Thursday, 6 April 2017

Calendar Girls - Apr 2017 - best high fantasy - #CalendarGirlsBooks

Calendar Girls is hosted by bloggers, Flavia the Bibliophile and Melanie Noell Bernard – both have amazing blogs full of fun, bookish posts. Calendar Girls is a brand new monthly blog event inspired by Neil Sedaka’s 1961 song Calendar Girl. Just like in the song, we decided to use a specific theme for each month and choose a book based on these themes! The event is meant to incite discussions with other bloggers about books we’ve read and loved, is meant to help bloggers meet other bloggers, and also for bloggers and readers to find out about blogs which they normally may not have come across! Want to know more? Click on the links above! And it’s not too late to jump on the Calendar Girl train! Join now!

Best high fantasy novel

At first, when I saw this category I alternated between thinking it was going to be an easy choice and thinking it was going to be a really hard choice. I thought it would be easy because some of my all time favourite books are high fantasy. And then I thought it would be hard for the same reason, how was I ever going to choose? Turns out I wasn't as spoiled for choice as I thought, ended up only having to really choose between 5 or 6 series in particular. That's because as it turns out, most of my high fantasy novels aren't pure high fantasy and so I didn't want to choose them. The two I immediately thought of, Narnia and Fionavar seem like high fantasy at first glance; but according to my former Tolkien and Fantasy professor, because they start off in the real world before moving into the secondary world - they don't count as pure high fantasy, they're called portal fantasies. Which sucks because I think Fionavar has some of the best high fantasy out there. So I decided that I'd stick with a pure high fantasy choice, and maybe also one that wouldn't really be thought of by other. I didn't want to go Game of Thrones even though it's awesome, and I thought Eragon was too predictable (and also derivative even though I do like it), so that left me with 3 options: Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Hilari Bell's Farsala Trilogy, G.A. Aiken's Dragon Kin and Garth Nix's Abhorsen series. Let's see which one I chose:

Once upon a time there was a bad princess...

Take one bored princess. Make her the seventh daughter in a very proper royal family. Have her run away. 

Add one powerful, fascinating, dangerous dragon. 

The Princess Cimorene has never met anyone (or anything) like the dragon Kazul. But then, she's never met a witch, a jinn, a death-dealing talking bird, or a stone prince either. 

Princess Cimorene ran away to find some excitement. She's about to... 

-- via Goodreads

This may have been one of the very first feminist books I ever read. At least it's the earliest one I remember reading. I read this series for the first time in the 9th grade, so I was about 14 or 15. I feel in love with it immediately and I've probably read all 4 books at least a half dozen times since then. They really have everything you could ever want in a high fantasy novel and they are funny and fun and just really engaging. I accidentally read the last book first not even realising it was the 4th book in a series until I got to the climax and had no idea what was going on. But that didn't make the books any less enjoyable!

So what makes this the best high fantasy to me? Well you take one badass mofo of a princess who throws pretty much every stereotype out the window, you add dragons, witches, wizards, inept knights, mountain caves filled to the brim with mystery, and a fantastic enchanted forest (among other elements) and add them together and to me you've got a recipe for high fantasy success. All of the tropes are treated just a little differently than you come to expect from high fantasy. Cimorene can take care of herself and proves herself much more than capable. The dragons are a truly egalitarian society, their King doesn't actually have to be a male because King of the Dragons is just a  job title and the job that goes with the title Queen of the Dragons is actually so boring no one wants it. Wizards can be melted by lemon water - which seems deeply inspired by Baum's Oz of course.

As the first book in a series, it's a solid offering that sets up the expansion of the world in the following three novels. For example, the forest, which is one of the best high fantasy elements, is only briefly seen in this novel, but it becomes the main setting for the next 3 books. It's more of a middle grade bordering on YA series, but if you've never read it I highly recommend giving it a try, for me it's just as enjoyable now as it was the first time I read it. If anything, being older I find myself actually finding new ways to appreciate the fantastic humour in the series.

Do you think novels that aren't 100% set in the fantasy world still deserve to be classified as high fantasy or should they have another label?


  1. Ooooooh, this sounds epic! So many times in fantasy, the princess or the girl isn't the hero of their own story and you're just given a male lead hero. It's suppppppper cool that there is an epic high fantasy princess that is a total badass. I'm definitely going to have check it out. Interesting choice! :D

    1. You'll definitely love this then - she even saves the King later on haha

  2. I love the cover of this book! I looks like something I'd read...and it looks almost like a parody or some sort of comic story, hehe. The story sounds entertaining, so I may have to check this book out!

    1. It's super entertaining and there's definitely a parody vibe to the whole series.

  3. Hahaha! Oh darn those silly portal fantasies. Totally screwing up our favorite choices for high fantasy and, personally, I don't think it matters if it is portal fantasy. I mean, it still has elements of high fantasy. Therefore it is a high fantasy. (but I make up my own rules for genres. :p)

    P.s. I'm not sure I'd ever actually pick GOT as my favorite or best high fantasy. Like... yeah the world building is good and all, but the long-windedness becomes too much at some point. At some point I just want the plot (but I lost it 6 chapters ago. 0.0)

    The book cover definitely makes this look more like a middle grade, but I mean I'm pretty Narnia borders on middle grade, too. Who are we to really stop middle grade books from being the best high fantasy novels? :p Simplicity is sometimes better, obviously! Great choice! I'll have to look into it!