One Genre to Rule Them All: A (very) biased opinion as to why fantasy is superior

Believe it or not, I was once too good for fantasy. I thought the idea was silly, after all, who could take all that magic and monsters seriously, hmm? Not me, that was for sure. But as I have said before, it seems to be my lot in life to end up adoring/obsessed with things I once disliked. Eight years ago, I discovered fantasy literature and now there’s no going back.

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As a reader, fantasy adds a level of excitement and, for lack of a better word, awesome to stories that I just can’t find anywhere else. As a writer, fantasy opens up creative opportunities in a whole new way.

It’s far easier to get around a reader’s preformed ideas about a society or time period because I build my own and I don’t have to feel guilty about historical accuracy, though I often try. If, in a fit of idealistic fervor I decide I want to throw in a certain social issue (like I did in the Argetallam Saga with people’s black and white viewpoints on war) I can do it in a way I think offers better perspective, is more tactful…and less likely to incite confrontation.

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In fantasy, can have our good old fashioned political intrigue and military tactics, but then we can have the added bonus of sorcery, monsters in literally every shape and size, and whatever else we want. Unlike science fiction, we don’t need to adhere to the laws of physics, because we can make our own. We can pick and choose which fragments of realism we want and scrap the ones we don’t. Furthermore, fantasy allows us free rein to use reverted morality systems based in chivalry and honor and I far prefer that over most modern paradigms. (I’ve said I was old fashioned before.)

Being a teen girl, I am also very fond of romance and in this genre there is more than rhapsodizing or attraction (though I’ve read and written plenty of both). Here we have the opportunity for love across lifetimes or worlds and stakes that can be an individual’s very soul. There’s the chance for mystical bonds and soulmates and…sigh.

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With mages, dragons, knights, viragos, and every other form of the mythic and legendary, the potential of fantasy is limitless and its ability to transcend the boundaries of our world is unparalleled. Though I might read other genres and occasionally write something that isn’t swords and sorcery, epic fantasy is my one true literary love and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The Seventh Magpie: Book Launch Celebration ~ Outlawed magic in fantasy

As part of the online release event for The Seventh Magpie by Nancy Chase, me and eleven other fantasy folk are getting together and posting to our blogs in honor of this momentous occasion. Check out the all-week Facebook party to get in on the fun and prizes!

Illegal magic is a widely explored element in modern high fantasy. In fact, at the moment, I can’t think of a series in which free magic is the norm. It’s common to have supernatural powers banned, usually as an extension of an overlying tyranny where the reigning despot doesn’t want people to have a means of deposing him or wants everyone with that means to be in his service.

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Niccolo probably never thought he would be referenced in quite this context.

Like Machiavelli said, a ruler who takes care of his people will allow them to have whatever armaments they wish because he won’t give them a reason to boot him from office, but a tyrant or a conqueror has to disarm them or risk his life. Machiavelli was talking about swords, but I think the same can be applied to magic. Therefore, it makes sense that fantasy worlds featuring evil dictators and dark lords would also feature a magic taboo.

Or you can just have lots of rules.

The alternative to this is regulated magic—like in Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series or Intisar Khanani’s Sunbolt. Both worlds have a magic restriction because of evil done by past mages.

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In this case, the reader is brought to understand just why someone would collar the spell weavers, but at the same time begins to question if maybe things have begun to go a bit far. The enforcers of the rules have become so legalistic that they hunt fledgling magicians while in both cases a diabolical mastermind is preparing to take over the world.

Then you have the miscellaneous category.

There are plenty of fictional worlds that follow either pattern or a culture of free magic depending on where you are in the respective world. The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind is a good example of variance scattered across a map and then there are those that are more or less in a classification all their own.

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Much of the story in my Argetallam Saga takes place in the country Brevia. There magic is revered and those born with it are glorified. Unfortunately, this means that the Argetallams, the people who are not only immune to magic, but can steal it or destroy it, are outcasts at best. It is one of the large driving factors to the plot of the series and it wasn’t until recently that I realized how different the paradigm was from everything I tended to read.

But so long as there’s magic…

In the end, I don’t think we readers much care whether magic in the story is outlawed, restricted, lost, or put on a pedestal, so long as it’s there. That is, after all, one of the defining elements of fantasy and I find myself drawn into a world’s enchantment paradigm no matter what it may be. All we need is sorcery and a good story to go with it and writers can get away with more or less anything.

