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  • Nicole Hill 9:00 pm on 2018/03/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , fantasy, , pulling rank   

    A Definitive Ranking of the Fiction Books of Neil Gaiman 

    There comes a time in every beloved author’s career when a book blogger must attempt to rank that author’s works. Surely, Neil Gaiman will be thrilled to know his day has now arrived. But where do you start with Gaiman, whose works diverge so greatly in style and approach, yet remain so very true to their author’s essence?

    You start by whittling the list down. Below, you’ll find my rankings of Gaiman’s major works of fiction. Missing from this list are his notable cadre of exclusively children’s books (my sincerest regards to Chu!), though I’ve kept books that have more crossover appeal, like Coraline. Similarly, I’ve left out Gaiman’s nonfiction writings, even though you really should take in The View from the Cheap Seats.

    Keep in mind: in my estimation, Gaiman has only ever written good books, which makes ranking his works all the harder. But here we go, nonetheless.

    This trilogy, a collaboration with Michael Reaves, skews toward the younger end of YA, but it proves entertaining for readers of any age. It’s a portal story that involves more science fiction elements than typically mark a Gaiman story, no doubt thanks to Reaves and, in the second and third novels, his daughter, Mallory Reaves. High-schooler Joey Harker gets lost one day—so lost, in fact, that he winds up in another dimension in which he must work with other versions of himself to save the multiverse. A fun series, but one that doesn’t give you the best sense of Gaiman’s style as an author.

    Smoke and Mirrors
    Oft-overlooked, Gaiman’s short fiction is where his inventiveness truly shines. Smoke and Mirrors was his first mainstream collection, though it cannibalizes several stories from the earlier, small-press Angels and Visitations. There are some standouts among the stories and poems, including “Troll Bridge, an entertaining retelling of “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” (Unusually lighthearted “Chivalry” is one of my underrated favorites.) But Smoke and Mirrors, as a whole, has more ups and downs than later collections.

    Norse Mythology
    Gaiman has engaged with Norse gods on a number of occasions, notably in both the Sandman series and American Gods. In both of those works, however, he’s using these mighty characters for his own purposes, and intermingling them with other elements of fantasy. His most recent book, Norse Mythology, finds him squarely rooted in the Nordic tradition, retelling the myths of Odin, Thor, and Loki in ways that are true to the original stories but also thoroughly modern. The tales are well-crafted and retold with a unique Gaiman spin, but you get to see less of the author’s mind than in his own original works.

    Anansi Boys
    If it were the work of any other author, Anansi Boys would have been a five-star career standout of a novel. The family tale of Fat Charlie Nancy and his trickster god father is hugely entertaining and carries all the hallmarks of a standard Gaiman story. The only way it falls short is in comparison to other Gaiman stories including American Gods, from which its story spun off. Ultimately, a great read, if slightly less memorable than its sibling novels.

    Trigger Warning
    Gaiman’s latest collection of “short fictions and disturbances” is darkly chaotic—and I mean that as a compliment. “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains” has lived many lives as a story, popping up in several formats, but this disturbing fable about greed and retribution finds a haunting home in Trigger Warning. There is levity in stories like “ORANGE,” which narrates a rogue tanning cream incident through responses to an investigator’s questionnaire. But by and large, the stories are meant to make you uncomfortable, and they typically succeed.

    The Ocean at the End of the Lane
    A sweet-and-sour meditation on the wonders of childhood, this novella draws upon a motif found in much of Gaiman’s shorter fiction: the melancholy and magic of looking back. Maybe it’s because the protagonist is a middle-aged Brit returning to his childhood home, or maybe it’s because Lettie Hempstock is a charismatic, remarkable, magical girl in an oeuvre filled with charismatic, remarkable, magical girls—either way, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a deeply intimate, personal story that sticks with you, despite its diminutive size.

