Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag

It’s been some time since we did a TAG! And there is one that caught our attention earlier this month, when it appeared on Bookforager. Get to know the Fantasy Reader – sounds like a great post to finish the Wyrd & Wonder month with. So, here it is!

What is the first fantasy novel you read?

Ola: The Lord of the Rings. I was seven when I read the whole trilogy – it was a copy borrowed from my older brother’s friend. Right after I finished it I went to the bookstore and with my saved pocket money bought my own copy, which then I instantly proceeded to reread. And here we are! ๐Ÿ˜€

That’s how my first copy looked ๐Ÿ™‚

Piotrek: I want to say Hobbit, and it’s likely the truth. My first & favourite short story collection is Joan Aiken’s Room Full of Leaves and Other Stories, but Hobbit is the novel I received as a gift from a cousin some time early during my primary school years and it was my gateway into fantasy. What can I say? This is a wonderful book, accessible to the youngest readers, sucking them into the wonderful world of wyrd & wonder! It enchanted me and I never looked back ๐Ÿ™‚

If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and whatโ€™s one trope youโ€™d insist be in the story?

Piotrek: It’s not an easy question. Some of my favourite authors write stories where horrible, horrible things happen to the protagonists. Maybe Guy Gavriel Kay? He creates wonderful worlds and usually delivers a happy ending without too many casualties…

Ola: Hmmm. Pratchett, I think. Discworld is a fabulous place, and I’m sure I’d fit right in ;). As much as I love dark stories, I would not want to become a part of them, be it a hero or an onlooker or the hapless victim of friendly fire ;). Happily ever after trope is the one I insist on when my personal life is at stake ๐Ÿ˜€

Discworld as imagined by Paul Kidby

What is a fantasy youโ€™ve read this year, that turned into a huge revelation?

Ola: Revelations, huh? I’d say I’m too old to get revelations from fantasy books ๐Ÿ˜‰ but it wouldn’t be entirely true. My revelation, and one that will last much longer than just this year, is the discovery of Dragon Ball manga (I know, I’m stretching the definition a bit, but that’s my answer :P). Seriously, I never expected to love it at all, let alone as much as I do. Some of original DB volumes are among the best books I’ve read this year, and the whole series (well, maybe except the Cell arc) is an instant pick-me-up for me! ๐Ÿ˜€

Piotrek: I haven’t read that much fantasy this year, yet. But Gardens of the Moon, finally fully read, turned out to be better than I remembered from my first failed attempts. I’m a bit late to this party, but yay to Malazan Book of the Fallen!

What is your favourite fantasy subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?

Piotrek: Favourite? That must be either High Fantasy, or Military Fantasy, judging by what occupies all my all time favourite lists. If I had to choose one, it would be high fantasy, the source of it all.

But what subgenre is the most neglected by me as a reader? Romantic Fantasy, most likely…

Ola: Genres and subgenres… Not a fan :P. If I had to choose, I’d opt for military fantasy (Cook, Tchaikovsky) or science fantasy a la Zelazny, with lots of mythology thrown in the mix. Romance in any form gets an instant NO from me, so if there’s something like Paranormal Romance/Romance Fantasy that would be the ultimate no-read subgenre for me. Also, YA. Please, no YA, fantasy or other…

WWII with magic and insects… What’s not to love? ๐Ÿ˜€

Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?

Ola: I don’t have any auto-buy authors. I rarely buy books at all – only those I really really love and I’m certain I’m going to reread one day. I don’t think I have complete works of any one author, to be honest. I prefer to borrow books – then, if the book is less than stellar, I don’t have a problem of it taking shelf space. And if it’s good enough for me to want to have it – well, welcome aboard, there’s still space on the shelves! ๐Ÿ˜€ Besides, everyone writes a weaker book from time to time, even the best of the authors, and I wouldn’t want to own these anyway. But I do buy whole series that I love (especially when I know they’re finished) – Discworld, Shadows of the Apt, Black Company, Malazan Book of the Fallen, Fitz and Fool… ๐Ÿ˜€

Ahh those pretty covers! ๐Ÿ˜€

Piotrek: Not really, no. Used to be Adrian Tchaikovsky, but he writes new stuff faster than I’m able to read it. He’s still one of my favourite contemporary writers though!

