Book Tag: Get to Know the Fantasy Reader

I saw this fun tag over on Irresponsible Reader‘s blog. It’s one of my favorite blogs and you really should give it a follow!

While I dabble in other genres, fantasy is my go-to. I have a feeling some of these questions will stump me, or else lead me down a long and rambling rabbit hole. You’ve been warned.

What is your fantasy origin story? (How you came to read your first fantasy novel.)

Ah…question one and I’m already ready to ramble. I grew up on fantastical stories. From my first fairy tales and Arthurian picture books (The Kitchen Knight and St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges were two favorites), I moved on to easy chapter books like Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, Redwall, and the Chronicles of Narnia. As I grew older, though, I branched out a bit. I read things like the Elizabeth Peters mysteries and All Things Great and Small. Then I stumbled across the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, my gateway to adult fantasy. Fantasy went back to being my mainstay, leading me to experience many, many fantastical worlds and stories full of wonder, adventure, and humanity. So, I still can’t answer the question about my first fantasy novel: would it be Patricia C. Wrede’s series? Redwall? Dragonlance? Or another book that I loved at the time but have since forgotten?

If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

Arrgh!!! This is a tough one. My first thought is Margaret Weis but I don’t love my chances of surviving in a world of her creation. Still…I’d love to get to know characters she’s created, especially Fizban/Zifnab. Second to that would be Erin Morgenstern. I think I’d live a little longer in a world of her creation, and I’d love to wander the Night Cirus. Oh- I’ve got it! How about a mashup? During the day, I could visit The Inn of the Last Home, enjoy some spiced potatoes, then maybe fly off on the back of a dragon (particularly one that eats oatmeal). At night, I could wander the Circus. I wouldn’t need sleep in a fantasy novel, right?

As for tropes, I’m a sucker for found families. And dragons.

What is a fantasy you’ve read this year, that you want more people to read?

Oh, wow, the answer to this question could be a list of at least thirty books. I’ll go with Dragons of a Different Tail: 17 Unusual Dragon Tales this time, though. It’s an excellent collection of short stories about- you guessed it- dragons. The variety of tails (badum-tish!) and the creativity that can be found in this book is astounding! You should give it a go. You’ll happily devour it (yes, my draconic puns are truly awful).

What is your favorite fantasy subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?

High fantasy is my absolute favorite. I love reading books with vast worlds, groups of well-developed characters, monsters, magic, and high-stakes battles. I love feeling like the story I’ve just finished reading is just one small part of a giant saga that continues on after I close the book. Give me nuanced characters, authors who have come up with mythologies, religions, and even special details for parts of a fantasy world that the reader may never even hear about, aside from a short offhand mention. That makes me one happy bookworm.

I have next to no experience with romantic fantasy. I recently read The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy, which I think fits into that category, but that was a rare deviation from my normal fantasy subgenre of choice.

Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?

This author hasn’t written a ton of books but based on my “pre-order with no questions asked” reaction to the news that she had written another book, I have to go with Erin Morgenstern. I pre-ordered The Starless Sea before finding out anything about it, absolutely sure that I would love it. I did love it, of course.

How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram.)

Thank you, bookbloggers, for destroying any progress I could possibly make on my “to be read” list! Every time I finish a book, I realize that I’ve added five others that bookbloggers I trust have recommended. Before We Go Blog (minus my contributions), Fantasy Book Nerd, and FanFIAddict are some of the worst culprits.

What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?

Amari and the Great Game releases at the end of August and I can’t wait! The first book in the series, Amari and the Night Brothers, was a lot of fun. My oldest enjoyed it too so I have a feeling we’ll be racing to see who gets to read the sequel first. I have longer legs, but I’m old and he still has energy, so it’s anyone’s race to win.

What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

That it is a waste of time or is of subpar quality. People sometimes see monsters or swords and think that fantasy is always silly or doesn’t talk about “real issues”. Honestly, though, I see the same themes that are often found in literary fiction or “classics” explored equally well in fantasy books. In fact, the best examples I’ve read of PTSD come from The Coward by Stephen Aryan and from J.R.R. Tolkien.

If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

Ooh, I’m on it! Let me roll up my sleeves…and BOOM! Here ya go!

