Genre: Fantasy

FANTASY FICTION ARC 2014-2015 Historical, Romantic, and Sagas.  PRIMARY APPEAL: We had nine people respond. All nine had world-building (frame) as an element (8 in the #1 position). Eight listed character as one of the three appeal factors; and seven had storyline. Several people mentioned pacing (the thrill factor0, and Atmosphere or Tone. Several of us had magical or mystical elements which I would designate in the World-Building category.

1.WORLD-BUILDING (FRAME) needs: “to transport the reader to another world despite being fantasy is nonetheless believable;” “logical/consistent magic or physics of the world;” “creating a believable, new world as a setting/character in the story;” and “’Impossible World’ Building…the safe presentation of problems and solutions beyond our ordinary worlds.”

2.CHARACTERS need: “Without good characters, the best setting in the world won’t involve and sustain the reader;”…”I don’t believe this is any different than any other story, but in Fantasy where the characters may not be human, reader empathy/understanding is more important to the experience than it might me reading a mystery or general fiction.”

3.STORYLINE:  Several of us want “the Quest” to drive the story and “to hang created world and good characters.” While “discovering and learning how to handle the unusual phenomena becomes part of the growth of the character,” but “the Quest” should “be more than the world and the cool stuff in it/happening to it; the protagonist (2) must have a larger reason for interacting with the world or a reason for changing themselves in their world.” In other words, I think the storyline has to real within the context of the world but also should stand by itself as a compelling plot line. Often magical and mythical beasts and their dilemmas are metaphorical and the story universal.

The pacing, tone, and literary quality of the writing may vary for individual readers.

Thank you to Jessica Atherton; Eileen Barrett; Michelle Deschene; Diane Giarusso; Louise Goldstein, Nanci Milone Hill; Jan Resnick;  and Jim Riordan.

NOTES on Discussion (1.27.09) Mercedes Lackey’s Magic Pawn GENRE: FANTASY

DISCLAIMER: Again, it is very difficult to moderate a discussion and write the notes. I forgot to ask for a volunteer at this meeting—in the future I shall ask someone else to take some notes during the discussion. Leane

Magic Pawn

This is the first in the Valdemar series, and the first in the Magic trilogy.

Mixed reactions from everyone from not well-developed characters to too well-developed (whiny, adolescent) etc. Vanyel, the main character is a character who epitomizes the coming-of-age adolescent—finding his own way in a very difficult world. He is also homosexual and must find peace with this part of his character as well. Secondary characters were more than stereotypical but there was some criticism that they were uneven—wanted more of the Hawk brothers and the sister. Mentioned that you get more in other parts of the series.

Plot took its time and the pacing was a very slow build as the world is created and the magic is explained (and to some not well enough) and the last third was almost exploded with faster pacing and action. Lots of dialogue—but even more introspection which slows the narrative down.

Some thought Valdemar underdeveloped, and I did point out that this is a series with many parts and some of the world building takes place over time—although there should be enough in any part of the series if the author is doing the job well. Unlike most Sword & Sorcery or some High Fantasy books this had less action and more introspective growth.

Topics: powerless victims, ethical use of power, coming-of-age, gay teenagers

APPEAL FACTORS: STORYLINE—Coming-of-age storyline; CHARACTER—Vanyel’s growth; like most Fantasies—the pace is slower in the beginning and than builds into some action and those who want more obvious manifestations of magic may not care for this world/series. Those who like magical animals, Native American mythology may enjoy. Excellent integration of gay themes for those readers looking for that.

This is a Fantasy because of the magical world of Valdemar and the Herald Mage /Companion elements. Manipulation of elements and other psychic gifts. Good vs evil is prominent in both main character’s life and the big picture of Vanyel’s acceptance of his gift and his decision to use his magical abilities ethically/morally to protect those who are weaker and in need of his help from those who have evil intentions.

Some possible suggestions for those who want something like Magic Pawn: For those who like High Fantasy—Jim Butcher’s Calderon series, also elemental magic (Furies of Calderon); Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunners series (Luck in the Shadows); Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series (Kushiel’s Dart); Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden Series (Ill Wind) (elements), Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette’s Companion to Wolves, Monette’s The Mirador

Fantasy Genre: Second Title

From Leane–Hopefully, everyone will comment on their books in the Wiki—here are some Appeal reactions from my notes:

Eileen: Juliet Marillier. Daughter of the Forest. Well-developed characters Celtic Legend of the Swans (Mythic/Fairy tale) Tension but slowly paced; 1st person narrative Series

Trisha: Mariva V.Snyder’s Poison Study. See excellent summary. Strong female character develops into strong woman Might appeal to those who enjoy historicals Series; quick pace Also mentioned Guy Gabriel Kay’s Ysabel—appealing to teen boys, Romans vs Celts; current with magic included

Michelle: Brent Weeks’s The Way of Shadows, #1 Night Angel series. See Excellent summary. Thorough world-building, not fast paced but the action is cinematic Ambiguous characters—hard to know who is good or bad May appeal to those who enjoy Urban Fantasy or G.R.R. Martin High Fantasy

Mary: Viewed/listened with grandson to C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. See Summary. Commented on how when she was younger she really was entranced with fairy tales—and those are viewed as Fantasy.

Tatjana: Patrica McKillip’s The Bell at Sealey Head Would make a good bridge book because it is light Fantasy for those who do not usually read Fantasy, magic is spells Regency period with gothic feel Story with a strong gentle mystery romance; fairy tale good characters, sense of place

Jan: Jim Butcher’s Storm Front. See excellent summary. Urban Fantasy series; Harry Dresden files#1 Guy Noir meets Merlin, hardboiled mystery Paranormal police procedural Humorous, some violence

Susanne: Devon Monk’s “Magic to the Bone” — a very creative urban fantasy from a new author. I hope she’ll write more books about her tough, scrappy female protagonist who lives in an alternate, very magical Portland, Oregon.