How do you typically find fantasy recommendations?

Piotrek: In my seventh year of blogging it really is mostly fellow bloggers, definitely. Thank you, guys!!

Ola: I second Piotrek’s answer! Thanks, all!!!

What is an upcoming fantasy release youโ€™re excited for?

Ola: Well, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for Abercrombie’s The Wisdom of Crowds (out in September) and Barker’s The Bone Ship’s Wake (September, too) – both the final installments in what’s shaping up to be very good trilogies. The review for Abercrombie’s The Trouble with Peace is here, and the reviews for the Barker’s earlier books are here, if you’re interested: The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships.

Piotrek: Hard to say. With my TBR as long as it is, I mostly read series already finished, and books published years ago. I don’t want to insert a GRRM joke here, as these stopped being funny years ago ๐Ÿ˜‰

What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

Piotrek: The one that fantasy is somehow not proper literature, that including fantastical elements somehow makes it less serious. This silly superstition still lingers among some close minded people, and I would like to see it vanished forever ๐Ÿ™‚ There was a short post about it early in blog’s history…

Ola: Again, I second that. How come Shakespeare can be rightly considered a titan of world literature, but modern authors implementing the same fantastical elements can only be “fantasy authors”?

H.C. Selous’s illustration to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

Piotrek: I’d ask some questions first. My answer would depend on person’s age, interests, favourite non-fantasy books… it might be Hobbit, Harry Potter or one of the Discworld books, or something dark and bloody, like the Black Company series.

Ola: Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for all! Well, mostly maybe for mythology/anthropology lovers ;). Tolkien’s Hobbit for those adventurous at heart. And for those young and delighting in creepy, maybe Meggitt-Phillips’s The Beast and the Bethany would be a good place to start, or Roald Dahl’s books, even before Harry Potter.

The version illustrated by Charles Vess is on my wish list! ๐Ÿ˜€

Whatโ€™s the site that you like to visit for reviews, author interviews and all things fantasy?

Piotrek: Apart from blogs? Tor is the last one I regularly visit…

Ola: Blogs, and sometimes Tor. I do visit magazines websites, but I mostly read SF short stories, rarely fantasy.

Well, this was fun! We’re not tagging anyone but if you’d like to give it a go, be our guest! ๐Ÿ˜‰

40 thoughts on “Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag

  1. Great answers folks!

    I won’t go through each and every, just haven’t got the oomph, so I’ll pick one from each of you.

    Ola: Totally with you on not getting “revelations” from fantasy anymore. I’m not sure, for me, if it’s because I’ve changed more or because fantasy has changed more. It might be a bit of both. but either way, fantasy has moved to simply an escapist read that I simply enjoy.

    Pio: And I’m with you about Tchaikovsky. Just keeping track of what he’s put out is daunting, much less actually reading it all. Plus, it seems like in the last couple of years he’s really lets his political side out and that’s not something I want to read. And I mean politics, not philosophy or even theology (even though he’s not shy about that either).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, I think it’s a bit of both. We know all the tropes and stuff, and nowadays the new book seem to play it increasingly safe – selling is more important than saying something important ๐Ÿ˜‰ I realized that if I want something more serious or thought-provoking I turn to SF and not fantasy lately. Also, I tend to read less fantasy in general because of this – there’s a limit to the amount of fluffiness and empty entertainment I can take ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Tchaikovsky’s Shards of Earth are apparently better than the last several of his books – I’m willing to give him another chance. Admittedly, I’ve been seriously put off by the marked decline of quality in his recent books – too many in too short a time; but also, by the politicization. If I want to read overtly political stuff I pick up political books or newspapers. I don’t need authors elucidating on their political views in novels. If they want to make a cutting commentary on humanity’s faults and virtues, I’m all in (provided they offer some new insight, and not just regurgitated TV stuff) – but if they want to dig out a soapbox to preach, I am not signing up for it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I read SF, so I’m 99.99% of the time reading about evolution. I don’t believe evolution is true, at all. But it doesn’t stop me from reading those books. Now, if someone started using evolution, in their story, as a cudgel, then we’d have a problem.

