Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

Browsing Category Blog


A taxonomy of fairies

So, I’m just getting caught up, more or less, with the Women in Fantasy posts at Fantasy Book Cafe, and I want to draw this one to your attention: An Incomplete Taxonomy of Fairies, with examples.

It caught my eye because anything combining “taxonomy” with fantasy tropes is just going to. Also, it sort of goes with the previous post, which tucked fairies into a natural history museum.

Here is how Jeanette Ng starts her post:

Mystical, mysterious and magnificent, everyone thinks they know fairies.

The word itself conjures up vivid images and subtle variations in spelling[1] can mean a world of difference. And so just as many (but not all) readers felt that there was something fundamentally un-vampire about sparkling in sunlight, any new incarnation of fairies needs one foot in the old…

Jeannette Ng covers Fairies as Other, Fairies as Just People, Fairies as Predators, Fairies as Abstractions, and Fairies as Mirrors. This categorization is interesting and perhaps useful and if you have a moment, you should click through and check it out. I particularly liked this footnote: “[1] I hazard to say that the rule of thumb is that the more e’s you have the more malevolent they are. So a “fairy” is a sparkly pixie of childhood whimsy and the more faux archaic spelling of “faerie” and “fey” are the dark adult creatures.”

“Fey” really is a vastly more adult looking word than “fairy,” isn’t it?

Okay, so, in no order:

1. Most horrifying fairies ever: The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín. This is not a book I see referred to often enough. It’s horrifying but quite readable even for me, and I don’t have that high a tolerance for horror. By a startling coincidence, I see the sequel (The Invasion) just came out last month. I had forgotten to look for it. Well, good to be reminded; now it’s very much on my radar.

2. Most delightful moment with a predatory fairy: Remember in The Fall of Ile-Rien, when a Redcap or some other kind of predatory fairy finds Tremaine by herself? He says, “You look tasty, little girl.” And she levels a gun at his face and replies, “So do you.” Such a classic Tremaine moment. I may have laughed out loud.

3. Best fairy folk in an urban fantasy: Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks. Who out there didn’t fall in love with the Pouka?

4. Best fairy folk in a high fantasy: CJC’s Arafel’s Saga. CJ Cherryh defined the Fair Folk for me in this duology.

5. Favorite Tam Lin: Hard to say. I liked Roses and Rot by Kat Howard quite a bit, though I don’t seem to have reviewed it. I should re-read it and then review it.

6. Favorite fairy dogs: I’m going to cheat and go for the not-entirely-fairy-like Wild Hunt in DWJ’s Dogsbody.

7. Favorite fairy curse: So many. I don’t know. Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest? Maybe Merrie Haskell’s The Princess Curse?

8. Most wonderful fairy name: The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair, in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrill. Also a contender for most horrifying fairy ever, although in a completely different way. The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair is an example of a perfectly selfish, perfectly sociopathic, perfectly soulless Fairy.

9. Best story that takes place mostly within fairy society, with human people just around the edges: Knife by RJ Anderson. This also counts for “favorite curse,” but it’s the fairies themselves who are cursed, not the humans. Lots of wonderful twists to standard tropes in this one.

10. …..Your Choice Here……….

I just tossed these off the top of my head, so I’m sure I’m forgetting half my own favorites. What’s your favorite fairy/fairie/fey from fantasy?

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Hidden Elves

This is very cool: Hidden Elves at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Back in the 1970s, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science hired artist Kent Pendleton to paint the backdrops for many of the museum’s wildlife dioramas. Little did it know that Pendleton’s penchant for hiding tiny mythical creatures in these paintings would add a whole new dimension to the museum experience….It all began with eight elves—or gnomes, or leprechauns, depending who you ask—hidden in Pendleton’s wildlife dioramas. An elf hiding in the lowland river. An elf riding a dinosaur along a cretaceous creekbed. Another elf sat on a rock in the Great Smoky Mountains. And others, hard to spot but definitely there, in various backdrops throughout the museum.