    A true fairy tale from a master of folklore, Stardust is undeniably wonderful, equal parts sweet and swashbuckling. Wall, England, serves as the perfect foil to the Faerie realm, and both make for the perfect setting for a romantic adventure. Young Tristan Thorn’s quest to find a fallen star in Faerie uncovers far more than he bargained for, including an endlessly comedic family squabble over the Stormhold throne. A delight, if more straightforward than some of Gaiman’s other novels.

    Oddly, Neverwhere can be a divisive book among Gaiman’s legions of fans. Some find it weaker than similar efforts like American Gods. For me, it’s a personal favorite, mostly because of my intense affection for poor beleaguered Richard Mayhew, cast down into London Below, the magical and murky city within a city he never knew existed. Given the split, it seems fair to stick this novelization of the British TV series in the middle of the pack.

    The Graveyard Book
    The juxtaposition of children in cemeteries is something Gaiman has played with on more than one occasion. Here, it becomes the basis for a worrisome yet warming story of Nobody Owens, a little boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard after the murder of his parents. It doesn’t sound sweet—and to be fair, it has got its fair share of fright—but Bod and his adopted ghoulish family actually do provide plenty of sweet narrative moments—and that line between “awwww” and “AHHHH” is Gaiman’s sweet spot.

    Good Omens
    Reading this collaboration between Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett feels very much like what it is: watching two masters of their respective crafts at work. Pratchett’s madcap matches Gaiman’s macabre note for note in a novel that kicks off with the birth of the Antichrist and follows the joint efforts of an angel, a demon, and the plucky witch-descendant Anathema Device as they attempt to head off the End Times. It’s a raucous delight that melds the personalities of its creators near perfectly.

    American Gods
    You’re spluttering right now at the thought of Gaiman’s most broadly known work clocking in at a mere number four, I know. But this is the danger in ranking the books of someone who has a habit of writing very good books: they can’t all be number one. American Gods sends stoic former jailbird Shadow on a classic odyssey, and the novel engages with mythology in a fresh, fascinating way that would be entirely unexpected had Gaiman not already proved he’s so darn good at it.

    Fragile Things
    There is much to savor in Smoke and Mirrors and Trigger Warning, but in my estimation, Fragile Things feels the most even and deliberate of Gaiman’s short story collections. “October in the Chair,” in which the months of the year gather to tell stories, captures the spooky essence of a chilly autumn night with precision. “The Facts in the Case of the Departures of Miss Finch” presents a full-bodied and elusive mystery, replete with circus weirdness. There’s really not a dud in the rest of the lot, either.

    In every way, Coraline feels like a classic book for that in-between age of early adolescence, along the same lines as Howl’s Moving Castle or A Wrinkle in Time. The novel has the same theme as other entries in the Gaiman canon—a hidden world within or just on the other side of your own—but puts a unique spin on portal fantasy with its feisty, take-no-lip heroine. Not to mention, the Other Mother is one of the most disturbing villains imaginable, no matter your age.

    Look, Gaiman has written some outstanding novels, and there are any number of arguments you can make for your favorites to be listed as The Best. But if we were to try to pinpoint the one work he’ll be remembered for in future generations, it has to be this sprawling, genre-defying graphic novel series (and its related companion stories). This epic saga of immortals and gods and monsters and legends encapsulates Gaiman’s myth-soaked storytelling like no other work could, and I truly believe there’s a fair number of this planet’s inhabitants for which Morpheus, the King of Dreams, will remain their moody, goth, elusive first love. (Note: I’m raising my hand.)

    The post A Definitive Ranking of the Fiction Books of Neil Gaiman appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 7:00 pm on 2018/01/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , breath of magic, crystal cove, , daughter of the blood, , erika mailman, fantasy, , , , , , , , naomi novik, , , paula brackson, practical magic, , , , , the witches of east end, the witching hour, the witchs daughter, the witchs trinity, toil and trouble, uprooted, , wicked deeds on a winters night, witch and wizard   

    16 Witchy Books You Need This Winter 

    You may think Autumn is the only time for witchery, but we say winter and witches go together like snowflakes and hot cocoa! If January has been keeping you cold, here are some witchy reads that will excite…and maybe even scare you a bit, too.

