What I’m reading: January 2015

Greetings everyone! Since the start of the new year, I’ve been busy working on Return to Shadow and getting back into the swing of things. Right now, I’m about halfway done with Part II. (If you haven’t yet, make sure to grab a copy of part one and tell me what you think when you finish!) But enough of that. This post is one I’ve been wanting to do since December and finally decided to get around to it. Better late than never though, right?

Before we dive right into things, let me explain. Instead of just talking about me, me, me all the time, I want to actually have meaningful conversations with my readers. I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than talk about another passion of mine that goes along with writing — reading! Every time I start or finish a book, I’ll tell you a little bit about it (no spoilers), what I liked, didn’t like and what I found inspiring. I don’t intend for these to be reviews really, just conversations between bookish folks about books.

Chronicles of Prydain boxed setDuring the end of November/start of December I decided to reread The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. It was probably my fourth or fifth time through the series and, once again, they did not  disappoint. The books were a huge inspiration for Teutevar Saga and I got very nostalgic thinking back to early drafts of Out of Exile that were based on The Chronicles of Prydain. Even the name of the continent in my books, Peldrin, was drawn from Prydain and something in the third book, The Castle of Llyr (if you’ve read it I’d love to hear your guess as to what it is). For those who haven’t read them, The Chronicles of Prydain draw on Lord of the Rings, but with a heavy dose of Welsh mythology thrown in. They’re also much shorter and faster-paced. The character types are similar, but with enough of a unique spin to grow on you on their own merits. Altogether, there are five books in the series. The second, The Black Cauldron, was made into a cartoon and became one of Disney’s rare flops. It was okay, but didn’t failed miserably in doing the books justice. If anyone knows of any rumors out there of someone making the whole series into films, please tell me! It’s my dream for The Chronicles of Prydain to get the LOTR cinema treatment they deserve.

As I said before, The Chronicles of Prydain are much faster-paced than Lord of the Rings or even the Hobbit. Although they’re set in a land that roughly resembles Wales, Alexander was an American writer and I credit him for giving me the first seedlings of an idea to create an Americanized epic fantasy. His action-packed style is something I’ve worked to duplicate in my revisions of Return to Shadow. Even though most of the characters were static throughout the series, I loved the way the author developed the main protagonist, Taran Assistant Pig-keeper. Alexander has a lot of wisdom hiding behind these young adult books. A word of warning to fans of contemporary prose, though: Alexander’s generous use of adverbs and stiff dialog may annoy some readers.

Here, There be Dragons coverI buzzed right through The Chronicles of Prydain (each book is 200 pages or less, I believe) and decided to revisit another series: The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica. It’d been so long since I read them that I thought I had the complete series (four books) but it turns out there are actually seven. I devoured the first three in the couple of weeks before Christmas and am on number four (The Shadow Dragons) right now. My pace has slowed down quite a bit since the New Year.

The Imaginarium Geographica follows the adventures of fictional versions of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams (along with a great many other creatives throughout history). After the murder of Tolkien’s mentor, the three are taken to a magical world called the Archipelago of Dreams to battle against the Winter King. To guide them on their journey, they have an atlas (The Imaginarium Geographica) of all the islands in the Archipelago and ride around on dragonships, sea-going vessels, each a different style and color. There are dragons, humans, elves, dwarves, trolls, goblins and talking animals. If you hadn’t guessed, the author, James A. Owen suggest that these writers came up with their beloved stories because of their adventures in the Archipelago. This makes the books a great fanboy/fangirl read, but what really sets this series apart is the fascinating and often ingenious ways Owen weaves a rich tapestry of mythologies. From Jason and the Argonauts, to Peter Pan (with plenty of Arthurian Legend thrown in), I’ve been blown away by Owen’s creativity and downright addicting storytelling. And, to make it even better, the author gives fantastic hand-drawn illustrations at the start of every chapter!

I’ve included links to the first in each of these series, The Chronicles of Prydain and The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica above. I’m not getting anything if you buy either of these books, but I would like to know what you think if you’ve read them or, if you’re planning to, what your thoughts are when you finish. You can tell me in the comments below or, better yet, if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter do that and shoot me an email!

Until next time, happy reading!


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