Salute to the Ships

<3 <3 <3 In honor of St. Valentines’ Day, I would like to take a moment to pause and salute the results of my matchmaking amongst fictional characters. I can be a most passionate shipper, having been known to hyperventilate, swear, and shriek in reaction to whatever latest development has befallen my ship. You have probably heard me mention these before, but prepare to be hit with a wave of fangirling once more. <3 <3 <3

 

Chaolaena (Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas)

Oh, look, it's my beautiful OTP, Chaolaena!

I will ship this until the day I freaking die and I don’t bloody care what anyone says and if this ship sinks I will have WORDS.

 

Cleo & Magnus (Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes)

As of page 316 of Rebel Spring, I ship this. I’m convinced they’re perfect for each other, if they’d ever stop with the sarcasm and the hostility long enough to figure it out.

 

Crora (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles by T.L. Shreffler)

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From my current Favorite Series, I ship this so much it hurts. I love Crash, I love Sora, I love everything about them and I have shipped them from the moment they met. I need this to work out!

 

Braith & Arianna (The Captive series by Erica Stevens)

Just…yes. My inaugural foray into vampire literature, I adore these books and them as a couple and this series was one of the first romance titles to end up on my Shelf of Awesome.

 

Vansen & Briony (Shadowmarch series by Tad Williams)

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You have not known the true pain of fangirling until you have shipped something for four gigantic books and the characters only speak twice while one of them makes plans to marry some prince. But I stuck with the series and it was soooooo worth it. The moral of the story? Stand by your ships.

 

<3 <3 <3 Happy St. Valentines’ Day to you, your ships, and, to those of you who have them, your significant other. <3 <3 <3

Lessons from Greek Mythology: A little party might kill everybody

I have never been one for parties or clubbing (a noisy room full of sweaty strangers, who wouldn’t love that?), but apparently that is what people my age are expected to do. Nonetheless, I am a reader and as Edgar Allen Poe (The Masque of the Red Death) and Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet) taught us, such gatherings are dangerous things. But perhaps the hazards are not so perfectly illustrated outside of Greek mythology. Seriously, it was a wonder people kept going to these things.

The Trojans learned the hard way.

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They thought they had just won a long and laborious war that had lasted over a decade. As far as they knew, their enemies had run away and left this big wooden horse as an offering, so what did they do? They threw a huge shindig, got plastered, and while they were all passed out, Greeks climbed out of the wooden horse and opened the gates, letting in more Greeks who killed/imprisoned them all.

And Andromeda’s old flame…and all his buddies.

There was this bloke, Phineus, who was engaged to Andromeda before she was bound to the rock and left out for the sea monster and so on and so forth. When Phineus heard that Andromeda was now supposed to be married to Perseus—who had rescued her from aforementioned sea monster—he was a little upset.

Therefore, Phineus barged into the wedding feast with a gaggle of his friends and a whole bunch of swords to claim the princess. Needless to say, Perseus was not particularly pleased about this. After a bit of bashing each other around, Perseus got sick of fighting and uncovered the head of Medusa, turning Phineus and his friends into stone.

Not to mention the suitors of Penelope.

Firstly, if a woman puts you off for close to two decades, I think it’s safe to say she’s not all that into you. In any event, these creeps hung around the apparently dead Odysseus’ house, waiting for Penelope to pick a new husband.

It was one big feast that went on without end and they started to eat Penelope out of house and home. Then all of a sudden, her wayward husband returns from his seven-year dalliance with a goddess and locks the suitors into the banquet hall while he and his son proceed to kill everyone in the room.

I could go on, but I think I have made my point. Greek stories were not big on morality, but there is one thing they have taught me—no matter what happens, no matter what you do, DON’T GO TO THE PARTY.

Attack of the Supermodels

I am sick of pretty boys. It started a few months ago when I realized an overwhelming majority of my books basically had the same love interest cloned over and over—tall, dark, striking eyes, drop-dead gorgeous, and ripped like Ares. Sure the authors threw in a few traits to make an effort at singularity—one was a vampire pianist, for example—but for the most part, it really felt like the same guy rehashed again and again.

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(I’m going to stop right here and say I have greatly enjoyed many of these series. I can think of three off the top of my head that are actually on my Shelf of Awesome. If you enjoy writing or reading those kinds of heroes, don’t let what I or anyone else says stop you.)