    A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
    When factions of supernatural creatures set their sights on a document that could give them the upper hand in a war, a reluctant witch must seek the protection of an equally reluctant vampire, her supposed mortal enemy. Witch stories have a tendency to emphasize the importance of family…but in this case, it could be her own family that wants her dead. Can true love between two warring beings prevail?

    Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman
    The Owens sisters are cursed: the men that they love will always die. But with that curse comes unique abilities—magic—that on more than one occasion, they have used to try and prevent others that they love from falling prey to the same fate. Gillian and Sally grew up as outsiders, always trying to escape the rumors about their family. One of them married, and the other ran away, determined never to do so. But when tragedy brings them together again, the curse is always there to welcome them home…

    Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts
    In this witchy trilogy, Iona Sheehan travels to Ireland to connect with family she has always yearned to know. Reunited with her cousins in the home of her ancestors, Iona is hopeful she’s found everything she’s been looking for. And then she meets Boyle MacGrath: a cowboy with no ties, except the one winding its way around her heart.

    Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night, by Kresley Cole
    In the fourth installment in this paranormal romance series, Mariketa the witch has been stripped of her magic, leaving her with no choice but to seek the protection of her greatest enemy, Bowen MacRieve. Bowen is a tortured werewolf determined never to let his heart belong to another—especially Mari—but soon enough, they cannot deny the passion between them. Forbidden love, evil forces, and magic combine for a riveting tale.

    Breath of Magic, by Teresa Medeiros
    Arian Whitewood is a witch from the seventeenth century…which means she does not belong three hundred years in the future, but alas, that’s where a mysterious amulet takes her. She meets Tristan Lennox, a billionaire with no faith in magic…and so he never expected his reward of 1 million dollars to the person who could prove its existence to ever come true. Outlander fans will love this reverse-time-travel billionaire romance.

    Crystal Cove, by Lisa Kleypas
    Friday Harbor has been a good home to Justine; here she’s found the stability she never had with her untamable mother, Marigold, and she enjoys the safety in her mundane life of running a small hotel. But then, her world is rocked by the truth that her lack of love is the result of a dark curse cast on her at birth.

    The Witch’s Daughter, by Paula Brackston
    One of the most fascinating and engrossing witch tales I’ve ever read: you will not be able to look away from the tale of Elizabeth Hawksmith, a witch who has survived over three-hundred years in loneliness, only to discover a Witchfinder from her past has been stalking her through time, determined to collect on a debt. But this time, Elizabeth can’t run: she has a teenage girl under her care, and something more important than her own immortality to protect.

    The Witches of East End, by Melissa De La Cruz
    The Beauchamp witches try to live a normal life; the fact that they are forbidden to practice magic makes that slightly easier. But when murder and mystery find them in their solitude, they decide the time has come to defy the rules and do what must be done to defeat the evil in their midst.

    Daughter of the Blood, by Anne Bishop
    This high fantasy in which power is manifested through magical gems stars a mysterious Queen who will rise to a power stronger even than Hell itself. Three men seek to find and control the girl who is destined to ascend the throne in a ruthless quest of corruption, greed, and lust.

    Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
    The story of the Wicked Witch of the West begins at birth—born green, an outcast in society, she is nonetheless destined to wield a magic that will make her infamous. This villain origin story is action-packed, beautiful, and romantic.

    The Witch’s Trinity, by Erika Mailman
    This fascinating tale of witchcraft, fear, and history begins in 1507 when a German town is struck by a famine…which one friar believes is the result of witchcraft. Güde Müller has been tormented by visions that she cannot explain…and soon she realizes that her position in the town is compromised, perhaps even by her own family.

    The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
    This unique story is difficult to describe, but incredibly ethereal, dark, and haunting. A man comes home to Sussex for a funeral, and is drawn to the mysterious house at the end of the road where, as a child, he met a mysterious girl and something magical and dangerous happened to him as a child.

    The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe
    Connie’s summer is full to the brim with research for her PhD. But when her mother asks her to help handle the sale of her grandmother’s house, Connie finds herself pulled into a dark mystery involving a family bible, an old key, and a name: Deliverance Dane. Who was she? And why is Connie suddenly having visions of the Salem Witch Trials?

    Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
    A terrifying wizard known as The Dragon kidnaps girls in a small town every ten years—and soon, Agnieszka’s best friend will be chosen. That is, until a twist of fate results in her being chosen instead.

    Witch and Wizard, by James Patterson
    In a dystopian world of governmental control, Wisty and Whit Allgood are siblings accused of being a witch and wizard. Young people everywhere have been torn from their homes and forced to face judgment for this “crime” of magic.

    The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice
    This lush, dark, and gorgeously gory paranormal series introduces readers to the Mayfair witches, whose stories have been told for centuries by the Talamasca. This time, Rowan Mayfair is a neurosurgeon who never knew of her abilities until one day when she brings a man back from the dead. Cursed (or gifted, or both) with the ability to see the dark realm and the evil spirit who wants to come through to the mortal realm, Rowan must find a way to defeat him and protect the world—and people—she loves.

    What witchy books do you love?

    The post 16 Witchy Books You Need This Winter appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 4:00 pm on 2017/04/21 Permalink
    Tags: fantasy, , , starter kit   

    20 Books for the New Fantasy Reader 

    Fantasy can be a difficult genre for beginners to penetrate, and in a sense, that’s fitting. The foundations of the genre rely on invention and reinvention, pushing boundaries, and infusing the known with the unknown.

    Where do you even begin when the worlds are unfamiliar (and sprawling), and you can’t fight your way through the hordes of wizards and magicians, faeries and pixies, elves and dwarves, fallen gods and avenging angels? Well, there’s an answer to that question. Dozens, in fact.

    Assuming you’re familiar with the genre’s mainstream staples like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings (if not, to your shopping cart!), here are a few must-haves for your fantasy starter kit. They will ease you into this diverse, unpredictable reading experience—and hook you for years to come.

    The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
    Besides being one of the biggest inspirations for those participating in the annual NaNoWriMo challenge, The Night Circus is a dazzling revelation of love, magic, and mystery. At its center is a circus, specifically Le Cirque des Reves, an ethereal and enigmatic traveling revue that unfurls its striking black-and-white tents without warning. Each night, it mesmerizes visitors. But these visitors are ignorant of the far bigger show happening backstage between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, unwitting players in a game they’ve been groomed for their whole lives.

    Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
    It was hard to whittle down Gaiman’s presence on this list to just one book, as he’s one of the most accessible authors working in fantasy. Neverwhere is as good a launching point as any, particularly since its central plot arc is an ode to discovering hidden worlds. Beneath the streets of London is, in fact, another London, one most folks don’t see, filled with magic and monsters, bazaars and the bizarre. A single Good Samaritan deed knocks Richard Mayhew into this world, where danger and delight go hand in and hand.

    A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin
    Le Guin’s Earthsea series is on par with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis for their importance in both fantasy and young adult literature, but the series has remained under the radar for non-genre readers. It’s a coming-of-age tale for the ages that reveals itself quickly and elegantly. Ged is a wizard you’re meant to relate to, instead of being awed by him. Arrogant and powerful, Ged is revealed layer by layer through the story of his hardscrabble youth and his reckless and dangerous rise to power.

    Wintersong, by S. Jae-Jones
    Wintersong blends a number of timeless fantasy influences into something entirely modern and absorbing. Infused in the narrative are Germanic traditions from the Brothers Grimm, parallels with the Greek myth of Persephone, and, well, a healthy dose of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. When her sister is taken by goblins, 19-year-old Liesl must journey to the realm of the Goblin King to get her back. Securing her return, however, comes with a price, and one that will bring her face to face with the tempestuous and intoxicating figure of her youthful imagination.

    The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
    In his Kingkiller Chronicle series, Rothfuss has managed to nail all the prototypical elements of high fantasy without ever succumbing to cliché or reduction. (The series is also Lin-Manuel Miranda-approved.) There is a unique intimacy in The Name of the Wind, because it’s narrated by its own hero, Kvothe, who relates to the listener and the reader the details of his daring and magic-infested life.

    Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
    This darling novella proves a perfect companion piece for canonic fantasies like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Chronicles of Narnia. There are no solicitations, no visitors, and no quests at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Here, the children who tumble through portals to another world, whether they’re rabbit holes or enchanted wardrobes, wind up, once that world of wonder spits them back out. These children are refugees, with one foot still in the realm of fantasy and one foot in a “real” world that doesn’t understand them anymore. Eleanor West’s school helps these impossible children navigate their reality, until the school itself comes under attack.

    The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins
    Anyone who’s ever stepped into a library understands the awe-inspiring power it wields. As a girl, Carolyn’s life was upended when her family and, in fact, her whole subdivision were killed, their deaths consumed by mystery and time. Since then, she has worked as a “Librarian,” along with 11 others, under the tutelage of their Father, an enigmatic god-like figure. This is, of course, until Father goes missing, and all manners of hell break loose. The Library at Mount Char is a little bit Gothic, a little bit contemporary fantasy, a little bit magical realism, and a whole lot of mesmerizing.

    Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay
    Kay is an old hand at world-building, a central component to a fully realized fantasy, and the world of Tigana is another enchanting example that delights the senses and entices you to want more. What makes this novel, in particular, such a good pick for newbies to the genre is the universality of its themes. The province of Tigana is the lone holdout among its neighbors in standing against the conquering sorcerer Brandin. The resistance doesn’t last long, and part of Brandin’s conquest is to wipe Tigana from memory. Years later, we find a group of survivors fighting to unseat the despot and restore their homeland.

    The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin
    Jemisin is a darling of the Hugo and Nebula awards and for good reason. Her Inheritance Trilogy at once hews to standard fantasy features, while giving them new life. Yeine Darr has spent her youth as an outcast, the product of her parents’ forbidden love. But upon the mysterious death of her mother, Yeine becomes the heir to the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms—well, one of the heirs anyway. As she’s pulled into a power struggle with two of her cousins, she’s also drawn into the intriguing and tangled story of a group of overthrown and subjugated gods.

    Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
    This inimitable classic is often categorized as children’s fiction, but it holds appeal for all ages. Howl’s Moving Castle is odd and moving and ultimately dazzling. Much misfortune has befallen Sophie, but none so much as when she gets on the bad side of the Witch of the Waste. A spell transforms Sophie into an old woman, and her only chance at undoing it lies in the ambulatory castle of Wizard Howl. If you’ve seen the Hayao Miyazaki adaptation, it’s time you read the source material.

    Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente
    Even more than other forms of fiction, fantasy is rooted in elements of folklore, and Valente’s retelling of the story of Koschei the Deathless, a menacing figure in Russian tradition, is a fine example of how timeless these narratives are. Primarily, the novel’s action is seen through the eyes of Marya Morevna, a child of the Communist revolution who unwittingly becomes Koschei’s bride. And, as is customary in Valente’s works, the story is intricate, involving, and otherworldly.

    The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
    There’s a subversive side to magic, all those schools full of future witches and wizards, always on the lookout for some mysterious, powerful foe. That’s where Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy comes in. Quentin Coldwater has never believed magic is real, until he passes the Brakebills entrance exam. The experience isn’t quite Hogwarts, and Quentin discovers magic alone might not be able to fill the emptiness inside of him.

    Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
    There are various entry paths to the glory of Pratchett’s Discworld series, depending on which set of sideways characters you most prefer. Small Gods is one of a few novels in the series that stands alone entirely, which makes it an excellent jumping-off point. The Discworld books skewer high fantasy tropes (while simultaneously building a complete fantasy world) and in this outing, Pratchett set his sights on religion. Much like everything in Discworld, religion is a business, and being a god requires being noticed. When you’re trapped in the form of a tortoise, this can be difficult.

