Monday, May 30, 2011

Foundations: My Seminal Fantasy Books

The other day I was re-reading Judith Tarr’s The Hound and the Falcon trilogy, and it got me thinking about what are seminal fantasy books/series for me.  To start off my list, here are three authors that my mother read aloud to my siblings and me, all of which have had an impact on my own imagination.

J. R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  My mother read both of these aloud, but we also had them on cassette tape and listened to them until the tapes were all warped and slurred.  Some of the elements which I am particularly drawn to in these books include the richness and depth of the world, the lyricism of Tolkien’s writing, the nobility of his characters and the simplicity he brings to a complex tale.

Susan Cooper: The Dark is Rising quartet.  This YA series blends the modern day with a mythic world quite seamlessly.  Unlike some of the more recent attempts to do so, there is less of a sense that there is a hidden world of magic, and more of a sense of continuity between the ordinary and the extraordinary.  Cooper draws on Celtic mythology, particularly the Arthurian cycle.   I particularly like the way she reimagines customs and stories of the British isles, weaving together history, myth and her own inventions to create a grand set of adventures.

Ellen Kindt McKenzie: Taash and the Jesters.  This book is exciting, funny and engrossing.  It has many traditional elements: an orphan mysterious origins, a kidnapped prince, a long quest through a Medieval fantasy world, disguises, mistaken identities, wicked witches, good witches, and happy accidents.  One particular reason I have great affection for it is that the author lived in the area of California where I grew up, and I always fancied that the landscape of Taash was influenced by the same landscape that is often at the center of my imagination.

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