A Tuesday Ten: Otherworld Fantasies
Posted by Stephanie Whelan
This is an easy one, admittedly, but it is a theme. These are fantasy stories that take place completely in another world. There’s no crossover with our “real” world. No alternative history stories either. These are pure fantasy creations lock, stock and barrel.
The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge (HarperCollins, c2009)
Frances Hardinge writes worlds that feel similar to the ones we know, but are not quite the same. This is an island fantasy, taking place on a strange island populated by natives and colonists of a world not quite our own. The author has a marvelous ability to make you feel like your embedded into the wild land of the story. There’s something incredibly grounded and pragmatic in the storytelling despite the magic and fantasy of it all.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (Scholastic Books, 1997)
In this respun fairy tale, our author creates an entire world around the story. A world of centaurs and ogres and magic. Ella’s cursed with the “gift” of obedience, having to do whatever anyone tells her to do–but what really makes the story is the adventures she has in the world the author has written. This is only the first of several fairy tale spin offs that the author has written in the other world setting.
The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham (HarperCollins, 2014)
Ah, now this delightful setting completely restored my faith in otherworld fantasy. Our delightful village drowning, the Bog Noblins, the Luck Uglies themselves . . . all the rich language and detail that gives this story flavor and savor. When you can craft a setting such as this, it’s a good reason to have the story set outside any world we know! Reader will love the characters, but they’re bound to love the world as well.
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin, c1937)
Admittedly this is called Middle-Earth, but truth be told, there’s no real connection between it and the “real” world. Tolkien not only made up elaborate histories, races, songs and stories–he made up entire languages! Worldbuilding like this really set the standard for future fantasy writers. When we read about Bilbo and his adventures, we see but one small piece of an ongoing story that’s rolling out.
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins, c2001)
A rather unusual take on the pied piper tale, with a mastermind cat playing a con game on towns with the help of a flute playing boy and a bunch of talking rats. But I mainly included this because it’s set in possibly one of the my favorite other worlds: Discworld. Most of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld stuff is written for adults, but he has a few books for kids set in that world as well–and this is one of them. The Discworld is a flat disk held up by four giant elephants, who are standing on the back of a beyond enormous Space Turtle, A’Tuin. But the Discworld is also a talking cat who is realizing that some animals can talk back and is doing his best not to eat anything he can have a conversation with.
Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce (Scholastic, c1997)
These Circle of Magic books all take place in and around Winding Circle, a place that schools mages in their powers. Four remarkable children with unusual abilities have been brought there to learn how to control their own skills. All of Tamora’s books are based in Other World settings, but what I like about this one is we as readers are expanding our knowledge of the world as our main characters are doing so. We go from Winding Circle, to new lands and countries where are protagonists must navigate the customs, cultures and problems of those countries. I always enjoy it when an author can make readers see an amazing world open up around them that’s as diverse as our own–but still distinctly other.
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (HMH Books for Young Readers, 1990)
Re-imagined fairy tales and fractured fairy tales seem to be a good subject matter for Other Worlds. Cimorene is a princess in Linderwall, but she’s not much of a proper one. So she runs away–and becomes a dragon’s princes. Now the problem seems to be how to keep from being rescued by a prince . . . A lively and funny world of fairy tale and magical characters and creatures. Lots of fairy tale tropes turned on their head here.
The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey (HarperCollins, 2012)
In Vengekeep, every year a new scroll is unrolled, a prophetic scroll that shows what will happen in the year to come. This new scroll shows doom and disaster, with no hope for the citizens of Vengekeep. Well no hope, but one. The tapestry states that the Grimjinx family alone can save the town (the Grimjinxes should know, after all, they’re the ones who forged the scroll). It’s the greatest con they’ve pulled yet. But when the prophecies start coming true, the family will really have to step up and become the saviors of all of Vengekeep!
Goblin Secrets by William Alexander (Margaret K. McElderry, 2012)
A city full of magic, clockwork and goblins . . . William Alexander creates on of the more unusual urban fantasy stories I’ve read. There’s no doubt that orphan Rownie lives in the slums of a big and varied city. It’s a strange city, where strange and useless clockwork things exist, along with vivid landmarks. Goblins are changed humans, not born and at the time of this book, only goblins can put on theatrical performances in the city. Zombay is a remarkable place a reader won’t soon forget.
Starfire: The Guardian Herd by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez (HarperCollins, 2014)
Animal society fantasy fiction can often be set in the Other World. While cats and dogs and even owls might have their own societies alongside contemporary Earth humans, the same cannot be said of unicorns, dragons or pegusi. Life in Starfire’s herd is not easy. Being a foal who cannot fly and who has been threatened and teased most of his life makes it no easier. But politics between the herds can be quite brutal, and unfortunately Starfire is going to be the pawn everyone wants. Set in a world without humans, the story explores a magical “chosen one” story line among the pegasi.
So there’s my ten! There’s lots more out there–but what are some of your particular favorite Other Worlds?
About Stephanie WhelanI'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.
Posted on February 11, 2015, in General Posts, Lists and tagged Authors, Books, Children's Books, Children's Literature, fantasy, Lists, literature, Reading, reviews, series. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.