Second Titles

Claudia Gray. Evernight. (2008)


This YA novel is the first of a probable series that is an obvious but palatable mimicry of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series…with a wonderful twist that keeps the reader enthralled whether she is a teenager or an adult. If the growing teenage romantic tension, the fresh teenage voice, and the ups and downs of social and relationship angst in a private school setting is the draw for a Twilight reader, then she will enjoy this novel too.

Vampire lore is well—defined, the pace of the book adds to the increasing tension, and the main character, Bianca, is sympathetic and complex. Lucas, Bianca’s love interest, is the typical bad boy outcast but you’ll long for them to be together forever. The tone of the school, Evernight, paints the gloom and spooky atmosphere of the book. Not too gory, no sex, but some great ST and very suspenseful passages.

Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder
Poison Study follows the exploits of Yelena, a young woman who manages to escape execution by becoming the food taster for the Commander of Ixia. She may have her life, but danger seems to lurk around every corner. Snyder has created two unique worlds – one rigid and practically communist where magic is punishable by death and another magical world that appears to be more free and open. These two worlds are at odds with each other and like Yelena, the reader must struggle to determine which world is better.

Appeal Factors: FRAME; CHARACTER; STORYLINE; PACING Unforgettable characters are what make this book so great. Yelena starts out abused and tortured but turns into a powerful young woman. Yelena succeeds through her friendships with a series of scene-stealing secondary characters Ari and Janco. Her uneasy relationship with Valek, who teaches her the subtle art of poisons and just happens to be the Commander’s assassin and the most feared man in Ixia is interesting because you’re never quite sure if he’s good or bad. This one is an absolute page-turner. You can’t read “just one more chapter,” believe me I tried. Snyder does a great job of world-building. Most readers will want to have the next book in the series, Magic Study, available when they finish Poison Study.

Daughter of the Forest by Julliet Marillier
Daughter of the Forest is the first novel in the Sevenwaters Trilogy. It is somewhat based on a traditional fairy tale, “The Six Swans”. This is the story of the epic journey of Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum. Sorcha’s mother died in childbirth. When Sorcha is twelve years old, her father marries a beautiful but evil woman, Oonagh. Oonagh casts a spell on Sorcha’s six brothers, turning them into swans. Only Sorcha can break the spell, but the tasks the fairies have set send her on a long and arduous journey into enemy territory.

Appeal factors: Frame, Characters, Pacing, Storyline A series so you get to look forward to two more books. Set in Ireland where magic just might be possible. The main character Sorcha is very likable. She has a deep, calm wisdom that is years beyond her age. For the reader who really wants to relate to characters in a book, Sorcha is someone you would wish to know. The relationship between Sorcha and her brothers is one of deep loyalty and love. You come to care for all of them. For those who like to be emotionally involved in a book, although not action packed, there is a lot of tension and you desperately want Sorcha to succeed so her brothers are freed. Rich in details, the story is hauntingly beautifully and compels you to stay up way past your bedtime.

The Way of Shadows (Book One in the Night Angel Trilogy) Brent Weeks
An eleven year old guild rat in the Warrens of Ceuran, Azoth is scavenging for money under the planks of a tavern floor when he meets his future master, wetboy Durzo Blint. Trained in the art of assassination, Azoth sheds his old skin and assumes the identity of Kylar Stern. Caught up in political machinations that keep him and his master busy, Kylar will become the unwitting agent of a prophecy foretold by one of the most powerful seers ever known.


While by no means a fast read, the action keeps the pace quick while the thorough world-building requires time. That attention to detail pays off for Weeks as the reader can’t help but become emotionally invested in the characters. A story filled with political intrigue and moral ambiguities kept the reader off balance, and each revelation was met with a jolt or a slow blink. Fans of George R.R. Martin might respond to the book’s epic scope and many layers, while the cinematic action sequences and strong lead character may appeal to fans of contemporary or urban fantasy.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – on audiobook. Fantasy’s really not my thing, so I chose it after reading a pop-up version of this with my grandson. This was the perfect for clueless me – slower paced than the benchmark book, not as violent. It has magic and deep magic (in the nick of time). The reader’s voice was calming, all was right – the witch is foiled, the lion is fine, the children find their way back. Just my speed.

Appeal: The characters (the children who become royalty, the unselfish animals they meet, the professor who is not surprised by their story) and the dream-like setting.

Jim Butcher ~ Storm Front, Book 1 of the Dresden Files. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, named after 4 magicians, is the only openly practicing wizard in the country. Harry practices as a investigatative wizard in midtown Chicago and is listed as such in the yellow pages. He also serves as a consultant to the Special Investigations Division of the Chicago Police Department. Harry has been called in by the CPD to assist with a particularly brutal murder which could only have been committed by the deliberate, premeditated act of a powerful and violent wizard.

Appeal Factors ~ Character, pace & tone Dresden is an engaging character with a supporting cast that is both entertaining and empathetic, including Detective Murphy(a strong woman, friend and dedicated cop), Harry’s air spirit Bob, and Toot-toot the faerie. The pace of Storm Front is more like a thriller than the usual fantasy; there is not a lot of world building in this first of the series. Instead, Harry must find the murderer to avoid more deaths and help Murphy solve her high profile case while avoiding the Doom of Damocles; one more infraction of the rules of the White Council will sentence Harry to death. Humor and suspense coexist in the story. Harry has a very dry way of looking at his situation and detailing life as a wizard. Storm Front should appeal to readers of Terry Pratchett, although this story is not as absurd, and to more flexible readers of mysteries. A humorous, hard boiled fantasy mystery.