        And that is why I have a problem with Tchaikovsky. Not that he includes things I disagree with, but that he uses them as a big blunt instrument. He’s as subtle as a ham handed drunk on a stage. And I know he could do it differently. He simply chooses not to.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post guys! I also don’t feel any wonder anymore from fantasy. All these bloated epic trilogies run along the same lines. All the innovation seems to be focused on identity politics, but I am much more interested in magical ideas and concepts. Maybe when I finish the Malazan series I will get something unique out of it. My reading is skewed towards science fiction for a couple of years lately. It just seems more interesting, more engaged with thought experiments, and just has more to say.

    Also, it is amazing how the Polish word wyprawa can mean a whole sentence like “the fellowship of the ring”. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Jeroen!

      Totally agree. This new fantasy for most part feels just the same, the same regurgitated tropes and arcs, the same characters, even if from apparently different cultures they behave and think in the same McDonaldized way. That’s kind of sad, though, that fantasy stopped being this source of amazement for us – seems like we’ve read too much of it and are now too jaded ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Actually, “the fellowship of the ring” is “druลผyna pierล›cienia” – “wyprawa” means “journey” ๐Ÿ˜‰ In defense of the translator, I will add that she consulted the whole thing with Tolkien himself, and he seemed quite happy with the end result ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have a feeling that there are many authors out there who do not have an original vision or do not have a great imagination, but.. there are tropes in fantasy that allow such authors to bootstrap their ideas into the ready-made shape of a fantasy novel. It is like authors follow preconfigured guidelines for setting up a world and a story and they only need to fill in some details to make their own version of it.

        We could do this right away. Just take a few cultures from around the planet, slap other names on them, then construct the novel to have different POVs from these cultures, and use some diversity of identity, and let them all connect together later in the novel. Then we add some political problems, a magic system and a long lost artefact. There is a palette of options to scroll through. And you end up with a 3 book series that in the end doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t have an idea or a vision behind it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. 100% agree. It’s like an assembly line for fantasy books, just like for romance and mystery and some other popular genres. But I think it’s in equal measure the publishers’ fault: they’re not taking any chances, and when they take on a new book, heir editors amend it so that it’s just like the other books that sold well before.

          Horkheimer and Adorno called it the culture industry; they were right.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this tag, and it’s always fun to get double answers from you guys (two for the price of one, yay! ๐Ÿ˜€ ). Standing ovation for your comments about misconceptions applied to fantasy (or to spec fic at large): it’s high time that the world understood this is not “trash” literature…. (((SIGH)))
    ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Maddalena! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Yeah, isn’t it maddening? And if we really look at the whole problem, we can see that basically all the myths and folklore could be dismissed as fantasy, too – and often for kids these are the first artifacts exposing them to their society’s culture and beliefs…

