Arts & Entertainment Editor
For readers, magic is running rampant. From dragons who spit fire over hoards of gold to otherworldly warlocks with plenty of tricks up their sleeves, there has been no shortage of fantasy books as of late. Perhaps it is escapism that readers love, transporting themselves to other worlds that are the most different from our own by turning a page. Or maybe fantasy’s boundless creativity is simply enticing. Either way, the genre is a diverse pool of endless possibilities and I invite you to dive in.
“The Forgotten Beasts of Eld,” written by Patricia McKillip, is as forgotten as its creatures and severely underrated. A sophisticated writer with a talent for crafting stunning visuals, McKillip’s once celebrated classic seems to have been lost to time. Published in 1974, the book won the World Fantasy Award the following year and has since graced niche readers with a story to get lost in. Join main character Sybel and the menagerie of creatures she keeps as her role as caretaker expands from just beasts, to the orphaned human baby left in her care.
An epic LGBTQ+ fantasy novel, “The Priory of the Orange Tree,” by Samantha Shannon is a magnetic tale that readers find hard to put down. Inside its pages resides a world with its own cities, cultures and conflicts to behold. It begins with Sabran, Queen of Inys, who has received a prophecy that when her bloodline ends, her kingdom will fall. A dance of suspicion and betrayal falls on her court as she struggles to maintain her desires and the fate of her beloved people. Uniquely, the story shifts between several POV’s, allowing the reader to watch as tensions boil on all sides.
Stephen King and Peter Straub present “The Talisman,” a 1984 fantasy novel. Horror and mystery writers respectively, both authors used “The Talisman” as an opportunity to explore the boundaries of their capabilities and craft a story that is entirely fantastical. The story is centered around Jack Sawyer and his sickly mother when they move from California to not-so-sunny New Hampshire. He comes to know Speedy Parker, a stranger who foretells of a cure to Jack’s mother’s cancer that belongs to a parallel universe. In an attempt to save his mother, Jack learns to jump between his two selves: his real body and his doppelgänger living in the other world and finds himself in danger as he learns more about this alternate reality.
Some might be familiar with the 1982 film, “The Last Unicorn,” but what many don’t know is that it is based on a book of the same name. Published in 1968 by Peter S. Beagle, “The Last Unicorn” is renowned for its vivid imagery and emotional story. It is said that the unicorn is the last of her kind and that all of her kin were hunted by the Red Bull: a bloodthirsty creature owned by the tyrannical King Haggard. In a confrontation with the bull, Schmendrick, a struggling magician and the unicorn’s traveling companion, turns the unicorn into a young woman. Grappling with her new-found mortality and the dying hope that her fellow unicorns could still be alive, she, Schmendrick and their friend Molly Grue set out to infiltrate King Haggard’s castle and save the last unicorn.
“Circe” was written by Madeline Miller, the author of the popular spin on Greek mythology, “The Song of Achilles.” A 2018 novel, “Circe” also utilizes a Greek tale, but confronts female independence and the highs and lows of motherhood. Set during the Greek heroic age, Circe is a sorceress and daughter of the sun god, Helios. Her jealousy takes hold when the man she saves favors another, and her brutal act of revenge causes her to be exiled by her father to the island of Aiaia. It is there that she makes a life for herself and learns to use the island’s resources to brew potions, eventually becoming a dangerously powerful witch. It is not until her son with the fabled Odysseus is born that she is discontent, attempting to raise her baby as he grows dissatisfied with the life he can provide her.
Entire worlds set apart from reality lie waiting to be found in between these pages. Take the opportunity to realize the boundless potential that is the fantasy genre and open one of these mystical novels.