Fantasy settings

Recommended reading of the day: The Amethyst Road, by Louise Spiegler. Set in a fantasy world that’s vaguely based on the late-20th-century (maybe even the present day): Serena, a Yulang (read: gypsy) girl is both an outcast in the larger Gorgio (read: white) culture, and among her own people–who declared Serena an outcast when her older sister, Willow, became pregnant with an illegitimate child. Willow mostly just wants to party, so Serena is struggling to raise her young niece while also attending an exclusive otherwise all-Gorgio school, even as the Gorgio “white shirts” conduct violent marches against the presence of the Yulang in their city. But when the local equivalent of child protective services takes Serena’s niece away, Serena is forced to leave her unsafe city and venture into the even less safe larger world in an attempt to rescue the child. She understandably angry and bitter, but finds no sympathy and little support, save from a failed young Yulang musician who may or may not have an agenda of his own.

Strong worldbuilding, strong characters, and a nice reminder that there are many ways to start about the business of saving the world, and the epic quest model is only one of them. Also, I didn’t realize until I reached the end of the story that there may or may not even have been any magic in this story, though it certainly felt very much like a fantasy.

This book and Susan Vaught’s Stormwitch (set in the real 1969 Mississippi) have been nice reminders how of much one can do with non-contemporary fantasy that doesn’t rely on a medieval or pseudo-medieval setting. Both these books have been far more interesting than anything I’ve read lately set either in a generic invented fantasyland, or in some version (real or invented) of medieval Europe. I’m not entirely sure why this should be true–I enjoy Tolkien and Dunsany as much as the next person, so it’s not as if that sort of setting is flawed in and of itself. But it is only one of many possibilities.

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