Book Talk: What Fantasy Serieses Do You Want to Recommend to Other DCIBers, and in What Ways Do You Find Them Similar to Indian Film?

“Recommend” or “talk about how much we both love them”. I am guessing the DCIB self-selected community has very similar fantasy book tastes, so if you say what your favorite series is, someone else is going to say “OMG, I love that series, so-and-so is my favorite character, it’s so great how her friendship with such-and-such is shown”. Because we all like Indian film, and most likely the things we like in it are the same things we like in books.

I’ll start!

I’ve read a lot of fantasy from a variety of authors over the years, but here are some of my top favorite authors/series:

Mercedes Lackey

Fantasy world with a really complicated well thought out civilization at the center of it. She has multiple ethnic/religious groups worked out, a whole system of trade, laws, and rival countries that each of their own respective histories and ethnic/religious groups and so on. Also, of course, strong female characters as the protagonists. “Strong” in both senses, they tend to be very powerful (good fighters, have strong magic, like that), and also they are complicated interesting 3 dimensional female characters.

Part of why I like Indian films is that same complicated civilization feeling. When I watch a movie, I am all caught up in the emotions of the characters and stuff, but I also have the intellectual challenge of keeping track of the allusions to languages and historical moments and religions that I don’t know much about.

Starting books: Arrows of the Queen series, I think the first books she published, and the first ones I read. She also wrote a series of one off books set in Edwardian England, those are good starting points too if you want something more standalone with a similar complicated underlying concept. The first one of those even has a desi heroine, Serpant’s Shadow.

The Serpent's Shadow (Elemental Masters, Book 1): Lackey, Mercedes ...

Anne Bishop

The sexy one! She also has an elaborate fantasy world, although not as complex as Lackey. Her biggest thing is flipping the way gender power works, especially related to sexy stuff. In her world, woman have more power and men are valued primarily for sexual pleasure and reproduction. It’s a lot more complicated than that, and it really works well as she has thought it out, but that’s the center piece of everything that makes her books special.

Jab Harry Met Sejal is basically an Anne Bishop story. The hero is sexy and dangerous and all those things, but the woman has the social power over him, and he is so extremely gentlemanly and protective that he is being eaten up inside by trying to protect her from himself. If you like that movie, you should check out Anne Bishop.

Starting books: I’d say start with her shorter less complicated books first, The Shadow Queen would be a good one. There will be some references you don’t understand, but it’s easier than going through her massive longer books waiting for the pay off. Or if you want to do the massive longer books, start with Daughter of the Blood.

The Shadow Queen (Black Jewels): Bishop, Anne: 9780451462862 ...

Patricia Wrede

This is the first fantasy author I read, her most popular series is really truly a children’s series. Nothing more adult than kissing happens, and nothing more violent than magic wands making people disappear into nothing. Real stories, with real humor, and fun characters, and a little world that everything happens in, but nothing that made me feel scared or uncomfortable when I was 9 years old. I wish there were more authors like this, who did true children’s stories without talking down to kids.

This is also why I like Indian films. Sometimes I want a world where everyone is generally nice, no one bleeds real blood, couples fall in love by saying “I am in love” and then having their first kiss, and it’s kind of a fairy tale. It’s happy, it’s safe, and nice.

Starting books: Her Enchanted Forest Chronicles, starting with Dealing with Dragons, are the ones I loved as a kid and still love. She also did 5 books set in Regency England (but with magic), that are also very kid-friendly and extremely fun and well-written, I suggest starting with Mairelon the Magician. DON’T READ her Lyra novels. They were her first books and are a bit rocky. Except for the one published last, The Raven Ring, which is a little more adult in a lot of ways but well-written.

Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Literature) - TV Tropes

29 thoughts on “Book Talk: What Fantasy Serieses Do You Want to Recommend to Other DCIBers, and in What Ways Do You Find Them Similar to Indian Film?

  1. Robin McKinley:
    ‘Beauty’ and ‘Rose Daughter’ are her Beauty and the Beast retellings, very good vs bad people and happy endings all around. Stay away from ‘Deerskin’ if you don’t want to be traumatized!!

    Diana Wynne Jones:
    ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ is a classic and there are 2 more in this charming trilogy full of fairy tale tropes and happy endings and a lot of humour.

    Erin Morgenstern:
    ‘The Night Circus’ a book full of magic, great writing and the best book of the 2010s in my mind.

    Rainbow Rowell:
    ‘Carry On’ is very SOTY with young men in school who at first hate each other before the inevitable happens. Already has a sequel and a third is on the way to be published this autumn. One is a ‘Chosen One’ and the other is a Vampire.

    Mary Hoffman:
    ‘Stravaganza’-series. Schoolkids from England go to a fantasy version of Renaissance Italy. A bit dark on the subject matter with each book dealing with certain troubles the main characters are having (each book has a different protagonist), meant for young people/adult, but was basically my Harry Potter before I read Harry Potter.

    Naomi Novik:
    ‘Uprooted’ and ‘Spinning Silver’ full of magic, a lot of female friendships and love on the side too with great prose and wordbuilding.

    Isuna Hasekura:
    ‘Spice and Wolf’ is a series of light novels from Japan that have been translated to English, there is also a great anime which has 2 seasons. If I could compare it to any Indian director it would be Imtiaz Ali with all the travelling, the love of the journey with an older man and a young woman who bicker splendidly to hide their feelings, also, a fun and painless way to learn about medieval economics in a fantasy world.

    Victoria Grossack and Alice Underwood:
    ‘Tapestry of Bronze’-series. Greek mythology (the kind with kings and mortals and without ‘full-formed’ gods) set during the Bronze Age (17th century BC – 12th century BC). These books are self-published and the story and writing are so good I will add it here because it deserves more love even if it isn’t technically full-on fantasy. Plenty of female protagonists from the myths to go around as the leads in every book. Think more Mahabharata, but in greek mythology.

    ‘Tapestry of Bronze’ in chronological order (how I’m reading them now), but can be read out of order as well:

    1. ‘Niobe and Pelops: Children of Tantalus’
    2. ‘Niobe and Amphion: The Road to Thebes’
    3. ‘Niobe and Chloris: Arrows of Artemis’
    4. ‘Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus’
    5. ‘Antigone and Creon: Guardians of Thebes’
    6. ‘Clytemnestra: The Mother’s Blade’

    Liked by 1 person

    • I only knew about the first two! This is a great list for lessor known authors, I think the Japanese series tempts me the most. Maybe it is my Imtiaz Ali hang up.

      On Thu, Jun 11, 2020 at 12:48 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I just downloaded the Blue Sword, we should both read it over the weekend and report back on Wednesday! (our lake house has no cable, no television set even if we had cable, and the only internet is what I hotspot off my phone, so suddenly I have an extra 8 hours a day just to read)

            On Fri, Jun 12, 2020 at 9:31 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I LOVE Robin McKinley, but different books. I didn’t love her fairy tale retellings as much as her Newbery winner The Hero’s Crown and The Blue Sword. I especially love the blue sword with its smoldering quiet romance. Howl’s Moving Castle is also one of my favorites.

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      • You convinced me! I’m seeing if I can get The Blue Sword from my library to my kindle.

        On Thu, Jun 11, 2020 at 8:13 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Robin McKinley!!! All of the books I’ve read of hers have large worlds the characters exist in without becoming like…Tolkein-like in terms of “okay, we get it. Please, go back to the story” At least that’s how I’ve always felt about her.

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    • Everyone’s saying Robin McKinley! you are almost convincing me to try her again.

      On Thu, Jun 11, 2020 at 2:24 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • With her books…I would say if you aren’t grabbed by the first 10 pages maybe try a different one. I was put off by ones like Deerskin, but others have stayed with me for years and years.

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        • Thank you Amazon, you do many terrible terrible things, but you do let me preview Kindle books. I read the first ten pages of The Blue Sword in the preview, and it was good enough that I spent the $3 to buy the thing and am so glad I did.

          On Thu, Jun 18, 2020 at 10:15 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I love reading Fantasy novels, but have never read any of the authors you mention. I’m going to try Anne Bishop – the gender dynamics seem interesting.

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    • Anne Bishop is addictive, and surprisingly cheerful. She writes in a world of Vampires and Zombies and stuff, which means that ultimately no one dies.

      On Thu, Jun 11, 2020 at 2:42 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Thanks for all those suggestions. I may have to check out a few of them.

    Just for the fun, I like everything from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Such great parodies!

    My very favorite, though, may not really fit all that well with the generally happy attitude of this crowd here: I really like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Yes, it is brutal at times, and then I really struggle. But I think it is such a great showcase for what fantasy can do. The rotating POV system lets you constantly reevaluate who you are rooting for. And the conflict you are drawn into is not one you have fully preformed opinions on, involving dragons and magic and made-up deities and religions. The books let me really work on what I consider morally right, and what I think makes for a good ruler.
    Plus, I do think this series too has female characters that are (becoming) strong without necessarily being action girls.Very interesting distinction.
    Maybe the thing that most closely relates the books to Indian film for me is how they have been accused of food porn, costume porn – all those nice things that give some extra flavor in addition to just the bare-bones story.

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    • I forgot about Terry Pratchett! I just read his books for the first time ever last year, and they were a delight. Also, procrastinator has been saying for years that Shahrukh should play Vine, and after I finally read the series, I wrote a fanfic for him: https://dontcallitbollywood.com/2019/04/09/silly-fanfic-rerun-mad-miss-manton-and-terry-pratchett-and-murder-she-wrote/

      I like your point about using fantasy to force us to consider moral conundrums without preconceived opinions. I’m going to be thinking about that when I read fantasy books from now on.

      On Thu, Jun 11, 2020 at 2:53 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • When my second child was born my husband was entranced in the George R.R. Martin books to the point where he laid on the couch all day reading and didn’t help with anything. Thus I’ve always resented the books, though I did like the first one, until I realized a child was going to die, then I stopped reading. When my youngest graduates high school maybe I’ll pick them up again. But even without reading them, we had great discussions about the Dragon lady, she was a great character.