Kent Pendleton is my kind of guy! What a delightful trick, and surely the museum didn’t mind. After all, this would surely entice patrons to linger over the exhibits, even if they pay as much attention to the backdrop paintings as the exhibits themselves.

When these eagle-eyed volunteers began to spot the museum’s incongruous and thoroughly unscientific inhabitants, the whole thing began to snowball. The staff decided to go along with the game, adding more elves and gnomes to the museum….


Here is one of the pictures — but you should certainly click through and enjoy the others. Unless you’re in Denver. Then you should probably plan an in-person trip. I sure would; I love museums of nature and science.

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Perfect critiques

Today on The Passive Voice blog, two sentences of criticism that are too wonderful not to share.

The first is from the post “Women intellectuals and the withering quip.” It’s a line from a book review of Henry James, by a British writer, Rebecca West, who said:

“He splits hairs until there are no longer any hairs to split, and the mental gesture becomes merely the making of agitated passes over a complete and disconcerting baldness.”

That is indeed withering. Wow.

The second is a quote from The Passive Guy himself, regarding a legal complaint filed by an art collector. The Passive Guy extensively quotes this complaint. Then he comments:

“In PG’s staggeringly humble opinion, counsel for the upset purchaser has burst through florid and grandiloquent and is fully into rubicund territory with his complaint drafting style.

We will probably never know what happens behind closed doors, but PG would love to hear the judge’s response to the complaint during the first conference with counsel for plaintiff and defendants. PG can never recall seeing the word, “ouroboros” in a court document. PG wonders why counsel held back and did not utilize the even more obscure spelling of uroborus (which, he seems to recall reflects more accurately the pronunciation of the word).”


Now I want to use the word “oroboros” in casual conversation today. Not sure I’m going to be able to pull that off.

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Terror is not the same thing as panic, and other quibbles

Okay, so, today I am going to lodge a complaint. Several complaints.

Modern writers need to figure out that “panic” and “terror” are not synonyms, and copy editors need to suggest when the former term, which is used all the time, should be replaced by the latter.

Terror is extreme fear.

Panic is extreme fear expressed in wild, mindless action.

It is just weird to say that your protagonist “froze in panic.” Freezing in place is not a consequence of panic, but of terror.

Also, “disinterested” is not the same as “uninterested.”

Also, “flaunt” is not remotely the same as “flout.”

Also, for heaven’s sake, stop using “literally” to mean “figuratively.” We need a word that means “literally” and there will be no need to invent another word to take on this meaning if we can just keep “literally” from being turned into its opposite.

Probably that one’s a losing battle.

Well, moving on. When an author writes, “this, far less that,” the second item should be the more extreme case. For some reason a lot of people write things like, “He’s not going to murder me, far less shout at me,” instead of the other way around.

The same is true for the similar phrase “let alone.” An author should not write, “She’s not into extreme hiking, let alone a casual stroll through the woods.”

You can string these types of phrases together, as in: “I can’t afford a skateboard, let alone a bicycle, much less a decent car and far less that fancy pink Cadillac.” When you do this, the items have to go in order of increasing unlikelihood.

I mention all this in full awareness that I personally have to squint at the screen and think about the sentence before deciding whether I meant “advise” or “advice.” Sometimes I accidentally type “breath” when I meant “breathe.” Once I had “cypress” in a story for an awfully long time before I realized I meant “Cyprus.” It’s not like I always demonstrate perfect word choices.

But panic is still not the same thing as terror.

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Have you ever gone on to the “sequel” of a classic?


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a reader who finishes reading Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is in want of more to read. We already prepared one list of what to read when you want more Pride & Prejudice… and we still want more! What was married life like for Lizzie and Darcy? Whatever became of Mary and Kitty Bennett?….

Then we have a list of eight recent Pride and Prejudice “sequels.” Here is the one that actually sort of appeals to me:

…Writing to her sister, Jane, Liz confides her uncertainty and anxieties, and describes the everyday of her new life. Her first year at Pemberley is sometimes bewildering, but Lizzy’s spirited sense of humor and satirical eye never desert her. Incorporating Jane Austen’s own words and characters from her other works, the book is a literary patchwork quilt piecing together the story of Lizzie’s first eventful year as Mrs. Darcy.

