Fantasy for the Muggle-Minded

I remember the feeling I had when I passed a book by my favorite fantasy author, Diana Wynne Jones, to one of my best friends: nervous, excited, slightly nauseous. Her verdict? She skimmed it and just plain didn’t like it. Oh, the indignity! How could someone I was so close with not share my love obsession for all DWJ books? Granted, I should’ve seen that one coming. This friend is a hardcore contemporary girl. If you see a book on the shelf with a beach on the cover, or a group of girls holding hands, it’s probably a book my friend is interested in. I love a good contemporary myself, but there’s just something about fantasy that always has me returning to its strange worlds and evil sorcerers. For those of you like my friend, here are some of the reasons why I love fantasy stories. Maybe they’ll convince you to take a chance and pick up that Narnia book.

1. The characters. I’m a character person. Even if there’s a thrilling plot or a daring mystery, I just can’t bring myself to care about a book unless the characters have, well, character. The people in fantasy novels are real and struggling against issues that many of us have faced in our lives. Edmund gives in to his darkest jealousies in The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe. Elisa confronts her self-image in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Raisa chooses to not let the past define her in the Seven Realms series. At its most fundamental, fantasy explores the wide range of our feelings.

2. The creativity. With fantasy, everything needs to be created from scratch. The laws and morals we take for granted in our own world need to be shaped and defined for a new world. Tolkien created entire languages for his Middle Earth. J. K. Rowling used a secret government to enforce the rules of the magical world. The details that go into fantasy works can be astounding.

3. The wit. I might appreciate this more than others in my fantasy novels because I’m a Diana Wynne Jones fan. She’s known for her quick dialogue and clever plot twists. My most recent discovery of the works of Frances Hardinge convinced me that there could be more than one master of wit in fantasy. Hardinge uses such innovative ways of stringing together words to make a sentence extraordinary.

4. The child in me. Nostalgia seems to be hitting hard on the Internet these days (90’s kids what what!). Fantasy is the strongest thread of my childhood. I lived and breathed Disney fairytales. These stories haven’t disappeared; fantasy writers can take the familiar and rework it into something new with retellings. Tiger Lily breathed new life into the boy who wouldn’t grow up. The Goose Girl started with a familiar fairytale and expanded into a series of unforgettable characters with new and exciting lives of their own. You can still have what you loved as a child with fantasy novels.

Give fantasy a try. You may discover something wonderful and unexpected waiting on the next page.

Let’s chat! Have you ever had a meh reaction from a friend about your favorite book? Why do you read fantasy? What would you say to convince someone to read fantasy books? Or any genre?

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One thought on “Fantasy for the Muggle-Minded

  1. Oh my gosh! Besides the fact that I agree with everything you said, I was laughing out loud! “If you see a book on the shelf with a beach on the cover, or a group of girls holding hands, it’s probably a book my friend is interested in.”–LOL. Nothing against contemporary, some of my all time favorites are but it is because I’m such a snob as to which ones I’ll actually read.

    I too LOVE fantasy! There is nothing more exciting and thought inducing than an entire magical world made up. And the emotions are even more intense because they are usually fighting some oppressive leader or charging into an epic battle. Not to mention the sexy sword fighting and fabulous dresses.

    I did have a similar moment with a friend when I recommended The Perks of Being a Wallflower which moved not only me to tears and understanding of people but my sister who NEVER reads couldn’t put it down she loved it so much. My friend’s reaction–“it was okay…I didn’t really get it.”…I think I chocked on my own spit in shock. Aye vay.

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