I love reading fantasy books. But so many of them are part of trilogies or much longer series, and I find that I often don’t have the time or inclination to read them. What I really want are good standalone stories; thankfully, over the years I’ve come across a few gems that are available here at the Thunder Bay Public Library. Here are a few of my favourite standalone fantasy titles.
One of my absolute favourites is Uprooted by Naomi Novik. People have recommended her Temeraire series to me, but since it’s nine novels long I haven’t been interested in starting it. Uprooted appealed to me as a standalone because it gave me a chance to see if I liked her writing style. Uprooted is the story of a wizard who protects the land from the nearby magical forest; in exchange for his help, he demands the services of a girl from one of the villages in the valley for ten years. Everyone is certain that this time he’ll choose the beautiful Kasia; unexpectedly, he doesn’t. The synopsis sounds simple enough, but it fails to capture the sheer scope of the book. At times Uprooted is like a fairy tale, at other times a horror; sometimes it is full of adventure, other times political intrigue. Uprooted is all of that and so much more, and it all magically flows seamlessly into one whole, fantastic book that I absolutely loved from beginning to end. I’m looking forward to Novik’s new standalone, Spinning Silver. And now I’m even tempted to start reading Temeraire!
If you like the idea of a political fantasy, you should try Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. Warbreaker is the story of two sisters, Vivenna and Siri. Vivenna, the eldest, has always believed she would be sent to wed an emperor to honour a treaty; everyone is shocked when her father sends her younger, untrained sister Siri instead. So Vivenna decides to sneak into the city to rescue Siri herself! In Warbreaker, Sanderson has built a fantastic world full of believable characters. I especially loved how the people in his book (Vivenna in particular) kept encountering beliefs that ran counter to their own and had to try to reconcile with them. And like Uprooted, Warbreaker is full of a lot more than political intrigue, like war, mystery, love, betrayal, and a fantastic plot that will keep you guessing right to the end.
An older book I really enjoyed was Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, which tells the story of the titular unicorn’s quest to discover what happened to the others of her kind. She encounters a host of colourful characters, like Schmendrick the magician, who has power but isn’t very good at casting spells, Molly Grue, the first woman to actually see the unicorn for who she is, and King Haggard, the cruel man who commands the Red Bull. When I was younger I really loved the movie (but my brother HATED it, so I didn’t watch it as much as I otherwise would have). One day I discovered the graphic novel here at the library. It has beautiful artwork by Renae De Liz (which is rather reminiscent of the movie), but more importantly, it better captures Peter S. Beagle’s prose than the movie does. I had never read anything by Beagle before, but I really wish I had; I fell in love with his prose thanks to discovering this graphic novel. We don’t have the original novel version of The Last Unicorn, but if you’d rather read that, we could bring it in from out of town through interlibrary loan for you.
Shauna Kosoris – www.tbpl.ca. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you. Please comment below!