Back to my rant.

Someone once said that we don’t fall in love with a literary character’s appearance, we fall in love with their souls. Thanks to overtly swoon-worthy descriptions of certain characters, I’m not so sure that’s always true.

One reason I love BBC is that their actors look—for lack of a better word—human. They aren’t the photoshopped, surgically altered, mutant derivatives we get here in the US. For example, when Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) came onto Doctor Who, I was quite a little snob and thought he was rather homely. But as his character developed, Rory was revealed to be the most bad@$$, kindhearted, and awesome bloke on the show.

I honestly could think Peter Capaldi and Arthur kind of look alike.

I think that’s what writers of books should strive for—to make their readers fall in love with their characters for their characters, not their mouthwatering descriptions. Maggie Stiefvater’s Sam Roth was a great example of a character who we loved for his soul. I know there are others, but I’m drawing a blank at the moment.

As a general rule, if a book blurb mentions “darkly handsome,” “alluring,” or anything along those lines, I tend to give it my “tired of this spiel” look. Though I might end up reading it anyway, because there are very few other YA fantasy romance books to be had. But who knows? I might end up liking the book anyway. That doesn’t change the fact I wish this pretty boy mania would stop.

Now, STAY evil!

In the year of our Lord 2006, I was an eleven year old with too much time on my hands, a notebook, and an overactive imagination. I began to write a story and shortly after I had figured out who the heroine would be, the next step was finding the villain.

I set out to compile three characters—the Lord Argetallam, Lucan, and Malkalar—who were to cause as much hardship and difficulty for my heroine as conceivably possible. I had them be as bad as I could make them, giving them all a certain creativity when it came to nastiness and short tempers to match. Villains are, by their nature, villainous, right?

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As I developed characters, grew as a writer, and explored the world, I ran into some trouble with the Lord Argetallam. He had a tragic back story and as I delved into the details of his relationship with my heroine’s mother—I found myself finding him to have an alarming number of not-bad qualities. But he was still a psychotic dictator and definitely a villain, so we were good.

When I went to write a prologue for the second book in the series—BOOM! All of a sudden, Lucan has a crush on the slave who’s nursing him back to health and feels guilty about the little girl he killed in the last book. Soon, Lucan was a boy struggling under the weight of his father’s and an entire race’s expectations, seeking approval through violence because he didn’t know another way—this was starting to get out of hand.

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But at least I had Malkalar, right? The ethnocentric, genocidal bigot who wants everyone who’s not an elf dead. No way I had to worry about him getting any sympathetic qualities.

Then I started questioning his motivation for :SPOILER: rescuing the seeress Zeerla in The Key of Amatahns. :SPOILER OVER:. By the time I wrote a short story to explain that, my endeavor to create a purely evil villain had sunk like the Titanic.

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The theme of relatable villains has become a fascination of mine and with the exception of some characters in a new project (and they don’t count because they are literally supposed to be the Devil and her—that’s not a typo—demons) one of my favorite parts in writing a new series is discovering all the little ins and outs of my villains. I often come to adore them as much as my heroes.

In other words, I have given up. No more purely evil bad guys. It feels sloppy now and I think a story feels more authentic if you feel sorry for the baddie *coughcoughKhanLokiRavennacoughcough* even as he/she is doing dastardly deeds. Besides, it’s just too much of a problem getting them to stay completely evil.

Blog Tour Review: Ferran’s Map (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, #4) by T.L. Shreffler @catseyeauthor

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The bloodmage Volcrian is dead, but a new enemy lurks in the shadows. The Shade, a fanatical cult of demonic assassins, is trying to resurrect the Dark God and unleash His power back into the world. In their wake, a deadly plague is spreading across the land.

Only Sora and her companions know the plague’s true source. As the disease spreads, she must journey to the City of Crowns to retrieve The Book of the Named, her only hope of stopping the Shade. She and her companions arrive just in time for the winter solstice festival, a notorious two weeks of fine wines, grand parties and legendary debauchery. She must don the guise of a noblewoman and infiltrate the First Tier nobility to stop the Shade before it’s too late.

Meanwhile, the assassin Crash is confronted by a ghost from his past. As he uncovers more of the Shade’s plot, he finds himself face-to-face with his old Grandmaster. Can Crash lay to rest his past, or will he succumb to his inner demon and rejoin the man who once made him a killer?