      Liked by 2 people

    2. piotrek

      I don’t read much from mainstream literary critics, but some seem to get it – and then I switch on the radio and someone from the old school says something stupid about “real” literature and I’m angry all over again ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting insights, thank you for them!
    As for revelations, I still get them out of SF sometimes. Itโ€™s more difficult with Fantasy, but there are still some wonders around, like Asian or African folklore woven into fantasy tropes.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for reading, Andreas! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Agreed – SF can still offer them, if one’s willing to look ๐Ÿ™‚ Last year’s Anathem was such a book for me ๐Ÿ˜€ But with fantasy that’s very, very rare – no matter the apparent culture. I’d say the fantasy book that stood out for me but more because of the impeccable writing skills and unusual narration than because of the folklore was James’s Black Leopard Red Wolf (my review here: https://reenchantmentoftheworld.blog/2020/03/25/marlon-james-black-leopard-red-wolf-2019/). But apart from this one, nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have that novel on my tbr since January.
        Anathem: Goodbye speelys, goodbye jeejayhs, goodbye auts ๐Ÿ˜
        Did you lower your expectations for Fantasy then? Iโ€˜m always hoping to be blown away, mediocre works are not my thing.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hmm I guess I read less fantasy now in general, having switched to SF and other stuff like historical novels. I’m no longer hoping to be blown away by fantasy, that’s for sure. I only want to be pleasantly surprised, and even this is rare. There are still good fantasy books out there, but nothing new and breathtaking seems to be making its way to me lately.
          I’m reading Wolfe now, Shadow and Claw, and I’m enjoying it a lot, though ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

  5. What great answers, some predictable and some not! I guess Tolkien kicked off fantasy for quite a few people (I read LOTR long before the prequel though) and if I can’t remember specific fantasy titles before my student days it may be because it wasn’t labelled as such, but so much UK kidlit before the 60s was fantasy in all but name: Enid Blyton’s Noddy books had talking toys, gnomes, goblins and monkeys; the Australian Snugglepot and Cuddlepie were gumnut babies; and so many children’s classics I read as a kid are typical fantasy (Gulliver’s Travels for example).

    I suspect Ola’s dislike of YA fantasy must be because they’re too often a sub-subgenre of the subgenre romantic fantasy, but a lot of teen fantasy often ignores any love interest, does it not?

    Anyway, too much here to expand on (isn’t that often the case with you two?!) so perhaps I shall have to come up with my own response *sigh* — but don’t wait up, it could be some time before I can marshall my thoughts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oooh, do this, Chris! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ll be very interested to read your answers to this one!

      As I mentioned to Maddalena above, when you think about it, all myths and folklore can be labeled “fantasy” – and they are often, in the form of fairy tales, the first instances of a child encountering a given culture’s beliefs and axioms. In this form, they are absolutely invaluable!

      My dislike of YA stems from two main sources: the romance is one of them, indeed – especially the insta-love trope, and triangles, ugh. But also a usually very simplified, unbearably trivialized psychological makeup of the protagonists. They usually operate on four emotions, top: lust/love, anger, fear, hate. It just bugs me very much indeed ๐Ÿ˜‰ particularly because the MG books seem often more mature than YA.

      Anyway, looking forward to reading your take on this, Chris!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t disagree with you at all, Ola, your characterisation of much YA fantasy is as I’ve gathered from synopses and reviews. It obviously fulfils a need for many readers but does feel very niche, especially with the proliferation of LGBT+ romances. Note, I’m not belittling or denigrating them but like most narratives that we’re drawn to it’s as much about validation as it’s about storytelling. I seek stories that validate compassion, balance, justice; as a teenager I think I sought these but perhaps I was too naive or immature to require the emotions you mention (though I suspect in retrospect I can lay that at the door of my form of autism: passions frighten me so I tend to avoid them).

        Before I get too confessional (!) two points: in my limited experience there is indeed that divide between MG and YA fantasy that you suggest, but I’d have to think about that a bit more; and secondly I’m already musing what my own take on this meme would be…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Time for me to get a bit confessional, I guess ๐Ÿ˜‰ I feel like the YA is a ready-made product, with about as much variety as a McDonald’s burger. Simple storylines seem to be a requirement as well as a barrage of one-note emotions; as if young adults were incapable of deep thoughts. It’s as if you could put a pink unicorn in place of the diverse character that now seems a requirement, and there would be no difference whatsoever. I suspect that as a teenager you were simply more mature and knew already that such unadulterated, simplified emotions don’t exist in nature ๐Ÿ˜‰ compassion, balance and justice are, after all, much more complex.