I wouldn’t have thought any of them would intrigue me at all, because in general I am not inclined to look up “sequels” to classics. For example, I love “Les Miserables” as a play, and after falling in love with it on the stage, I read the entire unabridged brick of a thing and actually enjoyed that too, even the looooong digressions about the sewers of Paris or whatever.

Then I found out about this:

The tale of Cosette continues in this sweeping, exhilarating epic that interweaves its own galaxy of characters and narrative with real events and historical figures. So says Goodreads. I find the whole idea of this book somewhat repellant. I suppose the word I’m looking for is pretentious. I didn’t know anything about Laura Kalpakian, but my instant reaction was: Who does she think she is? And, yes, I have something of the same response to the idea of sequels to Pride and Prejudice.

I think I’m more interested in stories that try to capture some of Austen’s flavor without actually trying to be a sequel qua sequel. I don’t feel that Liz’s letters would be really hers, since Austen didn’t write them; and I don’t think I could set that feeling aside and enjoy them even if they’re well-written and totally in keeping with Austen’s character.

Maybe I’m being too close-minded, though. How do you all feel about “sequels” written by someone other than the original author?

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Great recent science posts

Somehow I kept noticing really snazzy posts this week, starting with this from the Smithsonian: The Great Chinese Dinosaur Boom

In the mid-1990s, on that hillside in Sihetun, a farmer stumbled onto the world’s first known feathered dinosaur, a creature now named Sinosauropteryx (“the China dragon bird”). Actually, the farmer found two halves of a slab, each preserving a mirror image of this dinosaur. In the freewheeling spirit that has characterized the fossil trade in the area ever since, he sold one half to one unwitting museum, and one half to another. It was the start of a fossil gold rush.The region has yielded more than 40 dinosaur species to date… Standing on a slope a few minutes’ walk from the museum site, my guide pointed out the hills of a nearby farm where Yutyrannus, a 3,100-pound feathered dinosaur, turned up a few years ago. (Think Tyrannosaurus rex, but plumed like a Mardi Gras Indian.) This was also the former home range of Anchiornis huxleyi, a chicken-size creature with enough preserved detail to become the first dinosaur ever described feather by feather in its authentic colors—an event one paleontologist likened to “the birth of color TV.”

The Smithsonian has such great articles. I used to subscribe. Maybe I should again; I never think to check in unless I happen across an article like this one. Okay, there, just signed up for their newsletter.

Click through to enjoy the picture of the dinosaur sushi plate.

Meanwhile, this completely different article: Why a ‘Lifesaving’ Depression Treatment Didn’t Pass Clinical Trials

Short version: Because of the unfortunate short-term design of the clinical trial, that’s why.

In the months and years after the 2013 halt [of the trial], as data accrued from patients who continued with the treatment, it became clear that more and more of them were moving toward and past the 40 percent improvement threshold; some were even in remission….When tracked for two years instead of the six months used for the futility analysis, the percentage of active-treatment patients whose depression scores dropped by at least 40 percent more than doubled, to 50 percent of all those in the original active group. The remission rate also rose, from 10 percent at six months to 31 percent at 24 months.

What we have here is a failed clinical trial—of a treatment that seems to work.

It’s a nasty conundrum. As Paul Holtzheimer, a lead author on the broaden study, put it at a conference last year, “To imagine that 50 percent of patients that are this severely ill, this treatment-resistant, would get better and stay better for this period of time … [We] have [a large failed study], we have these really amazing open-label pilot data—it is hard to reconcile those two.”

If I suffered from untreatable depression, I would certainly see if I could get into some kind of new trial. Or more likely I wouldn’t, as my depression would probably prevent me from aggressively pursuing treatment. But I hope in that case a loved one would look into this on my behalf.

