Hidden Kingdoms in Fantasy

Tough Traveling

Each Thursday, The Fantasy Review Barn uses Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and tours the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy. This week’s tour topic is Hidden Kingdoms. Not all of my choices are strictly speaking kingdoms, but let’s take a look at some of my favourite secret, magical worlds in fantasy!


1. The London Below
From Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
In the tunnels of London Underground lies a hidden kingdom of Rat-Speakers, Black Friars, Velvets, and angels. You can go visit the Floating Market (if you know where it is) or the real Earl’s Court held in a train car (be polite to the Earl), but remember to watch your steps on the Night’s Bridge, and to always mind the gap.

2. Narnia
From The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
Narnia may not strictly be a hidden kingdom, but in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the entrance to the world is hidden inside a wardrobe, so it counts. There’s fauns, talking animals… Not everything is fun and games, though. Beware of the White Witch. And try not to become the ruler of Narnia while you visit – except if that is what you want, of course. It could be your very own hidden kingdom!

3. The Wizarding World
From the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
The whole wizarding world is a hidden world existing right under our noses. In Great Britain, there’s the one and only Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the famous Diagon Alley in London, as well as many villages populated only by witches and wizards.


I hate to use the Harry Potter books again, but I seriously couldn’t come up with any more hidden kingdoms! Weird, huh? One would think there were a ton of them around in fantasy books! I probably forgot some really obvious ones.

Have you visited all these hidden kingdoms? What is the tourist attraction you’d most like to visit in these worlds? Tell me in the comments! I’d really like to take a look at Narnia’s famous lamp-post, myself!

Favourite Book Friendships

Today I’m going to take a look at some of my favourite friendships depicted in books and graphic novels. This was surprisingly tough, I was amazed that I couldn’t rattle off tons of awesome friendships at the drop of a hat!

This post is linked at “Top Ten Tuesday”, a weekly book list meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. All the links below take you to GoodReads.

Maija’s Top 6 favourite friendships in books

Top 5 Friendships

1. The Mabudachi Trio
From the Fruits Basket manga series by Natsuki Takaya
Shigure, Ayame and Hatori Sohma form the Mabudachi trio. They have been friends ever since they were little. I just love the dynamics between the outrageous Ayame, wicked Shigure, and serious Hatori. I have a soft spot for friendships among the older characters in stories, not necessarily the main characters.

2. Courtney & Aloysius Crumrin (pictured)
From the Courtney Crumrin graphic novels, by Ted Naifeh
Courtney is a pessimistic young girl, Aloysius her warlock uncle, and together they are badasses. Courtney gets introduced to magic through Aloysius, and then there’s no stopping them. And look, this is already the second friendship among relatives on my list.

3. The Marauders
From the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
And now we’re back to friendships among older characters than the main characters – James, Sirius, Remus and Peter! I love the Marauders flashbacks in the series, and I especially love Sirius & Remus together.

4. Fitz and the Fool
From the Farseer and the Tawny Man trilogies, by Robin Hobb
Theirs is a bit of a bittersweet friendship, but I can’t help but love them. The Fool is one of my favourite characters ever, and while Fitz does occasionally get on my nerves, I do love their dynamic.

5. Harry Dresden & Karrin Murphy
From the Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher
Wizard Harry Dresden and Lieutenant Karrin Murphy are a power duo when it comes to stopping magical crimes. There are bumps on their road even after Dresden has gained Murphy’s trust, but I do like to follow them solving cases together.

6. The Three Musketeers & d’Artagnan
From The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d’Artagnan are some lovable, often broke, idiots, and it’s so much fun to follow their antics.

Prince of Thorns Review (2014 High Fantasy Challenge 2/10)

Prince of Thorns
Prince of Thorns

(The Broken Empire #1)
By: Mark Lawrence
First published in 2011
Book 2/10 of my 2014 High Fantasy Challenge

When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…

It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him – and he has nothing left to lose. But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?


Prince of Thorns is part of the grimdark fantasy subgenre that’s raised it’s head more in the 21st century. The genre is characterized by bleakness and violence, and often the main characters are either antiheroes or not heroes at all, but right bastards. This book is the first proper grimdark novel I’ve read, and the atmosphere definitely matches the genre title. The book also turned out not to exactly be high fantasy, but I’ll count it towards my challenge goal nevertheless.