    Borderline, by Mishell Baker
    The starter for Baker’s Arcadia Project series introduces an exciting urban fantasy and an important introspection on mental health. Millie lost her legs, as well as her budding filmmaking career, after a failed suicide attempt. Since then, she’s been at sea. Then the Arcadia Project finds her and initiates her into a secret police of sorts, whose jurisdiction is the line between our world and parallel reality, filled with creatures from myth, legend, and fairy tale.

    Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone
    The Craft Sequence consumes about a half-dozen science fiction and fantasy subgenres and spits them back out in a form totally new and exhilarating. Each of the novels can stand alone, but they also fit together to create a world entirely unlike any other. This is a world undone by the God Wars and rebuilt, this time comprised of a powerful network of human sorcerer-bureaucrats. Tara is a newbie at her international necromantic firm, and her first case is a doozy: her client is a recently deceased fire god whose power fuels a giant metropolis.

    The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
    Fantasy has a rich tradition of rogues, thieves, and scoundrels. Locke Lamora is one such person. A wily orphan turned con artist extraordinaire, Locke leads a delightful and dastardly band, the Gentleman Bastards, in crimes and capers, leading to a certain level of infamy, as the “Thorn of Camorr.” But Locke’s own schemes may be a part of a game he knows little about, and that confrontation will change the trajectory of his merry band of “petty” thieves.

    A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar
    At the heart of Samatar’s debut is the power of reading, and of stories. A merchant’s son, Jevick has long dreamed of Olondria, a distant, prosperous, and more literate land than his own Tea Islands. Upon the death of his father, Jevick is finally given the opportunity to travel to Olondria, only to run into misfortune once there. Haunted by the ghost of a young girl and ensnared in the political strife of Olondria, Jevick finds his fantasy home different from reality. His challenges, however, allow for an immersive and dazzling world-building experience for you.

    A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
    Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy often earns comparisons to the prolific and voluminous Outlander novels. The parallels are obvious between two epics of time travel and romance, but for those just beginning to chart a course in fantasy, A Discovery of Witches provides a more bite-sized introduction, as it chronicles the accidental adventures of Diana Bishop, scholar and unwilling witch. Her discovery of an enchanted alchemical text in Oxford’s library sets off a supernatural storm of epic proportions and sparks a sweet and addicting star-crossed romance.

    Labyrinth Lost, by Zoraida Cordova
    It’s indisputable: YA fiction not only does fantasy well, but it also makes the genre accessible and endlessly engaging. More often than not, protagonists in fantasy novels search for magic, yearn for its power. Alex, on the other hand, would rather distance herself from hers. Alex is a bruja, the latest in a long familiar line, but for her, magic has brought only pain. When a spell goes awry, she must travel to Los Lagos, a dark, yet seductive, purgatory realm that mixes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with Latinx myth and tradition.

    Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older
    A bold and vibrant read, Shadowshaper takes you to the far-off magical realm of Brooklyn. Sierra Santiago has been looking forward to a low-key summer, until a zombie party-crasher destroys those plans. In fact, things seem to be going haywire all over. Sierra’s an artist, and her murals have begun to warp, and weep, all on their own. Her grandfather regains lucidity long enough to tell her of her family’s sorcerous heritage, and of the impending danger for her and her kind. The murals aren’t the only art in this book; every page is a masterpiece.

    A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab
    Sometimes the easiest way to suspend disbelief is to root the unfamiliar in ordinary and expected places. A Darker Shade of Magic uses London for this purpose, although it actually uses four Londons, in parallel realities but with divergent histories and cultures. Kell is one the last of a breed of magicians who can travel between these worlds. The ability does create some temptations, in which Kell indulges. When one of his smuggling exchanges goes wrong, he unleashes a potential cataclysm that could imperil all four worlds.