5 out of 5 stars

So. Many. Feelings. I’m reminded why I said this is my favorite ongoing series, just—WOW. I have been waiting for this book since January 2014, annoying the author at every possible opportunity and throwing the series in the face of anyone who asks for a Young Adult Epic Fantasy recommendation (and sometimes even when they don’t).

The plot:

I was told that this was something like 150K words, but once again, it seems hard to believe because the story moves so quickly. I got caught up in it and after three hours of reading, I started to panic because I realized I was coming to the end. It really wasn’t clear how the author was going to end the book, but I was so emotionally invested I prayed. (It’s not weird to pray over fictional characters, is it?)

The characters:

Sora’s character has matured so very much since we first met her at her Blooming in book 1, yet she still has a kind of sweetness and guilelessness that just melts my heart. I do like reading about a heroine who isn’t another smoldering virago, but still manages to pull off daring adventures. She’s much easier to relate to than most of the Epic Fantasy heroines coming out these days and I love her to bits.

Another character I love to bits and who I consider one of my “babies,” is Crash. Read any of my other reviews and you will see plenty on Crash. His struggles and growth have been equal to Sora’s and it was fascinating to look more into the depths of his psyche and what’s going through his head. His relationship with Sora is sweet, complex, beautiful, and irresistible. I’ll be the first to admit that their story is one of my favorite things about this series and I’m in knots over what’s going to happen in Krait’s Redemption.

One thing that surprised me was the part of the book where we see more of what Crash’s demon actually thinks of Sora. That was one of the most interesting sections and again, leaves me wanting Krait’s Redemption.

Now that I have bombarded you with those paragraphs of Crash+Sora fangirling, I should point out this series does have other characters—not that you would know that by reading my previous reviews.

I kind of missed Burn and wished we’d gotten to see just a little more of him, but I was very happy about how much “screen time” Caprion had. There was the subplot of him and his past experiences with the Sixth Race and thanks to reading the prequel novella, I was almost as invested in that vein as I was the one about Crash+Sora. Even if Caprion was always the first to think the worst of my darling little Crash, I could forgive him because it made sense from his perspective.

We learn a great deal about the namesake of this book, Ferran, and his past as well as a surprising twist I did not see coming. Him and Lori are so perfect together and yes, I’ve been at my fictional matchmaking again. There were a great deal of questions raised regarding his family’s dealings and just who they’ve gotten mixed up with—yet more things making me salivate over Krait’s Redemption.

I never thought I would say this, but Cerastes has made me miss Volcrian. At least then, it was just one psychotic serial killer and a few wraiths we had to worry about, now we have a sociopathic, mostly-demon cult leader with his little minions and a mission to destroy all life. Cerastes scares me and I can’t wait for someone—preferably Crash—to kill him. (Just as soon as Cerastes finishes off that Daniellan fellow in some imaginative and nasty fashion.)

Then there’s Krait. When she was first introduced, I did not like her at all and now…let’s just say that the next book’s title has me very excited.

There was one character introduced at the beginning of this book, Cobra, another assassin, who freaked me out at first, but I ended up softening toward him at the end. I mean the very, very end. I can’t say much else because of spoilers, but I felt I should at least mention him.

This review has gone on way too long and turned into more of a fangirling session, so I’ll wrap it up by saying the story just keeps getting better and you all won’t be getting away from my passionate fanaticism any time soon.

T. L. Shreffler lives in Los Angeles, CA. She loves diversity, fantasy, romance, iced tea, long walks, philosophy, and thrift store shopping. She recently graduated with a BA in Badass (Creative Writing) and her poetry has been published consecutively in Eclipse: A Literary Journal and The Northridge Review. She is author of The Cat’s Eye Chronicles (YA/Epic Fantasy) and The Wolves of Black River (PN Romance.)

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 Grab your copies of the other books in this fantastical series… 

Sora’s Quest, Cat’s Eye Chronicles book 1 {FREE everyday!}

Viper’s Creed, Cat’s Eye Chronicles book 2

Volcrian’s Hunt, Cat’s Eye Chronicles book 3

Caprion’s Wings, Cat’s Eye Chronicles book 3.5

Ferran’s Map, Cat’s Eye Chronicles book 4

This giveaway is International…
1 winner ~ Paperback copy of Ferran’s Map
1 winner ~ Cat’s Eye necklace

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