Fantasy, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Magical worlds

Goodness me I started this post ages ago and then ran out of steam because I thought I didn’t have enough books to talk about and got distracted before I read any more. But hey I’ve got here at last…

Shades of Magic by VE Schwab

Cover of A Darker Shade of Magic

This is a trilogy set in three parallel Londons in the Regency era.  Kell is from Red London and is one of the rare people who can travel between the worlds and he does so as an ambassador for the Red King, but also as a smuggler, moving articles between one world and another.  White London is violent and enchanted, with frequent bloody regime changes, but its magic is disappearing. Grey London has Mad King George and no magic at all, and that’s where Kell escapes to early in the first book of the series (A Darker Shade of Magic), when one of his transactions goes awry, and where he meets Delilah after she picks his pocket.  I made the final book in the trilogy a BotW, so if you want to follow the madcap duo escaping mortal peril, rocketing through the three different worlds facing enemies and discovering the secrets of magic and trying to work out what happened to Black London.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern

Cover of the Night Circus

There’s only one book in this world, but what a world it is.  This is another former BotW (but that was years ago, so it’s over the statue of limitations for repeats!), so I don’t need to write too much about it here because you can read more of my thoughts there. The Night Circus has been so successful, it already has a Vintage Classics Edition – as you can see.  For a slightly more spoiler-y summary than I was prepared to give back in the day, I’ll tell you that Le Cirque de Reves appears and disappears in towns without warning.  Inside is a wonderful world of marvels – but only at night.  Behind the scenes two magicians, Celia and Marco, are competing against each other in a duel, but what they don’t know is that it is a duel to the death.  When they meet, they fall in love but once a duel is started, it has to play out. Morgernstern’s second book The Starless Sea, also features a magical world – with a main character who finds an authorless book which seems to be telling a story from his own past and starts a trail that leads him to an ancient library.

The Discworld by Terry Pratchett

If you’ve been here a while, you’ll be aware of my love of Terry Pratchett, but new readers may have missed out because because I’ve already read pretty much all of his writing, I haven’t had an opportunity to talk about him recently.  I adore the Discworld.  I listen to at least one of the books set there on audio book pretty much every month, but because I’m a bit picky about my narrators (once you’ve heard Stephen Briggs you can’t go back) then they’re all from the later end of the saga.  I think my favourite book is Going Postal, but it’s tough to chose – especially as there are so many that are so good.  Unusually for me, I never tell people to start at the beginning of the series – but to go for either Mort, Wyrd Sisters or Guards, Guards as a starting point.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Rincewind and I want a Luggage of my own, but they’re not the most accessible of the series.  But what’s not to love about Death’s Apprentice (Mort), Granny Weatherwax and her Coven (Wyrd Sisters) or Vimes and the Watch (Guards, Guards) and they give you a starting point into some of the series’ big themes as well as the running threads.  And if you’ve got middle grade children, the Tiffany Aching books are perfect too.

The Last Dragon Slayer by Jasper Fforde

This is the most “Normal” of all of Jasper Fforde’s books, but don’t let the TV tie-in edition cover fool you, his middle grade series is just as mad and freewheeling as his adult stuff – just for kids. The Last Dragonslayer is set in a world where magic is disappearing. Jennifer Strange runs an employment agency for magicians, but then the visions start and they predict the death of the last dragon in the world and that it will be killed by an unknown dragonslayer. And well, you’ll have to read it. There are four in the series, and the last only came out in 2021. I’ve only read the first one, but I want to read the others – I just haven’t got to it yet, because, well you’ve seen the star of my to-read pile. Anyway, if you want a magical book for young readers that doesn’t involve a school, then take a look.

And finally, a couple of other books that feature magical worlds but that are still within the statute of limitations for me writing about them, there is The House in the Cerulean Sea, and although not strictly magical but because of the feeling that it creates while you read it The Circus of Wonders.

Now you’ll notice that all these books are set in the past – there are a few magical books that I love that are set in the present – but mostly you’d’ve got me wittering on about Peter Grant and how much I love the Rivers of London series – and I’ve already done that plenty!

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