    What book would you recommend to a new fantasy reader?

    The post 20 Books for the New Fantasy Reader appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 10:00 pm on 2016/12/30 Permalink
    Tags: , fantasy, , ,   

    9 Things You Never Knew about The Chronicles of Narnia 

    If you’ve been alive and more or less aware over the last 60-odd years, you are no doubt familiar with C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. The seven-book series ranks collectively among the most-beloved novels of all time (they’re certainly among the bestselling). In fact, the Narnia books are so embedded in pop culture, you may think you know everything there is to know about them—but even after all these years, and all the film and TV adaptations, these nine facts about the series may still surprise you.

    Lewis came up with the idea when he was 16
    Lewis published The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in 1950, when he was 52 year old, but the original inspiration for the story came when he was just 16: an image of a faun carrying parcels through the snow. He said that after carrying that vision with him for more than 20 years, he sat down one day to try write a story around it—a story it took him him 10 more years to finish.

    Lewis burned an early version
    Lewis began work on the first book in 1939, and produced a draft in which the children were named Ann, Martin, Rose, and Peter. When he showed the story to his friends and colleagues, however, the reaction was consistently negative, so he burned the manuscript and started over. He later stated that the missing ingredient was Aslan: as soon as he added the heroic and not-at-all tame lion to the story, everything fell into place.

    Turkish Delight is…an acquired taste
    ]In the first book, when the White Witch Jadis is tempting Edmund, he asks for—and receives, to his greedy delight—a bowl of Turkish Delight. Which means that every year, a fresh crop of children start scheming to get their hands on this obvious delicacy. The truth is, real Turkish Delight is a traditional treat with the consistency of a marshmallow and the taste…well, a taste that is tough to describe. But unless you’re eating one of the watered-down versions drowned in milk chocolate, there is a really good chance you won’t enjoy it.

    People still argue about the correct order
    Lewis was honest about not having planned out the series; he expected to write one book, then wrote a sequel and thought that would be the end of it, and so on. As a result, he stated explicitly that he had no preference for a reading order. The publisher started claiming that Lewis had a “preferred order” that began with The Magician’s Nephew, the sixth book to be published. People still get into internet fights over the subject.

    Susan is the most controversial character in the series
    Susan Pevensie, the Gentle Queen, only appears in the first two books. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, she’s said to be in America with the Pevensie parents, on a trip. By the time of The Last Battle, when Narnia is destroyed and the Pevensies (and just about everyone else ever connected with Narnia) are transported from the scene of an accident to live forever with Aslan, Susan is specifically left out, because (basically) she’s grown up and left her childhood fantasies behind. Or, if you believe author Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling, she’s excluded because she’s discovered the joys of sex, which Lewis disapproved of. Susan, in fact, remains the one character that can get Narnia fans into an all-out brawl—is she the victim of Lewis’ hateful misogyny, a silly girl who lost immortality, or can we imagine she would someday be recalled to Narnia?

    Many of the characters are based on real people
    Lewis borrowed most of Narnia from other works, legends, and his own religious background. He also borrowed people. The Pevensie children were based on actual children who came to live with Lewis during the Blitz in World War II; Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle was based on Lewis’ gardener, Fred Paxford; and Lewis himself can be seen as the basis for Professor Digory Kirke.

    They’re still making movies
    Three major films based on the books were released between 2005 and 2010, but production stalled on a fourth due to declining ticket sales. For a while, it was assumed that either no more movies would be made, or the whole series would be rebooted. However, a fourth film, The Silver Chair is planned for a 2018 release, with an all-new production team and cast.

    It isn’t really a Christian allegory
    If you know nothing else about the Narnia books, you know that Lewis wrote them as Christian allegory, and you’re either okay with that, or horrified by it. But the fact is, the books aren’t an allegory at all—they’re a thought experiment. While there are definitely Christian references and themes in there, Lewis simply asked himself: suppose there was a world like Narnia—how would God save it as he saved this one?