The whole fascinating story is at the link.

Last, for something much less important but fun: These Are Some of The Strangest Optical Illusions Known to Science

Who doesn’t love illusions? These are great. Just don’t try to tell me those strawberries aren’t red. They are definitely red. And the dress is gold and white.

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Favorite retellings

Here’s a post by Ilana C. Myer at tor.com that seems in keeping with the recent McKinley emphasis here: Five Gorgeous Classic Retellings

Just five! I do feel anyone should be able to come up with ten. Shoot, anyone could manage “Ten Great Beauty and the Beast Retellings,” never mind ten total for all retold fairy tales and myths and so on. Nevertheless, it’s a a list I can get behind.

McKinley Beauty is on it, of course. That’s on practically every list of favorite retellings, and of course with good reason.

Ilana Myer also includes The Outlaws of Sherwood, which (I feel I should emphasize) I do like a lot; it’s my favorite version of Robin Hood just as McKinley’s Beauty is my favorite Beauty. I just feel the ending is weak.

Then Myer goes on to mention three others, one of which is a GREAT CHOICE that you don’t see mentioned nearly as often.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

and, drumroll —

The King Must Die by Mary Renault

Bluebeard is never going to be my favorite anything, because it’s fundamentally Gothic horror and my taste for that is limited. I did like Strands of Bronze and Gold quite a bit for its atmosphere, but I have no urge whatever to seek out Bluebeard retellings.

The Once and Future King is, perhaps oddly, both too silly and too tragic for my taste.

But The King Must Die! There’s a wonderful story. Mary Renault does such a lovely job with Theseus and the Ancient Greek setting. Plus she handles the tragedy in the way that works best for me: she cuts the story in half and puts the tragedy in the second half (The Bull from the Sea) where I can easily ignore it.

Here is what Myer says of The King Must Die:

This rendition of the myth of Theseus is powered by some of the most exquisite writing I’ve ever encountered. From the origins of Theseus in his home village of Troizen, to his intrigues in the royal palace of Athens, and—most of all—to the maze of the minotaur on Crete, Renault immerses the reader fully in a world that feels grander and more real than our own. This is the essence of epic: To make what is past, and strange to us, take on overpowering life.

Renault writes utterly convincingly of the Minoans, about whom we know so little; of bull dances, of the splendor of Minos’s palace, of Theseus’s adventure at the heart of the maze. She took an immortal myth and from it made a book deserving of similar immortality, because it is that good.

I’ve read The King Must Die multiple times; The Bull from the Sea just once. Both are beautiful, so whether you read the entire duology depends entirely on your tolerance for tragedy.

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While we’re still on the topic of Cozy Mysteries —


Elisa Shoenberger says: I love murder mysteries and I love food. The combination? Delightful! Here’s a list of some culinary murder mysteries that center around food and death. Some of these are new arrivals while some are old classics.

Well, I’m with her on this one — I too love, or at least like, mysteries; and I definitely love food. Let’s see what Schoenberger picked out of the Cozy Crowd for this excellent combo of culinary delight mixed with murder:







Interesting selection! Glad to see Rex Stout here, and then we seem to run the gamut from Nero Wolfe to … guessing by the puns in the titles … “Cutesy” mysteries. I am instantly put off by the silliness implied by “Curses, boiled again” and “The long quiche goodbye.”

Schoenberger picked out this particular Wolfe mystery because in this particular story something unusual happens “In a rare instance, Wolfe leaves the comforts of his brownstone to attend the annual dinner of the Ten for Aristology, cooked by his personal chef Fritz.” Yes, I remember that one. Obviously Wolfe had to solve the crime immediately rather than risk either Fritz being arrested or himself being stuck away from home for any longer than absolutely necessary.

