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When you were making Montagne and Drachensbett, did you have any real places in mind? . . . Did you base any of the story off of any real events or people? Did you have to use a thesaurus a lot, or was that just pure literary genius? :P 

 

— A Fan Of Your Amazing Books and A Student Using Your One Of Your Amazing Books For A Book Report,

Paige

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Susanna Clarke. This is not fiction; this is enchantment. This book changed the way I think — it changed the way I dream. Without question one of the best-written and most gripping stories I have ever had the pleasure to read. It’s not short and it’s not easy, but oh boy.


The Three Pigs

David Wiesner. Yes, it’s a picture book. But like all great literature, it can be read on many levels, with enough existential complexity to put your brain through a Cuisinart. So smart. So clever. And it turns out our kids used to attend the same school!


The Wee Free Men et al.

Terry Pratchett. So much fun! If you can swing a thick Scottish accent, all the better. Never thought I’d find myself rooting for Pictsies.


Nation

Terry Pratchett. As this has won a billion awards, I’m not sure my little voice will contribute much, but it truly was a divine book. And months later I still think about it. He does so many things so very well . . . Just his treatment of language, and how two people speaking different tongues struggle to communicate, is great.


The Magicians

Lev Grossman. It’s . . . it’s amazing. It’s as if Grossman said, “Yeah, I’m writing about Narnia and, yeah, I’m riffing off of Hogwarts and, yeah, it’s fantasy about grownups, for grownups. Wacha gonna to do about it?” Um, read it in a day? And marvel at his vision, his courage, and his sheer finesse? There are sentences in this book that I hold in my mouth and whisper to myself like chocolate that lasts forever.


Foundling and Lamplighter (Monster Blood Tattoo, Books I & II)

D.M. Cornish. I have a gripe with authors who spend so much time anticipating the plots of books 2, 3 and 11 that they overlook the needs of book 1. For a reader, it’s akin to ordering a delicious restaurant meal only to be told you must wait a year to eat. Foundling suffers a bit from this, not surprising considering that Cornish spent years building his world. My griping did not prevent me, however, from reading it to 3 AM, and then racing the bookstore at 9:53 the next morning for book #2. Lamplighter is . . . oh, just go buy it. And make sure to bring a putty knife for scraping your jaw off the floor when you’re done.


Graceling

Kristin Cashore. Yowsa. I had the honor of blurbing this book, and let me tell you: Yowsa. Yowsa.


Once Upon a Marigold

Jean Ferris. A sweet read-aloud, though I’m probably not the first to note that the animals and Ed completely steal the show. But how could anyone compete with a troll who has lines like “You’ve buttered your bed and now you have to lie in it”?


Unwind

Neal Shusterman. When students ask what I’ve read recently, I always pitch this one just to see their outrage, and to hear tight-lipped eighth graders holler out “What was that title again?” as they reach for their pens. The plot is brilliant, sure, but it’s the ending that stays with you long after the book is finished. I still get goosebumps.


Mistress Masham’s Repose

T.H. White. I’m mainly including this because I was an ENORMOUS T.H. White fan – I would have gobbled this up if I’d known of its existence way back when. It’s not zippy by any means, and contains a plethora of Extremely Obscure Words Not Even Be in the Oxford English Dictionary (White had a bit of an issue that way), but it has a charming protagonist, charminger sidekick, and lots of yummy architecture.


Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen

Tamora Pierce. So nice I read them thrice. Pierce gets better with every book, and just slays me with her fantasy-humor-romance trifecta. Plus I heard through the booksellers’ grapevine that she too has gotten in trouble for subtly “promoting homosexuality.” Well, she’s so subtle (and I was enjoying the story so much) that I missed it completely. Darn.


Sabriel, Liriel, Abhorsen and The Keys to the Kingdom

Garth Nix. I’m not sure I’m the world’s biggest Garth Nix fan – I don’t stalk him, I’ve never proposed marriage – but I’m certainly an enormous Garth Nix fan. Years after reading Sabriel, I remain awed by his ability to drop readers in the middle of this foreign world – plop! – and expect us to soldier along until things explain themselves. And they do, over three books. Such a lesson to the rest of us writers, how we should respect our readers enough not to spoon-feed them and cut up their meat.


The Bartimaeus Trilogy

Jonathan Stroud. Speaking of brilliant writers . . . And so funny. Funny like you’re still chuckling a month later, just remembering an image. (I’ve got one word for you: minotaur.)


His Majesty’s Dragon et al.

Naomi Novik. A recommendation from the wonderful Sarah Todd at Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA, and once again she was right on the money. I read this in about two hours, not breathing or blinking, and the sequel Throne of Jade the next day. It’s not fantasy so much as alternative history, though as a writer I was most impressed with Novik’s ability to craft rich, believable characters (human and dragon) whom I now care about immensely. Well done. Very well done indeed.


Leviathan

Scott Westerfeld. I completed this, handed it to my 14-year-old son, and said, “If you finish this and don’t love it, I will eat the book.” He returned to the room twenty minutes later to announce: “This is the best book I have ever read. In. My. Life.” So no book noshing for Mom, whew. Also, all you vampire fans really need to check out Peeps if you haven’t already done so. I normally can’t stand vampire stories but I couldn’t put it down.


The Thief

Megan Whalen Turner. This book was recommended to me several years ago for my then-reluctant-reader son. I read it and enjoyed it, but then couldn’t stop thinking about it. For YEARS. Oh, to craft an ending like that . . . I recently read The King of Attolia, third in the series, and loved it even more. Cannot wait for the next one.

New fantasy I I love

other favorites >>


By “new,” I don’t mean “brand-spanking,” I mean “new to me.” Though to fair most of these books are less than ten years old. Trust me, if they’d been around twenty-five years ago, I would have already devoured them. How I ended up writing about a Wisconsin girl football player, I cannot imagine . . .