          I’ll be very much looking forward to your take on this tag, Chris! ๐Ÿ˜

          Liked by 1 person

  6. My first fantasy book might have been The Hobbit, but although I’ve enjoyed most of the fantasy I’ve read, it has never become a favourite genre. In terms of sub-genres, I think, I prefer urban fantasy and the first books in the Rivers of London series are some of my favourites in more recent years. Agree with both of you about auto-buy authors. Never buy anything uncritically, that is my motto and I stick to it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. piotrek

      I love the first books in the Rivers of London, and than sth happened and I just couldn’t continue with the series… I had a break from urban fantasy, but at some point I want to read the new Harry Dresden books, hopefully at least Butcher delivered ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you stopped after the first three books in the Rivers of London series, I’d say that was pretty optimal. These were definitely the best. Haven’t tried the Dresden books yet, even if many have recommended them to me. Too many books, too little time!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. piotrek

          Definitely, I’d stop somewhere there, if only I knew how bad it gets… but I was reading them as fast as they came, then, not waiting for any reviews. Now, I’m wiser ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Oh, I agree! This series would have certainly benefited from being much, much shorter! I’m afraid the same can be said about nearly all UF series, though… ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Iโ€™m actually glad to see Guy Gavriel Kay mentioned. I have one or two of his book on my shelves but I rarely see anyone talk about his work. I always wondered if it was his books or just people not digging far enoughโ€ฆ

    The same actually goes for LeGuin’s work. Her stuff is often highly praised but so many seem to just limit themselves to other titles derived from her work. I do look forward to the day I finally crack open my first Leguin though!

    Great answer, guys! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lashaan! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Kay is somewhat controversial on this blog, I must warn you – one book garnered so drastically varied responses that it got two separate reviews (back when we hadn’t done two-shots yet)! They’re available here: https://reenchantmentoftheworld.blog/2016/05/03/guy-gavriel-kay-tigana-1990/ and here: https://reenchantmentoftheworld.blog/2016/05/06/tigana-a-different-view/ ๐Ÿ˜›

      Le Guin is an absolute must-read for me; she was as much a mother to the genre as Tolkien was its father, and as Lory wrote, she totally deserved a Nobel prize. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Great answer and really nice tag! And I am with you both about choosing an hero/heroine to be… They usually are not so well threated by the authors, and a life of pains and hurts await. But Discworld is an amazing choice!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this tag. I’m always saying I’m going to try it out and then never get round to it but here are a couple of my answers:
    Earliest fantasy. Well, I love LotR but I read that about age 15. My earliest books were the Borrowers and Wizard of Oz which I think I was probably around age 8 – don’t hold me to that – of course before that lots of fairy tales. And I have a memory of a really early book that I adored but can’t recall the name. It had a collection of stories and two in particular stuck with me. One was a young girl on a day out at the beach. She ate somethiing that made her shrink (a bit Alice?) and ended up running through the corridors of the castle she’d built as the sea came crashing in. The other was a young child who drew some pictures of characters – they were all a little higgledy piggledy – at night time they came alive off the page and were unhappy with the fact that they had all sorts of issues! Very unusual stories but they really stuck with me.
    Eliminating the strange ‘book snobbery’ that exists around fantasy would be brilliant, Probably never going to happen but we can but hope. It is puzzling because some of the literature giants wrote fantasy – Shakespeare who wrote of the fae and Dickens who wrote of ghosts.
    Lynn ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Gah!! I’m so late to this post, but I enjoyed reading it all. I gather here that I really should get going on those Malazan books since you both mention it.
    Lol on fitting in in Discworld, Ola. I wonder where in that world you’d like to live if you could. I might return to ask that question when I’m more familiar with world since I’ve mostly only visited Ramtops and parts of Ankh-Morpork so far in the Witches books I’ve read and Color of Magic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I’d still choose Ankh-Morpork, the ragtag crew of Sam Vimes is just too good to be missed ๐Ÿ˜‰ Though I love the Ramtops too, I still find myself closer aligned with the academic magic than with the pragmatic magic ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thanks for reading, Zezee!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s