I’m late! I’m late! I’m late! Forgive me for slacking off in the writing department, I am terribly busy trying to pack up for the big move. So my Top Ten Tuesday post is a day late. It’s only my second time participating in The Broke and The Bookish‘s weekly meme featuring lists of favorite books, so I’ll have to be more prompt in the future. This week’s feature is the Top Ten Most Vivid Worlds or Settings. I’m glad to be putting settings in the forefront this week because the backdrop of a story is part of what pulls readers in and captivates an audience. I could only think of five of my favorites this week, but each is worth the read.
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1. Lord of the Rings by J.R. R. Tolkien: After making this list I realize that the most successful settings tend to come from authors that set out to craft multi-book stories. In a way, I think it forces them to think on a larger scale and create more depth in their worlds or settings. Tolkien built a world so complex that it filled the pages of an entire mythology. The man created multiple languages! I still remember girls in sixth grade (when the first movie came out) who were learning Tolkien’s Elvish. Middle Earth is the perfect backdrop and makes the series all the more vivid. Editions usually include a map in the first few pages, the love and care evident in every line of the depiction. Tolkien’s books come alive, even after fifty-plus years.
2. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling: I’m a straight up HP junkie. I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies. When I was in England, I even went to see as many Harry Potter related sights as I could. One day I would absolutely love to visit Universal’s theme park. Again, this series is so successful because the world draws you in with its details. Language aids the process of bringing a world to life, little tidbits like “muggle,” “quidditch,”and “dementor” add a sense of history to a made-up world. Hogwarts and the other magical settings in Harry Potter’s world make you want to believe in their reality, no matter what age you are.
3. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin: This is my most recent literary love affair. The Seven Kingdoms are the perfect playground for the intrigue, warfare, romance, and mysticism of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. I’m only a book in to the series but I’m thoroughly impressed with Martin’s ability to balance the parallel stories on a razor’s edge. The setting appears effortless and covers all landscapes from arctic to woodland to desert. Another series preceded by a map that, in this case, is delightfully necessary.
4. Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter by Laurell K. Hamilton: I have a special connection with this series, which is perhaps why I feel it is so vivid. The novels are set in St. Louis, Missouri, in a near-future setting where vampires are legal citizens. I started reading these books when I was around twelve or thirteen, and they are first and foremost horror/paranormal stories. These vampires do not sparkle, people! Gruesome murders and mystical violence are hallmarks of Anita Blake books. Knowing the locations around St. Louis initially freaked me out because I was so familiar with the settings, so the violence became extra spooky. Sometimes it takes a familiarity with a setting rather than a fantasy location to achieve full impact.
5. Song of the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce: Along with Harry Potter, this is one of those series that shaped and defined my childhood. Set in Tortall, a kingdom with a variety of landscapes, the reader follows Alanna of Trebond as she disguises her femininity in order to be a knight of the realm. As a young girl, Alanna was my hero. She could kick butt and take names while still being a tad girly. A very positive female role model for young girls. And the world of Tortall was just as fascinating–I wanted to go there and experience it all with Alanna. Yet another series with a map! I think if an author cares enough to put in a map and make it work with the story, then the audience is willing to go on just about any journey with their characters.
These lists tend to show me trends in my reading styles. Today, I’m recognizing that the books with my favorite backdrops are usually series and typically have some kind of mythology attached. Settings help you escape into the book’s version of reality. The better the setting, the better the escape.