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  5. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir!! I definitely mentioned this series in a Wednesday post, and I just finished it and WOW MY EMOTIONS!! They were everywhere!! It’s supposed to be inspired by ancient Rome, but there’s a lot of Indian nuances that slip in there, probably because Tahir is Pakistani. The tribes have a revered storyteller, called a Kehanni, and male friends are frequently referred to as “bhai”. The world is amazing, the characters are incredible, the action is intense, but the story is DARK and may not be for everyone but I still love it.

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    • No darkness! Although, on the other hand, I am jealous of that “wow my emotions” reaction. Hmm. I’m reading the newest few Lackeys now, but I feel like I want something more emotional and gripping.

      On Thu, Jun 11, 2020 at 5:10 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. Reading this post and all the responses has been the best part of my day. I guess a love of fantasy and Indian films really do go hand in hand. Books not mentioned that I love are Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith – it is really two books now sold as one, but they are totally different. The first is all battles with a prickly heroine who everyone loves and a maybe evil prince of stone comportment. And the second is set at court full of palace intrigues. The world, with living tree people is fantastic. Also Graceling by Kristin Cashore is incredible and has the hottest sex seen I’ve ever read in a novel for teens. And finally Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi creates a world unlike any I had seen before, probably because it is a fantasy world with roots in Nigerian culture. Like India, Nigeria is a country that grips people, the more you learn about it the less you know. And like India they speak English so their literature is highly accessible to English speaking Westerners.

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  7. I second Graceling series by Kristine Cashore and agree with her assesment on the sex scene.

    I also would recommend Melissa de la Cruz’s Blue Blood series and Witches of East End.

    Also, more adult that the other two recommendations are Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy starting with Discovery of Witches: a historian discover she is a witch falls in love with a vampire.

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    • Just looked up Graceling, and here’s an interesting tidbit, the film rights were bought by Warner Bros. and the film was supposed to be produced by Reliance. Yes, our Reliance.

      so to add to the “Ambanis own everything” list, the Ambanis own your favorite sex scene.

      On Fri, Jun 12, 2020 at 9:50 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Ecck not sure I want to think about Ambani’s owning one of my favorite sex scenes, but really excited if there is a movie coming out!

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        • Looks like the rights sale was back in 2013, so not sure if that means a movie is coming or not. Maybe the Ambanis just realized they didn’t own enough of our mindspace and picked up the rights to mess with us all?

          On Fri, Jun 12, 2020 at 10:07 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  8. I grew up on fantasy, it’s still a guilty pleasure. Though more male authors than looks like the norm here. I started with C.S. Lewis and Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander. Then a school friend got me hooked on David Eddings (though he revealed later he always wrote with his wife, Leigh, and started giving her co-author credit, so maybe that counts as both). I read and re-read the Belgariad, the Mallorean, the Elenium, and the Tamuli series. Then Anne McCaffrey. Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn was one of my favorite series. And on to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. That was the last big series I got into. I read all the Game of Thrones books but I found him sadistic as an author, and felt like he didn’t know how to use the fantasy elements of his world. More recently, in my grown-up life, I loved Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, which is brilliant, and Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson.

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    • Yes Susan Cooper!!!!! There are all these teenage fantasy serieses now, and no one talks about the nice slightly younger ones. Susan Cooper was amazing, shorter books that were appropriately complex for younger readers, but really smart and good and original at the same time. My sister was addicted to Lloyd Alexander but I could never get into them (have to admit, part of that might have been a mental block of not wanting to take something that belonged to my sister). CS Lewis, nope! Too weird for me! SPOILERS the lion is Jesus and they are all dead? That is a terrible fantasy series ending! END SPOILERS

      And then all the others you mentioned are, like, adult grown-uppy smart fantasy serieses. I love my more adult authors, but they tend to be “adult” on the “romance novel” side of things, the moral complexity and stuff is still at a pretty low ebb.

      On Fri, Jun 12, 2020 at 10:39 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Over the last year I read The Book of Three and The Dark Is Rising with my older son. He’s not really into fantasy, but we switch off picking books and those were my picks. It was interesting, I hadn’t read them in many years. Lloyd Alexander I remember as being younger but that was actually less accessible because he has so many Welsh-inspired long, confusing names, and the plot is more a typical quest style with one strange encounter after another. My kid didn’t dislike it but he wasn’t interested in continuing with the next book. Susan Cooper, on the other hand, her characters are more richly drawn, and of course the setting is more realistic, but most of all her writing is beautiful. He was more hooked on that story.

        I have hopes my younger one is showing signs of being more the fantasy type, maybe he’ll be the one I get to share these books with.

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        • My family is the reverse, neither of my parents are super into fantasy, but I am. Well, it’s one of my staple genres at least. Fantasy is funny, it’s hard to even explain to people who don’t read it what makes a book good or bad or why you enjoy it. Either you get it, or you don’t.

          On Sat, Jun 13, 2020 at 8:48 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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