really).
So, for today, I thought I’d list out a few fantasy/paranormal series that I do like, in case anyone else has the same issue as I do.
What to Read If You Don’t Like Fantasy
A few stipulations: if you’re a mostly contemporary reader, I suggest starting with light dystopian or sci-fi, like The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, The Selection series by Kiera Cass or The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – they all have a lot of work with character that will ease you into these worlds.
I also suggest trying time travel or parallel worlds series like The Firebird Trilogy by Claudia Gray, or the Time Between Us series by Tamara Ireland Stone – they’re great ways to ease into the kind of world building you’ll see in fantasy.
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – this is one of the ONLY high fantasy series I’ve ever read where I’ve been so drawn in by the characters and ideas that I couldn’t put it down. It’s truly a literary gem. And is it any wonder that of all of the characters and storylines, the ones that drew me in the most were the initial Fellowship coming together, Frodo and Sam’s unbelievable hardship getting up Mount Doom, and Faramir and Eowyn?
- The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater – Stiefvater has the distinct honor of being the only woman to really get me to read a series with very strong paranormal threads – almost to the point of it overtaking the story. But this is where her genius lies. She has the ability to make her series heavily magical and yet, heavily character based and not make me feel like I’m drowning. I just finished Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and of course, my favorite parts are the ones where Blue and Gansey are together, or Blue’s thinking about her future. But then again… I think she’s the real exception to my rule, and it’s simply because writing this good deserves to be read and savoured by everyone, even fantasy non-readers like me.
- The Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand – this is the series I continually recommend to other people who are like me and don’t actually really like fantasy or paranormal. If there’s a series that is pretty much a YA contemporary series with a few paranormal elements that don’t overwhelm the story, this is it.
- For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund – I have always said that I will read anything Diana writes, and she’s taken me a lot of wacky places (college towns and unicorn hunters, etc), but these companion novels of post-apocalyptic, steampunky YA (one of which is a retelling of Persuasion) are still some of my faves. For people who love reunion stories Veronica Mars.
- The Griffin & Sabine series by Nick Bantock – if you loved The Jolly Postman as a child and always wanted an adult version of that epistolary story…this is it. With stunning illustrations and a weird, mythological and fantastical world, this series told through letters is as much art as it is fiction. There are six books right now, and I believe the auhor is releasing a new one in March – very worth your time!
Fantasy Series/Books I Haven’t Read But Think Might Be Good for Non-Fantasy Readers
- The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare – from what I’ve heard, this is a fantasy para that goes fast, and is fairly unputdownable, so maybe good for me, since I can’t take slow pacing.
- The Cahill Witch Chronicles by Jessica Spotswood – I’ve just heard really great things about this series, and I think it might actually be more about the characters than the world? Someone tell me if that’s true!
- The Story of Owen series by E.K. Johnson – this book has been recc’ed to me by bloggers and non-YA reader friends alike, so I feel like that is a good sign.
- A Song of Ice & Fire by George R.R. Martin – this is a leap for me, but given how much I like the TV series…maybe I would like the book series? What do you guys think?
- Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – I’ve loved all of Rainbow’s other work, which is all contemporary, so I feel like I might be able to handle this?
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – I’m a fan of heist books like Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series, and I feel like this would be, like, a fantasy version that I could get behind.
Help! What fantasy/paranormal series would you recommend for me next? I would like to be able to read all kind of genres and not be hampered by this issue.
Let me know and you could win this amazeballs Lady Midnight limited edition ARC box filled with exclusive stuff – check out my unboxing above, and the Rafflecopter below! Because obviously, I haven’t read the series yet, so I figured it was only fair to give it to one of you wonderful fans!
US/CAN mailing addresses only – this is a super short giveaway because I’m going to try to get it to the person within the next week!
And the winner is…Nicole Wetherington! How I got to this winner: because I had people reposting on Instagram and Facebook, I used Random.org and assigned numbers to each of the extra reposts. The number that came up was 179, which was one of Nicole’s entries.
Thank you to everyone for participating, and for all of your fantasy recs!