The Fantasy Itch: Gettin’ To Be THAT Time Of Year

Ah, yes, I’m definitely ready to settle down with a good fantasy. It’s that time of year! Last year I read Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, first in the Mistborn Trilogy (which, I learned, is actually a five book series). I’m thinking this year I should finish out the rest, starting with The Well of Ascension.
on Nov 28, 2016 · 7 comments

cover_thelordoftheringsI can feel it coming on. I’ve noticed it more the last few years, but no doubt it’s been part of my makeup for some time. Call it the Fantasy Itch.

Yep, for some reason as the “holiday season”—usually defined here in the US as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day—approaches, I begin to have an urge to snuggle in with one of the great fantasies. In recent years I’ve used the occasion to reread the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, much of the Narnia series, and a couple of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain books. One year I even reread the one Harry Potter book I own—then visited the library to get the rest of the series to satisfy the fantasy itch.

The odd thing is, I read fantasy all the time—part of the job now, so to speak. Some years ago I read Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes, a general market young adult story, and the beginning of a series touted as “ideal for fans of George R. R. Martin and Kristin Cashore.” Then there was Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, another general market YA. Before that was Shannon Hale’s sequel to Princess Academy, Palace of Stone.

Of course I’ve also read all the books the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour features, and some I judged for contests. Others, friends have sent me. With all this speculative fiction coming out of my ears, why would I want to settle down with a fantasy as a special holiday season activity? It’s a mystery to me.

Somehow, with shorter days and cooler weather (I realize we here in SoCal aren’t allowed by our Eastern friends to say “cold weather” 😆 ), reading becomes a greater pleasure. But more than that, getting lost in a different world, one so rich it feels real, is pure delight.

Which probably explains why I gravitate to certain books—those that have a level of worldbuilding a grade above most other fantasies.

Some of those general market fantasies I mentioned above, not urban fantasy or dystopians, seem to me to be a weak imitation of the medieval world, with different countries, and of course some magic or supernatural power. In other words, I don’t feel transported to somewhere else.

Narnia speaks for itself. It’s a world full of surprises—with talking animals which one day disappear from the world, until they’re brought back; with time that moves at a different rate; with a Lion king and a frozen land always waiting for Christmas. There’s nothing like Narnia outside Narnia.

Tolkien’s stories, though supposedly happening on “middle earth,” also feel Other. Not unfamiliar or strange, mind you. There are familiar things like inns and ponies and roads and a comfortable fire and birthday parties. But peopling this familiar place are hobbits and trolls and dwarfs and orcs and wizards and dragons and elves. What’s more, there are frightening forests and abandoned dwarf mines that once held an entire city and mountains that turn malevolent and secret stairways and deadly marshes. In other words, along with the familiar are places that enchant and intrigue and even frighten.

covers_harrypotter_boxsetHarry Potter is similar. Nothing could be more familiar to most of us than a school, though fewer of us have experienced a boarding school, unless you lived in a dorm during college. But mixed in with what seems so normal—homework and tests and boring lectures and athletic contests—is the special world of wizardry with its hierarchy and governance, games and tradition, wands and flying broomsticks. And history. A dark history in which a wizard, utilizing the dark arts, ruled.

Ah, yes, I’m definitely ready to settle down with a good fantasy. It’s that time of year! Last year I read Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, first in the Mistborn Trilogy (which, I learned, is actually a five book series). I’m thinking this year I should finish out the rest, starting with The Well of Ascension.

What about you? What speculative books are you looking forward to reading? Do you have a time of year in which you favor a particular genre? Which one?

This article is a revised version of one that first appeared at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction in November 2012.

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
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  1. MereChristian55 says:

    I agree completely. Certain times of the year are conducive to reading certain things. I read Jane Eyre right now in the fall to December because it seems so right to read a Gothic work like that now.

    Just a quick note that Mistborn is not a five books series. It’s actually much longer and shorter. While the various series are connected, they are seperate series. Sanderson originally conceived of Mistborn as a “trilogy of trilogies”, wherein there would be a high fantasy style trilogy (the original Mistborn series about Vin and Elend), a type of urban fantasy modern day trilogy based on a timeframe similar to modern times, and a futuristic space trilogy. In-between writing his major work of the Cosmere (wherein most of his works are based) where there will be a “crisis crossover of sorts (this is the Stormlight Archive), Sanderson decided to for fun scribble out a short (well, short for him!) story, and thus the Alloy of Law was born. He decided to make this series, set in a Cosmere version of the 1890’s, into a five book series. But he still will, after the first five Stormlight books, work on the next official trilogy for Mistborn.

    • Oh, yes, I can see Gothic works in the fall. Fits so darkly well!

      Thanks for the explanation of the Mistborn books. I have the Well of Ascension on hold at my library, so I should start it soon. We’ll see if I keep going or not. I liked Mistborn but it wasn’t so compelling that I ran right out to get the next one. Still, it’s good, and I think it will be the right one for now, though I admit I’m tempted to start Harry Potter again! 😉


  2. Pam Halter says:

    I never thought of reading certain genres at certain times of the year. I typically go with my mood. For me, Christmas break is more for watching movies. I start on Thanksgiving with Miracle on 34th Street and go from there – depending on time and mood. I’d like to sit and watch A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version) right now, but I’m still sewing quilts, and we can’t put our tree up until I’m done sewing and have my table and things put away.

    I’m more of a reader in the summer and over President’s Weekend when we travel to our time share condo in Williamsburg, VA. Of course, my TBR pile is SO big, it’s hard to choose. But again – I go with my mood at the time of choosing, which doesn’t always work out so well once I get there and I’ve changed my mind. Ha!

  3. Kessie says:

    Oh yes, I’ve been feeling the siren call of Lord of the Rings. I was listening to the soundtrack and getting choked up over Pippin’s song. The kids asked why and I have them some dumb reply about “And all the soldiers are dying!” They’re not quite old enough for the movies, so I think I’ll have to content myself with the books for now.

    • Oh, my, yes! The music gets me every time. But something about the shorter days, the colder weather. I don’t know. It all just seems to have FANTASY writ large!

      Kind of a nice dilemma—movies or books? Heheh. But yes, those movies weren’t intended for young eyes, I don’t think. Good choice, Kessie.


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