Thursday, September 19, 2019

Five top fantasy books steeped in history

Jennifer Giesbrecht's debut novel is The Monster of Elendhaven.

At she tagged five favorite fantasy books steeped in history, including:
The Poppy War—R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War is a lot of things: a coming of age story for its orphaned protagonist Rin, a curiously grim magical school romp, a brutal war drama. It’s also meant to be a rough analogue to the life of Mao Zedong. Kuang drew historical inspiration from her own family’s stories about China’s tumultuous 20th century to craft her startling debut. Direct allegories in spec fiction are a difficult balancing act to pull off, but The Poppy War is never once broad, nor didactic. It flawlessly weaves together its medieval fantasy school setting with a backdrop pulled from the Opium and Sino-Japanese Wars without missing a stitch. She avoids gratuity by using her historical influence to grapple with a very real historical question: what is the psychology of a dictator? Not a “fantasy” dictator—some evil King malingering away in his castle with a divine mandate—but the kind of dictator produced by the world we live in right now, one driven initially by virtues we recognize as inarguably good; one stepped in cultural ideas that are still relevant to us today. This makes The Poppy War something rare and exciting: a true fantasy novel of the current modern era, shining the light of empathetic verisimilitude on a subject difficult to conceptualize when approached factually.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Poppy War is among Ross Johnson's twenty-five epic fantasies for fans of Game of Thrones.

The Page 69 Test: The Poppy War.

--Marshal Zeringue