    Who ever heard of a witch that really died?
    At the end of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the White Witch—Queen Jadis—is defeated and killed. We meet her again, of course, in The Magician’s Nephew, where her origins in Narnia are revealed. But a lot of people think we also see her in The Silver Chair, as the Lady of the Green Kirtle, who has enslaved Prince Rilian of Narnia. The descriptions of the two women are very close, and as Nikabrik states in Prince Caspian, “who ever heard of a witch that really died?”

    The post 9 Things You Never Knew about The Chronicles of Narnia appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Elodie 2:00 pm on 2016/11/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , , fantasy, , ,   

    8 Spells, Potions and Objects in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince That Will Make You Wish Magic Was Real 

    Behind every fictional bad guy is the dark and troubled past that made him this way. Lord Voldemort of the Harry Potter series (aka, the most villainous villain to ever villain) is no exception. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry plumbs the depths of his archenemy’s life story—and discovers Voldemort may in fact have a fatal flaw after all.

    Needless to say, it’s not just another year at Hogwarts. And while we wouldn’t trade places with Harry for a second (unprepared as we are to take on an evil wizarding overlord), we can’t help but wish we had some of the magical spells, potions, and objects he gets to use along the way. Here are just a few that give us serious enchantment envy.

    The potion: Felix Felicis
    What it does: It’s liquid luck! Though the effects only last a few hours, you’ll succeed in everything you try. Harry uses this in the ongoing crusade to suss out Voldemort’s weakness, but think how useful it would be during a final exam, job interview…or the lottery.

    The spell: Muffliato
    What it does: It fills the ears of everyone in the vicinity with an undetectable buzzing sound, so private conversations can be held without being overheard. Harry discovers this spell, among many others, scribbled in the margins of an old Potions textbook—they seem to have been invented by someone who calls themselves the “Half-Blood Prince.”

    The object: A Canary Cream
    What it does: This might look like your average, everyday custard cream, but when eaten, it briefly transforms the consumer into a canary. The holidays are coming up. You can’t tell us this wouldn’t be a big hit at Thanksgiving dinner, either as a conversation starter or as a way to change the subject when your relatives start asking about your future, or why you aren’t dating anyone.

    The object: The Hand of Glory
    What it does: It’s an instrument that gives light only to the holder. With this tool at your disposal, bothering other people with the light of your cell phone as you struggle to find a seat in a dark movie theater would be a thing of the past. Draco Malfoy, who as usual appears to be up to something nefarious, might just be using his Hand of Glory to a more sinister end.

    The spell: Aguamenti
    What it does: It causes water to shoot from the tip of one’s wand. If this were real, we’d be using it all the time, either for refills when we’re thirsty or to shoot jets of water at unwitting friends.

    The object: The Pensieve
    What it does: It’s a handy item that allows you to deposit your memories into a container and then reexamine them at your leisure. Harry, alongside Hogwarts headmaster Professor Dumbledore, uses this to explore the memories of those who knew Voldemort growing up. Most people would probably use it to figure out where they left their wallet, but defeating a Dark Lord is pretty good, too.

    The object: A Skiving Snackbox
    What it does: Everyone fakes sick to get out of doing things. Everyone. What’s often missing is the authenticity factor. The Skiving Snackbox is a magical product developed by twin entrepreneurs Fred and George Weasley, and is one of four treats designed to make you just sick enough to get out of school, work, or your great-aunt’s 90th birthday party. We recommend the Fever Fudge rather than the Puking Pastille or the Nosebleed Nougat, though there’s something to be said for the Fainting Fancy.

    The object: 10-Second Pimple Vanisher
    What it does: Self-explanatory. This is another product courtesy of Fred and George, and we think we speak for all of us when we say…where is the real-life equivalent? We can put a man on the moon and invent cars that drive themselves, but we haven’t yet devised a way of getting rid of acne instantaneously? What’s up with that?

    The post 8 Spells, Potions and Objects in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince That Will Make You Wish Magic Was Real appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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