The Ventifact Colossus by Dorian Hart

Dorian Hart has created a series that showcases the best parts of fantasy. It’s easy to fall in love with the characters, the world grows larger with each subsequent volume, and the stakes become higher. This is a series with an underlying current of hope, which I love. This book was also the catalyst to my oldest son’s burgeoning love of adult fantasy, which I think is a pretty good reason for it to be one of my three recommendations.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is such a wonderful book! There’s just something timeless about it. It has a perfect combination of adventure and heart. Plus, dragons.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Dragons of Autumn Twilight (book one of the Dragonlance Chronicles) is what started my ongoing love of fantasy. I’ve gushed at length about these books many, many times, so I’ll keep it short: this is a perfect introduction to fantasy.

Who is the most recent fantasy reading content creator you came across that you’d like to shoutout?

I am awful at remembering which blog I followed when (although there are a few that I’ve loved from the get-go). Series Book Lover is a newer to me blog (I think) that has awesome content. If they say a book is good, it’s pretty much a given that I’ll enjoy it. I also love Peat Long’s blog, which is always unique, always interesting, and has a cool combination of reviews and opinion pieces. I especially love the discussions of older fantasy (older being a relative term. How on earth can Gemmell be considered older, I ask?).

So, there you have it. I’m not tagging anyone here, but I’d love to read other answers!

Dragons of a Different Tail: 17 Unusual Dragon Tales

Eighteen award-winning, veteran, and emerging authors bring you seventeen unique dragon tales that defy tradition. Winged serpents as large as continents, as well as those tiny enough to perch on the fingertip of a young girl. Dragons who inhabit the Wild West, Victorian London, Brooklyn, and a post-apocalyptic Earth. Scaly beasts who fight in the boxing ring, celebrate Christmas, and conquer the vast void of outer space. There are rockstars who meddle with dragon magic, clever and conniving shapeshifters, and powerfully exotic hybrids. Science fiction, urban fantasy, mystery, western, epic fantasy, YA fantasy…no matter the setting or the genre–here be dragons!

Join Asimov’s Readers Award winner Timons Esaias, science fiction author Heidi Ruby Miller, post-apocalyptic author J. Thorn, along with K.W. Taylor, Sean Gibson and more as they put their personal twist on the usual dragon tale. (taken from Amazon)

Dragons of a Different Tail was one of the most creative and entertaining anthologies I’ve had the pleasure of reading. The sheer variety of tails-ahem, tales- in this book is astonishing. There’s generally a story or two that doesn’t connect with me in anthologies, but that wasn’t the case here. Between the subject matter and some extremely talented authors, this is a win from beginning to end.

While I enjoyed every story in Dragons of a Different Tail, there were a few that stood out to me. Chasing the Dragon by Sean Gibson was delightful and the perfect way to start the book. It follows Celare and Stanley, two detectives in Victorian era London. Their job entails slightly more than what most people picture when thinking of Victorian era P.I.’s. They find their into an opium den, where they discover something way out of the ordinary.

I loved the banter between Stanley and Celare! Celare was delightfully snarky with the sort of attitude that is a blast to read. The ending was brilliant (although I’m not sure I can forgive author Sean Gibson for such a cliffhanger!), but my favorite part of the tale was the nature of the beast. It’s not something I find often in fantasy, and I loved it. I won’t say more, for fear of giving spoilers, but it was fantastic.

Spirit of the Dragon by J.C. Mastro rocked (quite literally). It is about the DragonFraggen, a metal band in search for inspiration for a new song. Fortunately for the reader, but unfortunately for them, they find it in the form of an old, mysterious text. Things go a little wonky and the next thing DragonFraggen knows, their live concert might end up with someone dead.

I loved how unique this story was! Aside from the band having a bit of a Spinal Tap feel (word to the wise: never be the drummer in a band), their earnestness made me laugh. The dragon was killer, pun intended, and the entire tale left a big smile on my face.

The other story that most stood out to me was Wei Ling and the Water Dragon by Jeff Burns. Wei Ling decides to track down the thieves that stole her village’s dragon idol and steal it back. It doesn’t go quite as simply planned, but she ends up with the most unlikely of friends.

Wei Ling and the Water Dragon is action-packed and quick moving. Wei Ling herself was a ball of sass and the dragon in this tale was entertainingly smug. Both Wei Ling and the Dragon were well-written. They developed beautifully together, with a surprising amount of character in such a short amount of time.

Dragons of a Different Tail: 17 Unusual Dragon Tales is a great anthology, one with something new and unexpected on each page. This is an excellent book for readers who love dragons and people who love fantasy in general. Pick this one up!