Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Lit Spotlight: Epic Fantasy for Fall

Here's what I know, Katie, your picks for fall are, in a word, epic!

Epic Fantasy for Fall

I love to describe things as “epic.” Even when they aren’t. For me, the ideas of epic and fantasy should go hand in hand. The word calls to mind massive book series like Lord of the Rings and The Dark Materials. There are two books that have potential epic written all over them that will be hitting shelves this fall and are already in the catalog to put on hold: One the continuation of an epic (both in length and scope) series and the other the beginning of a new series.

The Gray Wolf Throne (The Seven Realms, Book 3) by Cinda Williams Chima
If you haven’t already started this series, what are you waiting for? We first meet Han and Raisa in the The Demon King. Raisa is the princess heir of the Fells. Han is a former streetlord who feels no loyalty to the throne and is a different sort of heir entirely. In Book 2, The Exiled Queen, their paths cross once again, this time at school, as one hides from destiny and the other seeks it out. Slowly discovering how these destinies intertwine is what makes this series so satisfying.

It isn’t until this third book--The Gray Wolf Throne--that we begin to really see how the course of Han and Raisa’s life may do more than just intersect from time to time. Returning to the Seven Realms, a fantastical medieval world of wizards and warriors and royalty, we find Raisa attempting to claim her place in the Gray Wolf Queen Dynasty, but she will not be able to do it without the help of Han. But Han has his own reasons for being angry at Raisa and his own agenda for seeking power. So you can bet when a former streetlord turned wizard finds himself living in a palace, adventure and intrigue will abound. Seeing our main characters interact more frequently and their relationship evolve from something sweet and simple to something complicated and richer is truly rewarding. Cinda Williams Chima has created a world where nothing is black and white and everyone seems to teeter on the precipice between good and evil as they work to achieve their own goals.

The Gray Wolf Throne is my favorite in the series so far (one more to go). Complexly woven and balanced between Raisa and Han’s voices, this series will appeal to fantasy lovers of all genders and ages. 

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
When Tamora Pierce--one of the Queens of YA Fantasy--says a book is “engrossing,” it’s a good idea to pay attention. That just so happens to be the perfect way to describe this series opener from Rae Carson.

Once each century, God chooses someone to carry out his work and marks them with a godstone. In this case, he’s chosen 16-year-old princess Elisa. We meet Elisa on her wedding day--overweight, scared, and unaware of her own destiny--as she is about to marry a handsome king of a large country and be taken away from all that is familiar. Elisa’s sister vows this match is for her own protection and warns her against trusting anyone. Indeed, it seems everyone wants to protect Elisa (from what they never say), but she has a lot to learn before she can protect herself.

These lessons come to her in an unexpected way and through unexpected people. Shortly after arriving in her new home, Elisa finds herself thrust into her destiny by a rag tag group of kidnappers who need a leader who has some faith and a whole lot of brains. In choosing to help them, Elisa learns about herself, her abilities, love, and friendship.

This richly-layered fantasy is not only a compulsively readable story recommended for anyone who also loves Pierce’s Tortall books, but also an insightful study on how man interprets the will of God and the necessity of believing in oneself above all. Elisa’s transformations--emotional, spiritual, and physical--leave the reader feeling satisfied (hooray for non-cliffhanger endings!), but also looking forward to what the godstone has in store for her next.

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