Looking for a certain sort of book

So, there’s a certain kind of book I’m always on the lookout for. It’s not the only kind of book I’m on the lookout for, but it is the kind of book I adore when I find it.

I think of the genre as lyrical mythic fantasy. Books that can be spare, but not so spare as to lose that lyricism–this isn’t the genre of transparent prose. Books that can be dense, but not so dense that they lose a certain lightness and flow. Books that are deeply, richly immersive. Liminal perhaps. Transporting, but not only transporting. Books that make you believe the mythic is just through that veil over there, and that make you believe this as much or more through sheer language as through cleverness of worldbuilding.

You can see how this might be hard to describe. I’m not sure I’ve ever fully succeeded. When I mention what I’m looking for, I often get recs for straight up fantasy-adventure with a dash of interesting world-building. That’s not what I’m looking for (or not what I’m looking for when I talk about this kind of book–of course I like other kinds of books, too, and many books I adore don’t fit into this at all). I know what I do want when I see it, which of course is not very useful if one is looking for recommendations.

Examples include The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, The Changeling Sea, The Underneath, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Last Unicorn, maybe Moonheart and Mythago Wood (it’s been years since I read those last two, so they could have changed in memory). It almost, but not quite, includes The Blue Sword, but if I mention the Blue Sword, I get all the wrong sort of recommendations again. I just started Sorrow’s Knot, which looks like it might fit though I’m not far enough in to that yet to be sure. If Miyazaki wrote novels, it would include some but not all of his work.

Of course, all of this is highly subjective, and a book that fits this description in one reader’s mind won’t in another’s. That’s how reading works, after all.

But I thought I’d go ahead and ask, and see what I might discover. If any of the above resonates for you, and you think you might know the sort of book I’m talking about … any recommendations?

ETA: For some interesting further discussion of this sort of book, check out the comments on the livejournal version of this post.

9 thoughts on “Looking for a certain sort of book”

  1. Have you ever read Betsy James’ The Seeker Chronicles? Literary, lyrical, starred reviewed fantasy. THE LONG NIGHT DANCE, DARK HEART, and LISTENING AT THE GATE. Gems from 10+ years ago – before the explosion of the reading/writing social media boom. 🙂

    1. I’m sure we have the Bujold … I gather it has a different feel from her other work? (I’ve enjoyed the Miles books I’ve read, but they’re an entirely different sort of thing, for me.)

  2. Have you read The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold? That (and the second book The Paladin of Souls – which I liked better) might work (it has been a while since I read them, so I am not sure if they would be as strongly lyrical as you are looking for, though). Or perhaps Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear.

  3. Maybe The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison (really any of her work) or Half World by Hiromi Goto. If you haven’t read it yet, McKinley’s Chalice might fit the bill also.

    1. I have. Liked them well enough, but for me they didn’t quite scratch that itch … language too spare, and the world felt a little too shallow for me — well-written, but without those deeper roots that make it feel almost-real, in an almost-tangible way, for me. Not enough texture, maybe? (For this sort of thing–enough for the books’ own purposes, of course!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *