Journey to Another World: Fantasy Books Like No Other
by Abby Flancher, Brightonian Staff Writer
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
“At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy.”
Locke Lamora is an orphan in the dingy island city of Camorr. That alone should have been a death sentence for him at a young age, but he has not-so-miraculously survived. Throughout his life he has learned the skills of a thief under the tutelage of his mentor; a gifted con artist named Father Chains. Locke has grown into a place of leadership of the sticky-fingered gang of young cons called the Gentleman Bastards (this crew is where the series gets its name). Locke becomes infamous in the underground of the city, only for a great foe to begin rising from the shadows. Locke must resign himself to beating this new enemy at his own game in order to protect all that he holds dear.
This is my favorite real fantasy book series of all time. Usually I will recommend things because they are poignant or because they had some great impact on me but this book… This book is a little different. This book is one of my favorites purely because it is fun. The twists and turns are so immensely entertaining and fun to traverse. It is an ever-interesting story where everything you will find yourself getting lost in the pages. It's not a story where you turn your brain off to read but it is one where you can just experience the atmosphere of the story you are reading.
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
“There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire. And while that is, as beginnings go, not entirely novel (for every tale about every young man there ever was or will be could start in a similar manner) there was much about this young man and what happened to him that was unusual, although even he never knew the whole of it.”
In long-ago England there is a village named Wall. Tristan Thorne is a young man living in this town and he is head over heels for extremely popular and extremely cold Victoria Forester. So in love with her that one October evening he makes a demanding promise to the vain girl: he will fetch the falling star that they witnessed fall for her to prove his love. This star fell on the other side of the ancient wall near the village that is forbidden to pass. Beyond that wall is a world of magic and mystery that Tristan can not imagine. What is even less imaginable is that when he finds that fallen star, he finds a woman instead. He has entered a world where nothing– not even a fallen star– is as it seems.
Neil Gaiman is by far one of my very favorite authors of all time. His works are always magical to read. He takes small things about daily life and twists them a tiny bit into something new and builds a completely new story all around them. I was really little when I first watched the film adaptation of Stardust and I completely fell in love with it. I only found out that it was based off of a book years later when I found it at the Arc. I have never been more grateful to accidentally stumble upon a book. I had read only one Neil Gaiman book before this and that was Coraline so I had high hopes. Stardust did not disappoint.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
“Ash fell from the sky.”
There are a million stories where the hero wins. Some ordinary person is labeled as a miraculous chosen one and is able to beat the odds of some fantastical force in order to save the day. Mistborn is set in a world living in the aftermath of that chosen hero failing miserably. After his failure the world devolved into one where ash fell from the sky and the Earth was a barren plain of mist. All of this wasteland is controlled by the Lord Ruler. However resistance rises as revolutionary Kelsier brings together a group of criminals to perform the ultimate caper that has the potential to bring an end to the Lord Ruler’s tyranny. One of these criminals is a girl named Vin,a girl that Kel must train to master the mysterious power they both possess.
Mistborn is a modern classic in fantasy literature. Brandon Sanderson was one of the first who ever asked the question “What if the chosen one failed?” The world he created is a twisted version of the fantasy world that has come before it. However the most intriguing part of the story is the magic system Sanderson created. The characters of the story are able to give themselves a multitude of different powers through Allomancy. They ingest different metals in order to gain different abilities. When I first read this story I was initially weirded out by the strange system of magic but I eventually grew to be completely immersed in how it all works. Mistborn is the first in one of the most revered trilogies in all of fantasy and I hope anyone who even lightly likes fantasy will give it a try.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
“Morgain speaks… In my time I have been called many things: sister, lover, priestess, wise-woman, queen.”
King Arthur is one of the most well known figures of Welsh mythology. His stories have been passed down and retold for centuries. From movies to television shows, his stories have spread throughout the world. Marion Zimmer Bradley presents them in a completely different light than ever before. The famous king’s stories are vividly retold through the eyes of the four women who influence his story the most. Gwenhwyfar; Arthur’s wife and the eventual queen of Camelot, Arthur’s mother Igraine, Vivianne, the Lady of the Lake, and most prominently Morgaine.
I was gifted this book a long time ago for my birthday by my Aunt Linda. It was one of the first books I read where the language was at a more mature level than something like Harry Potter. It was like being transported to a completely new world while reading this book. The stories that I had personally known and read for years seemed completely different now that they were being presented through the eyes of characters who were more like me. Each of the four core women in the novel are in depth and fresh versions of the women seen in the classic tales.
Babel by RF Kuang
“By the time Professor Richard Lovell found his way through Canton’s narrow alleys to the faded address in his diary, the boy was the only one in the house left alive.”
Babel is the most recent novel on this list. RF Kuang is most known for her sweeping fantasy series The Poppy War. She followed up her popular story with this novel; a historical fantasy epic about a young boy named Robin Swift. Robin was born in Canton where he eventually left orphaned by an outbreak of cholera in 1828. He is found by Professor Lovell, a mysterious man that takes him to London to study Chinese, Ancient Greek, and Latin in order to enroll in the Royal Institute of Translation at Oxford University– widely known as Babel. IT is a place of language and magic that has made the British empire extremely powerful in the scheme of world politics. Even though Robin first sees Babel as a new place of safety he must come to terms with the fact that if he continues working at Babel he is betraying his home in China. When an unjust war between China and Britain breaks out over silver and opium, robin must choose whether or not he will stay at Babel or join the Hermes Society; a group of people dedicated to stopping imperial expansion.
This is my current favorite on this list. All of these other stories are dear and dear to my heart but Babel is fresh on my mind. It was published on August 23, 2022 and it has been inhabiting my brain. This story took magic and combined it with the realities of world history. It examines a time in history the American high schoolers are not often familiarized with. Getting to read this story was an amazing experience because it propelled me into a time in history that I knew very little about. If anyone has even an inkling of interest in history, this book is a good starting point to finding something new. While of course it is a fantasy story about fictional people and some fictional places, it is extremely interesting to explore a completely different time.