The Legacy of Tril: Soulbound by Heather Brewer
The art of worldbuilding can be difficult to master. Speculative fiction authors can tend towards bloat in this department, so that’s where the bulk of our cautionary tales lie. The term Worldbuilder’s Disease, after all, does not refer to a lack. But we never really talk about what happens when there’s too little worldbuilding. The purpose of worldbuilding is for the reader to find their feet in the narrative and situate themselves in the world. Good worldbuilding should be like an efficient travel book: there should be just enough to get by, with other materials available if needed or wanted. Too much worldbuilding overprepares and distracts the reader. But give the same reader too little worldbuilding, and the illusion that the reader is engaging with a living, breathing alternate world never gets off the ground.
Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
Three years have elapsed since I first mentioned that Here, There Be Dragons was on my reading list. I was unable to expunge the spoileriffic twist from my brain in those three years, despite having earned my bachelor’s degree in that time frame. Thus, I must warn you, gentle reader: this review is full of spoilers. (Not saying “here, there be spoilers” is testing every cell in my terrible comedy body.) Normally, of course, a good story can function even while spoiled. I thoroughly enjoyed The Empire Strikes Back, even though existing after 1980 meant that I knew the major twist. The fact that this is an issue for Here, There Be Dragons should tell you something about its quality.
based onThe Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
A Knight’s Tale is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s so unique—cheerful teen medieval anachronism mashed up with a groovy seventies soundtrack with a fantastic cast—that I sometimes daydream about an alternate universe where it made so much money that studios were falling over themselves picking up movies like it, so I could have a whole library of this microgenre. And then I heard of Virgin Territory via author Genevieve Valentine, who is pretty groovy herself. It’s The Decameron as teen sex comedy—in some markets, it’s literally called Decameron Pie. It went straight-to-DVD. For heaven’s sake, Hayden Christensen and the kid from Eragon are in this movie. It’s like someone mixed up my daydream with my love for bad movies. …Let’s do this thing.
Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler
After Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, it’s time—time to plunge into the wild world of Jane Eyre fanfiction for my senior thesis. It’s doubly interesting for me because it’s just so odd to see fanfiction divorced from fandom and fannish history. There’s a whole stack of them on my metaphorical desk at the moment (it’s really more of a drawer in my literal cabinets) and a handful on the way from the public library. Becoming Jane Eyre got to me first, so that’s what I started with. It’s technically not a derivative work of Jane Eyre since it’s a “reimagining” of Charlotte Brontë’s life, but based on what it turned out to be, I think it definitely counts.
Benighted by Kit Whitfield
So I loved Kit Whitfield’s In Great Waters. The characters, the world, the story… all of it was fantastic, and I have a fond memory of running errands while frantically wondering what was happening to Henry and Anne. As finals and summer descended, I decided it was time to visit Whitfield’s first novel, Benighted. In Great Waters was so deftly and well-handled that I was really looking forward to it. And then it took me three and a half weeks to get through the thing. Oh, not because of finals. Because I did not want to spend any time in this world with this protagonist.
Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson
Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded was the first novel assigned to us in Sex, Texts, and Countertexts, my English Literature class focused on gender in Restoration comedies and writings. We began the semester focusing on two plays, The Country Wife and The Rover, both of which were written prior to Pamela and exhibit the kind of culture that Pamela is a backlash against. I’d never read it or really heard of it until I went and downloaded the Kindle Store version of the text and set to reading. That’s really it, people, sometimes I only read things because people make me.
Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire
I love Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. I think it’s absolutely amazing–the subtle structure is fantastic, and I never get tired of rereading it. Every time I see a new (to me) Gregory Maguire novel, I want to read it, trying to capture the same sort of magic that happens when I read Wicked.
I keep getting disappointed.