I am the luckiest intern in all the world. Today I get to blog about three of our (“our” !) amazing new titles: Something Red, The White Forest, and The Map of the Sky. AND, if this already wasn’t cool enough, they’re all FANTASY books, one of my favourite genres to read—simply because it contains so much of everything. Actually, it’s nearly impossible to describe what exactly the fantasy genre encompasses, because it’s limited only by a person’s imagination (hence why I like it so much). These books definitely demonstrate how wonderfully different fantasy books can be while still belonging to the same genre; here’s what I mean:
Something Red begins in thirteenth century England, during a winter that is described so vividly I actually felt the need to put on a sweater. A small group of people—a middle-aged Irishwoman named Molly, her mysterious and powerful lover Jack, her fey granddaughter Nemain, and the young apprentice Hob—are trying to make their way across the Pennines before the heavy snows set in. But something terrible is hunting them through this forest, and Hob soon begins to learn that there is more to his companions than meets the eye. Featuring shapeshifters, Irish battle queens, young and old love, knights, warrior monks, sorcery and mystery, there’s definitely something here for every kind of fantasy fan.
The White Forest is unlike any fantasy novel I’ve read in a while. It has a heroine with a special “talent” (she can see the souls of objects), the mysterious disappearance of the man she loves, secret societies, detectives, cults, dream manipulation, virtual realities and a heartbreaking love triangle… did I also mention it was set in Victorian England? It’s the perfect combination of fantasy and gothic storytelling with a great twist ending; I honestly can’t recommend it enough. (Fun fact: I liked the book so much I tweeted author @AdamMcOmber about it, and he responded! Starstruck!) Click here to see this book’s awesome website, which includes a book trailer, a reading group guide and an author interview!
The Map of the Sky is Palma’s sequel to his bestselling The Map of Time, a book so great that I couldn’t stop talking about it for weeks afterward. Obviously I was incredibly excited for The Map of the Sky, and with it Palma surpassed my own high expectations. This is a book that combines Victorian England, time travelling, a love story, aliens and intrigue with an incredible cast of characters that includes H.G. Wells and Edgar Allen Poe themselves; it will leave your head spinning in a way that only the best stories can. I absolutely cannot wait for Palma’s next book, and urge all fans of science fantasy to read this book if you haven’t already! You’ll love it, I promise.
Clearly all three of these books belong to the fantasy genre, but aside from sharing a similar setting (albeit in different centuries), they are very, very different. This is part of what makes fantasy books so difficult to categorize, but I’m going to attempt to do so anyway by breaking down some of fantasy’s subgenres.
To start: as a whole, fantasy books consistently tend to contain some sort of magical, mythical or supernatural element that is crucial to the story’s plot, theme or setting (especially if it takes place in some sort of imaginary world). While this can also be true of science-fiction, as a general rule the distinguishing feature between the two genres is that fantasy avoids central scientific themes (as an English student, I respect this a lot). In terms of fantasy subgenres… there are many. Here’s a brief overview of some of the ones that I think are most pertinent to the three books described above:
MAGIC REALISM: when magic elements blend with the real world. Something Red and The White Forest, both have very different characters with very unique magical abilities who must navigate through our real historical world, but in very different settings. While incredible creatures lurk in the forests in Something Red, Jane from The White Forest has grown up knowing she is different from the people she loves and the world she lives in—she just doesn’t yet know howdangerous the magic secrets she holds actually are.
HISTORICAL FANTASY: this is a fantasy subgenre that has its own subgenres, but generally it makes use of actual historical fact and generally takes place prior to the 20th century. Something Red takes place in 13th century, while The White Forest and The Map of the Sky both occur during the Victorian age. England is vividly brought to life in such different ways that I once again feel the need to get myself to this country ASAP and go on a tour of the countryside and some old castles.
URBAN FANTASY: while this subgenre is defined by its setting (it must take place primarily in a city), it can occur at any point in history, including the future. This subgenre applies to The White Forest (which features both the English countryside and Victorian London) and The Map of the Sky; The Map of the Sky is actually the only one of our three titles to be set in not only one city, but two: New York and London!
SCIENCE FANTASY: The Map of the Sky is a perfect example of this subgenre since it contains a mixture of elements from science fiction (aliens attack!) and fantasy (the battle between heaven and earth just evokes the feel of this parent genre). An argument could even be made that The White Forest belongs to the science fantasy genre… but I don’t want to give anything away.
STEAMPUNK: there’s a lot of debate about whether or not steampunk is a subgenre or a genre unto itself, but since it does borrow so heavily from fantasy themes I’m including it in this list. Steampunk-based literature can take in any place and at any time, so long fantasy elements are evoked and steam-powered technology is widely used in the setting, especially in the technologic warfare described in The Map of the Sky!
PARANORMAL FANTASY: this subgenre has sky-rocketed in terms of popularity these past few years, so I’m sure I’m stating the obvious when I say that these stories involve a romance either framed by or focused on themes or elements that belong to the fantasy genre as a whole. Luckily for us, fellow paranormal fantasy fans, both Something Red (Hob’s relationship with the mysterious Nemain BEGS fan discussion) and The White Forest (the “talented” Jane is at the heart of one of the most intense love triangles I’ve ever read about) belong to this category! Personally I think that The Map of the Sky belongs here as well, but some fans may disagree with me. You’ll have to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments!
I realize that I’ve left out a LOT of fantasy subgenres, but please let me know what ones are YOUR favourite either in the comments or through Facebook or Twitter! And in the meantime, if you’re a fantasy fan like me, I can’t recommend these books enough.
Feel free to check out these author sites too!