by Elinor Crosby, Head Editor, INALJ Nova Scotia
Favorite Fantasy Series (YA and Adult)
Yesterday afternoon during an information desk shift, I had the chance to talk with a patron who is currently writing a book of children’s poetry. He had the interesting observation that when writing for children, one had to not just try to think of childish things, but had to actually be childlike in one’s view of the world to get things right. To that end he was reading some classics of children’s and young adult literature; most notably, he had several of the Chronicles of Narnia books tucked under his arm. I ended up giving him some Narnian-read-alikes, and thought I would share them with you!
The Chronicles of Narnia
C.S. Lewis’ series has recently been made into a few amazing live action movies. While it’s a thinly-veiled Christian allegory, most young people reading it won’t realize it until they are much older. I know I didn’t! I greatly enjoyed following the Pevensie children on their adventures in Narnia, and fell in love with all the talking beasts, especially Aslan. While the reading order is sometimes contested as even Lewis didn’t know how many books he was going to write, chronologically they can be read like this: The Magician’s Nephew; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; The Horse and His Boy; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; and The Last Battle.
The Chronicles of Prydain
Lloyd Alexander’s chronicles of a lowly pig keeper named Taran are based in a world of Welsh legend, specifically the mythic cycle of the Mabinogion. I loved these when I was younger because of the feisty princess Eilonwy, and the humour and tone of the story. It is comprised of five books: The Book of Three; The Black Cauldron; The Castle of Llyr; Taran Wanderer; and The High King. There are also a few short stories set in the same world, and Disney made a movie in 1985 that covered some of the material in a few of the books, but didn’t successfully capture the tone that made the series so popular.
The Dark Is Rising Series
Susan Cooper’s series is based on Arthurian legend, Celtic and Norse mythology which follows the adventures of Will, who is outwardly eleven, but is also one of the Old Ones who protects the world against the forces of the Dark. As a tween reading these books, I could identify with both Will who was wiser than his years, and his non-magical companions. This series also contains five books: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree.
The Lord of the Rings
What can I say about J.R.R. Tolkien that hasn’t already been said? I precociously read this at the age of eleven, but it’s likely more appropriate for people a few years older unless they are advanced readers. I have always enjoyed the epic scope of story, while it remained so accessible due to the small and ordinary natures of the Hobbits who went on the adventure. Originally supposed to be one very large book with three sections, it is most usually published in a three-book set containing the titles The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. The Hobbit is the prequel, and The Silmarillion contains a lot of mythology and history of the incredibly rich world that Tolkien created.
The Fionavar Tapestry
I would consider the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay to be a more adult series, but I read it as older teenager when it came out. It has some dark and mature themes which may not make it suitable for younger teens. It is similar in many aspects to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but is also based in Celtic and Norse mythology. The aspect I most enjoyed was that it started off in Toronto with people from our world journeying somewhere else where they struggled to fit in. The trilogy contains the books The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road. A loosely-related sequel to the trilogy recently came out called Ysabel that is mainly set in our world.