I really love fantasy, and while a significant part of that is the characters, another significant part of the love affair is world building. It’s incredible, re-building an entire world and society for these characters to operate in. If it’s done really well, they don’t even explain the rules of this new culture, you just pick them up as you go, acquiring titbits of this world and making it more real – because everyone understands these unspoken rules you have to keep a watch for. It’s incredible! So, this Sunday I have decided to list my favourite worlds, and the series that gave me them!
As usual, I’m skipping the HP and Narnia, because they’re just cult status and it’s not fair to give the top two positions to them.
Epic Book Worlds
The Wind on Fire series by William Nicholson
“She had gone so far now, she had broken so many rules and said such wicked things, that she knew she would suffer the most severe punishment; and since what was done could not be undone, she was free to be as bad as she wanted to be.”
The Wind Singer
I’ll confess it’s been many a year since I picked up the Wind Singer. It was my first hardback novel, given to me in Christmas . It sparked my imagination in a way little but Harry Potter did in those days, and I loved it”. The Wind Singer starts with a segregated society based on test scores. Those who fail tests lose points, and may get moved down to a lower colour in the society rainbow. The twins, along with their friend Mungo, escape the city to find a part of the wind singer that was stolen, when free will vanished. They have to travel over deserts and through other societies and are chased by permanently old children. It was a simple and complex world – simple because it was for children, complex because it was a political minefield the likes children don’t really understand. I loved it then, and it’s stuck around in my memory so that’s points in the plus column. I may have to re-read the series soon…
Poison Study series by Maria V.Snyder
“The Commander assigned jobs based on skills and intelligence, not on gender. While the monarchy preferred to see women work as maids, kitchen helpers and wives, the Commander gave them the freedom to choose what they wanted to do.”
It’s pretty much a military-dynastic country, with local section lords getting too big for their boots. BUT gender equality in the capital is pretty big. Ixia is a transitioning nation with all the issues that come along with that. In the later books, Yelena (the magical MC) is exiled from Ixia, and has to go South to learn how to control her magic with people who have power like she does. Then it’s clans and Yelena learning how a different (magical) culture works. I think Snyder has a few other trilogies in this world – and it is a pretty interesting world.
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
“So Lyra and her daemon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky.”
I’m not sure how, but Lyra’s “Oxford” just means the entire world of daemons and the Magisterium and Dust and Gyptians and travelling to Svalbard and Ice Bears. Honestly, the first time I read Northern lights, I just fell completely in love with the world and all the mess that comes with it. The Book of Dust series is also set in Oxford, before Lyra becomes Lyra although it’s all a bit watery…
Ketterdam (And Fjierda, and Ravka)
Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows Duology; Shadow and Bone Series)
“People point guns at each other all the time in Ketterdam. It’s basically a handshake.”
Jesper Fahey – Crooked Kingdom (SoC duology #2)
The Grishaverse trilogy (Shadow and Bone) is primarily based in Ravka, with a very short detour into a neighbouring country in Book 2. The Six of Crows duology hops over the sea to the criminal underworld of Ketterdam, before embarking on an adventure to the ice fields of Fjierda. This world has something called The Small Science, where individuals can have the power to manipulate the world around them. These are called the Grisha. The Grisha are the driving force of political agendas in this global context, as you control the Grisha, there is a good possibility you will be able to control a whole lot more. It’s a pretty ruthless world.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab
“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”
Lila Bard – A Darker Shade of Magic (V.E.Schwab)
Not only do we have one world, there are four. In parallel, with a focus on London – there’s Grey London, Red London, White London and Black London. The Antari are the magical beings who can walk between the worlds. In Red London – it is called because Magic is in balance with Nature, and the river is red. In the second and third books in the series, you get to explore the way magic works in White London (Holland you’re up) and also further explore the international relations and the magic of the neighbouring countries.
V.E.Schwab has announced at least two more series featuring her London’s, and I for one, can’t wait. The world’s are rich and exciting and have a myriad of cultural differences and I love them.
So, there you have it! My current top bookish worlds. Based on this, if there are any series you think I will love, please let me know! I’m always on the lookout for new series with great world building and fab characters, so hit me up in the comments!