This Chicks Sunday Commentary: The Thing About Fantasy Novels…

If you are a follower of my blog you know that I have a love for Fantasy novels. Especially if they have a hint of romance, but definitely if the book has some great world building that I can escape away from the realities of my regular world. Hmmm, interesting statement, right? Fantasy novels actually do a great job speaking to hot topics, but when it’s set in a new land, or deals with a magical race does that make it easier to accept the real message? I want to delve into a few examples of how Fantasy authors use their genre to voice an opinion and maybe in small part use their genre to shield them from criticism for tackling difficult topics.

  1.  Love: Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters novels do a great job introducing the subject of all types of romances. The most famous of which is the taboo of love between a brother and sister. Aren’t we glad that turned out ok? Let’s think about how we all reacted to that news. I was seriously distressed, kind of grossed out, and very uncomfortable, as I’m sure most of her readers were. When I look back on the sequence of events in City of Ashes, I realize that not only was that plot point a red herring moment but it happened as Alec was fighting his jealousy and romantic feelings for Jace. It introduced the subject of two men having romantic feelings for each other as safe, rather like Vanilla as a flavor of ice cream. Although to most of us a homosexual romance is quite normal, I’m sure there were some YA readers that may have needed that comparison. I LOVE her Dark Artifices novels the best. The emotional drama between men/men, women/men, trans/men and women/women (did I forget any?) kept my mind occupied and my heart racing. Great books!
  2. Bigotry: Fantasy novels often have multi race universes, however those races aren’t always differentiated by color. They may be humanoid, magical, beast-like, etc. Their relationships within their world are remarkably like ours. Cultures go to war with each other, they look down on each other and they denigrate each other. Our hero or heroine is usually fighting for equality, overcoming a dictator type king, or dealing with the bigotry of a multi-race romance. One of my favorite romantic fantasy novels is by Grace Draven. Radiance is about two species who inhabit the same world and are in neighboring kingdoms. One race, the Gaur is humanoid, awake during the day and sleeps at night, fair skin, etc. The other race, the Kai, is dark, has long pointy teeth, is awake at night and sleeps during the day. Our princess and prince of these two kingdoms must intermarry in order to retain peace between their countries. Brishen, our Kai prince finds Idilko, our Gaur princess, truly ugly, even though in her land she is gorgeous and refined. Idilko also find’s Brishen horrifyingly ugly, and those teeth oh so scary. When they marry Idilko has to move to Kai where she will be the only humanoid person among the Kai race. Of course, eventually they realize that they are both beautiful on the inside and actually find love for each other, but they have to deal with their blooming feelings for each other while also hearing others speak horribly about the person they are falling in love with. It is a really well told bi-racial love story, yet they are in essence two alien races. Brilliant. Small sidenote- I was disappointed that he didn’t have the big teeth in the cover though…Radiance
  3. Gender Equality: In Young Adult Fantasy novels there is a huge empowerment movement. Teenage girls have the power to save their world. I think having these role models for young girls and women are a wonderful thing. It is also wonderful that authors are introducing young people (and adults) to gender neutral characters. I read one novel last year that stood out for me because it was the first in this genre that I could recall reading that had a gender neutral main character. The book was Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller. Sal was a thief who wanted to leave that life behind to become a member of the Left Hand. The assasin team of the queen. Sal entered a contest to gain that spot with other characters and they’d all try to kill each other. The last one standing would become a member of the Left Hand. This novel had it all, exciting action, a love story and betrayal – and our hero was gender neutral. Each candidate had a number so Sal was addressed by number which made things easier, but the other characters were curious. Was Sal a boy or girl? How would they like to be addressed? All of these questions were the same that I as a reader was asking. What mattered was that Sal had honor even though they were a thief, developed all types of relationships regardless of Sal’s gender identity and that the story held up. This was one of my top 10 picks for 2017 and if you haven’t read it? You should.Mask of Shadows

These are only a few of the subjects that Fantasy authors have voiced their opinions or come up with their own solution. It is not always done in the correct manner or in ways that are acceptable to the average reader. Most notably Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark took a lot of criticism for portraying racism. Her world was a little too close to ours for some people and their lighter skin, darker skin comparisons may be too obvious. I did read this novel without reading any reviews and was pretty obliviousto those nuances, taking things at face value. Looking back, I can see it. I haven’t read the second novel but I’m going to take a guess that she takes care of some of these criticisms in the plot. I hope so anyway. I also hope it’s a better book. I didn’t love it.

If you are a fan of Fantasy, can you think of another novel you’ve read where a difficult real world topic is handled in a graceful way? Or another book where the topic may have been mishandled?

Have you read one of the above books? What did you think?

Until next Sunday!

Deb

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This Chick’s Sunday Commentary: Authors could solve the worlds problems…

I love reading fiction for many different reasons; I can escape from reality, I can explore different lands, I can fall in love over and over again, I can learn new languages, I can have great sex, I can can fight oppression, and I can be a hero. The list goes on and on! If you follow my book reviews you know I like books where the underdog wins, women find the power within to beat bad odds, where “race issues” are played out between humans and elves-vampires and werewolves, where basically the world becomes a better place because people WANT to make it better in these books. Of course, there is always a happy ending, or at least a sequel where the characters I love will get to take that battle to the next level.

I love that these life themes are played out in Young Adult books, so girls can learn empowerment and boys can learn how to work with others to change the world for the better (Snow Like Ashes).

I love that romantic fantasy can be between two different races. One race who lives in the day and one in the night, and even though the darker race has large teeth and the lighter race is considered horrifyingly ugly because of the lightness of her skin, they still open people’s eyes to the love in their union. They set a good example for acceptance and unity (Eidolon).

I love that those in power can learn from the humanity in one individual, even if they are an alien,that makes them change their behavior towards an entire race (Star Nomad).

I also love that I can escape into a fantasy world where a small group of individuals battle against an egomaniacal President who is infected with a deadly virus and win that battle (Justice Ascending).

All of these themes, although played out in fiction, give me hope that the light of humanity exists. After all, these authors are writing about things that exist in our every day life- hatred, bigotry, love, war, friendship, honor, and ultimately the power of good people doing great things. These themes must have resonated because these authors are successful and fans buy their books in bundles!

I would like to make a suggestion on the next book our leader should read. Nicola Yoon could teach you about how deportation feels from a teenagers viewpoint in The Sun is Also a Star, or maybe you could learn compassion from a nice interracial love story set during the Civil Rights Movement in Alissa Cole’s Let it Shine. Really, I’d love it if he would read the moment in Rebecca Zanetti’s Mercury Striking when the virus takes hold of the President and he becomes a psychopath, there are some frightening similarities.

I guess what I’m trying to convey is that writers have been fighting and solving these real life themes for generations. The books I mention above are all books I’ve read recently, but you can find great ideas in the classics as well. Maybe what we need from our worlds leaders, besides the obvious things like compassion, intelligence, thoughtfulness, a good world view, etc. is also to be well read. Well read in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult novels, Mysteries-all of these genres, and others, have some great solutions to the problems our world is dealing with right now. You may have to look past the fangs to find them, but the solutions are in our fiction novels.

It’s something to think on-

Please click each book below to read my reviews on each, and to link to buy.

Deborah

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This Chick Read: Eidolon (Wraith Kings Book 2) by Grace Draven

In a bid for more power, the Shadow Queen of Haradis unleashes a malignant force into the world. Her son Brishen, younger prince of the Kai royal house, suddenly finds himself ruler of a kingdom blighted by a diseased darkness. His human wife Ildiko must decide if she will give up the man she loves in order to save his throne. 

Three kingdoms on the verge of war must unite to save each other, and a one-eyed, reluctant king will raise an army of the dead to challenge an army of the damned. 

Three kingdoms on the verge of war must unite to save each other, and a one-eyed, reluctant king will raise an army of the dead to challenge an army of the damned. 

The above synopsis was taken directly off Amazon.com.

Continue reading “This Chick Read: Eidolon (Wraith Kings Book 2) by Grace Draven”