I have to say that I wasn’t enamored. I was interested, but not invested – interested in what was going to happen and what the deal with Jorg was, but not invested in the characters or the world. I could easily put the book down for a couple of days. Everything and everyone was just so unpleasant that I felt no emotional connection with the story. I can see what Lawrence was going for – a sort of fantasy version of A Clockwork Orange, raising questions of morals with an immoral main character – but A Clockwork Orange handled the theme better. There were some clear parallels linking the two books, especially in their final chapters (quoted below).

Prince of Thorns:

“Then he goes back to his wooden soldier, making him march, running him here and there, charging at shadows. […] I was like [that] little wooden soldier, running in wild and meaningless circles. […] When enough days stand between you and the person you were, you’re strangers. Maybe that’s what being a grown up is.”

A Clockwork Orange:

“Youth must go, ah yes. But youth is only being… like one of these malenky toys you viddy being sold in the streets… made out of tin and with a spring inside and then a winding handle on the outside and you wind it up grrr grrr grrr and off it itties, like walking, O my brothers. But it itties in a straight line and bangs straight into things bang bang and it cannot help what it is doing. Being young is like being one of these malenky machines.”

Characters
Essentially, there were no characters except for Jorg, which was perhaps one of the main reasons I couldn’t really connect with the book. I mean, there was his band of brigands, but none of them were fleshed out enough to be regarded as solid characters by themselves, with Makin and the Nuban coming closest. No, the book was very strictly about Jorg, the main character with absolutely no moral compass. That, of course, made it hard to be interested in the book when it came to the characters.

Plot
Perhaps I was a bit hyped up as regards to the twists of this novel – mentions about “pieces beginning to fall into place” in reviews, but I didn’t really find the plot points very surprising. I mean, all of the clues were there quite clearly, from pretty early on. Perhaps I just had the wrong expectations. I have to say, though, that the plot was intriguing enough to keep me reading even while I wasn’t that interested in what happened to the characters. The theme and plot level was definitely stronger than the characterization.

Verdict
Prince of Thorns was a bit disappointing continuation of my 2014 High Fantasy Challenge, especially after loving The Name of the Wind so much. Still, I might read the rest of the trilogy. Someone on GoodReads gave the first book two stars (with pretty much the same issues that I had), but gave the second book four stars. So, I’ll give the second book a chance, but I’m not in any hurry to do so. I give Prince of Thorns 2 out of 5 stars.


Next up in the challenge
I’ve already read The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, since it was May’s book of the month at the SciFi and Fantasy Book Club over at GoodReads. Review to follow soon.

Bout of Books 10 Wrap Up

So, Bout of Books is over. This is my wrap-up post – you can also take a look at my starting goals, as well as my daily reading progress for this read-a-thon. You can also visit the Bout of Books official site.

So, how did I do?

  • I finished 2 books & 1 novella
  • I also started reading 1 book and 1 novella
  • I read a total of 841 pages
  • My best reading day was 206 pages

I did well, although I did not quite meet my goal of 1080 pages read. I had planned on finishing Clockwork Angel by Cassanda Clare, but ended up getting only halfway through. On Thursday it looked like I would get all my reading done, but then on Friday I only ended up reading 50 pages – on Friday morning I only watched other people’s Bout of Books videos, and later in the day I went to the city with my sister, and we hanged out for seven hours! I had fun, though.

Overall, I think I did pretty well in the read-a-thon – I finished one of my High Fantasy Challenge books, and got started on the book I should really return to my friend soon. Underneath is the list of everything I read. All the cover images link to GoodReads.

Finished

The Sworn Sword Blood Oranges The Last Wish

The Sworn Sword (The Tales of Dunk and Egg #2), by George R.R. Martin
Blood Oranges (Siobhan Quinn #1) by Kathleen Tierney
The Last Wish (Witcher #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Started

Clockwork Angel The Mystery Knight

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassanda Clare
The Mystery Knight (The Tales of Dunk and Egg #3), by George R.R. Martin

Bout of Books 10: Progress & Challenges

Here I will be posting about my progress for the Bout of Books 10 read-a-thon during the week. If I take part in any challenges, this is also where they will go.

My goals for the read-a-thon can be found here.
Pages read so far: 841 | Books/novellas finished: 3

Sunday

Reading Progress

BoB_Sunday

Challenges: Retitle Your Current Read

Today’s challenge is brought you to by Oh Magic Hour, and it is to give a new title to the book you are currently reading, or have read during the read-a-thon.

I am currently reading Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, and I would rename it Magnus Bane in a Waistcoat, because that’s what I’m looking forward to most! :D He hasn’t made an appearance yet in the book, but all clues point to the fact that it will happen very soon. I can’t wait!

Saturday

Reading Progress

BoB_Saturday

Friday

Reading Progress

BoB_Friday
I was out almost all day, shopping with my sister. All my reading was done on the subway to/from the city. So, not much at all was read that day, but I had fun!

Thursday

Reading Progress

BoB_Thursday

Wednesday

Reading Progress

BoB_Wednesday

Tuesday

Reading Progress

BoB_Tuesday
I’ve beginning to feel like a 100 pages is my max in a day… Then again, I’ve been spending my time on challenges and watching other people’s progress, too.

Challenges: Books I’m looking forward to

Here is a list of my most anticipated speculative fiction titles coming out this year. The links take you to GoodReads.

Monday

Reading Progress

BoB_Monday

Challenges: If you like X, try Y

Monday’s challenge is to recommend some books to everyone. I will be giving you some fantasy recommendations, of course! What could be more fun than that? This challenge was brought to you by The Book Barbies. All the cover images link you to GoodReads.

If you like Jane Austen, try these books set in an alternate, magical regency era:
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Sorcery & Cecelia Shades of Milk and Honey

If you like the city of London, try some fantasy that is set there:
Rivers Of London Neverwhere

And finally, if you like middle-grade books, try some Diana Wynne Jones:
Howl's Moving Castle Charmed Life

Current Reads: Bout of Books 10

Another week, another read-a-thon. This week I’m taking part in Bout of Books 10. This post is also linked at “It’s Monday, what are you reading?”, a weekly meme that tells us what the blogosphere is currently reading. It is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

What is Bout of Books?

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.
– From the Bout of Books team

Planned Reading List & Goals

The Sworn Sword Clockwork Angel The Last Wish Blood Oranges

The Sworn Sword (The Tales of Dunk and Egg #2), by George R.R. Martin
Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassanda Clare
The Last Wish (Witcher #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski
Blood Oranges (Siobhan Quinn #1) by Kathleen Tierney

Here is my reading list with a lot of carry-overs from my unimpressive #AYearAThon reading week. One novella, three novels. Together they make 1080 pages, which would mean I should read on average a 154 pages a day. It’s a lofty goal for me, since I’m a slow reader (it takes me about an hour to read 50 pages), but I think it’s doable! Some days I might read less, some more. I already started The Sworn Sword last week, and plan to finish it today. I have the whole week to devote to reading, thankfully!

Extras

The Mystery Knight The Three Musketeers Musta kuin eebenpuu

The Mystery Knight (The Tales of Dunk and Egg #3), by George R.R. Martin
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas – I’m already halfway through
Musta kuin eebenpuu (Lumikki Andersson #3), by Salla Simukka

This is my extra reading list in case I’m having trouble with one of my main picks, or, if by some miracle, I manage to finish everything else.

Are you taking part in Bout of Books? If so, leave me a link to your blogs/vlogs! I like to see what other people are reading.

#AYearAThon May Wrap-Up

I had some lofty goals for this month’s #AYearAThon, with the Finish/Catch Up on a Series theme. But then I went to a couple of movies, followed the Eurovision song contest, and all in all just felt too restless for reading. Let’s see how I did.

Finished #AYearAThon Reads

The Hedge Knight Glamour in Glass

The Hedge Knight (The Tales of Dunk and Egg #1), by George R.R. Martin
Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal

So, I only managed to read one of G.R.R. Martin’s Dunk and Egg novellas, and finished one other book. To be honest, I finished Glamour in Glass a few hours after midnight on Sunday, but I’m still counting it! At least I managed to finish it; it had been on my shelf for ages. These were both solid 3 star reads – I didn’t love them, but they were fun to read. Sometimes I got confused by the names of the princes, other nobles and knights that were thrown about a lot in Martin’s novella, and in Kowal’s book I was bothered by the fact that for a long while in the book, the protagonist had nothing to do and was kept in the dark with no idea as to what was going on.

Planned Reads

The Sworn Sword The Mystery Knight Clockwork Angel The Last Wish

The Sworn Sword and The Mystery Knight (The Tales of Dunk and Egg #1-3), by George R.R. Martin
Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassanda Clare
The Last Wish (Witcher #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Now, I didn’t plan to finish all of these last week (except for the novellas), but I wanted to at least get them started. I did start reading The Sworn Sword, but otherwise, none of these were even touched. These books will most likely carry on to my list for this week’s Bout of Books 10.0 readathon! I’ll try to do better with them this time!