Of the others, I like the sound of Death by Dumpling:

This debut novel centers on Lana Lee, a twenty-seven-year-old who works in her parents’ noodle restaurant after quitting her job and a terrible breakup. When Mr. Feng, property owner of the mall that houses the restaurant, ends up dead after Lana delivers his lunch order, things don’t look to good. Lana decides she has to clear her name and begins sleuthing to find out who killed Mr. Feng. Lana is a delightful main character with a dog named Kikkoman! This is definitely a series I read for the characters rather than the mystery. It’s not the strongest, but it’s still fun to watch Lana do her thing.

Kudos to Schoenberger for being up front about the mystery itself not being that mysterious. That’s fine with me because I read mysteries for the setting and characters, not the mystery.

I also like the sound of Death Comes in Through the Kitchen:

In 2003, food writer Matt travels to Cuba to propose and marry his Cuban girlfriend and food blogger, Yarmila, but instead of matrimonial bliss, he finds her strangled in her bathtub. Now, he’s a person of interest and stuck in Havana until the police decide what to do with him. I liked how it tried to show Cuban day-to-day life. I also love the occasional blog posts by Yarmila about her favorite Cuban dishes as well.

Because setting is especially important to me in mysteries, this one stands out. So does its price. Good heavens, $15 on Kindle? Good way to crush your writer’s sales like a bug … Penguin/RH, I see. Somehow not surprised. Still happy to pick up a sample, but I’m not going to buy a new-to-me author at that price. Death By Dumpling is not quite as outrageous.

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Wherein Robin McKinley poses four questions and answers two

I was reminded of this post from Robin McKinley by the question raised in the previous post, about whether Spindle’s End or perhaps another McKinley novel ought to be included on a list of 50 Greatest Fantasy Novels of the Century (So Far).

Here, in a rare blog update, Robin McKinley reports some promising news in the guise of posing questions (and answering some of them).

1. Are you WRITING ANYTHING?* And if so, WHAT?**
2. Are you ever going to finish KES? Is it ever going to be available to buy, either finished or unfinished, but maybe preferably finished?***
3. Are you ever going to finish PEGASUS? I know you don’t do sequels, but surely the ending of PEGASUS isn’t the end. Please say yes.
4. Is there a sequel to . . .

Upon reading these questions, I immediately said, “What’s KES?” Luckily, that is one of the answers provided — McKinley hits the first two of these questions, like so:

ONE. Yes. I’m writing something. Its working title is ONE YEAR DIARY.

She does not promise to finish ONE YEAR DIARY any time this decade, so don’t hold your breath. Also, she says, “It’s a hell of a grim story. It’s not like anything I’ve written before.” Not sure how I feel about that. Sounds like if it ever does appear, I may be waiting to see the first reviews before buying it. Good to have the warning.

TWO. Part One of KES . . . is FINISHED. … And KES will be PUBLISHED.

Evidently this is something McKinley has been writing in tiny fragments and posting in installments. As I say, I was unaware of this. There is a Goodreads page for it, here. There is no official description worth mentioning, but a commenter at Goodreads, Melody, helpfully posts this description:

The oddball heroine of this story is just recovering from the breakup of her 18 year marriage. Through a random twist of fate she ends up leaving the familiarity of the city she has lived in all her life for the unknown country to start her new life. Here she faces such sinister forces as whooshing pine trees, teeth gnashing crickets, and cows. But at least there are no cockroaches in the country. Right?

Luckily she is welcomed by a host of friendly, helpful, quirky characters who help her relocate to Cold Valley near New Iceland. Read her adventures as she aquires an oversized house, oversized vehicle and oversized pet. None of these compare to her gargantuan oversized imagination. But that’s good because she IS a fantasy writer.

Join Kes as she struggles with Yggdrasil in the backyard, Yog-Sothoth in the cellar, deinonychus under the porch and sinister men in black shadowing her. Of course those are all just a product of an overactive imagination. Aren’t they? Our heroine couldn’t be more out of place. Or perhaps she will finally find where she always belonged.

I guess it’s the crickets that are gnashing their teeth, not someone’s teeth gnashing the crickets? Thus we see why hyphens are useful; tooth-gnashing crickets would have made this clear. I wonder what the “oversized pet” is? Deinonychus, perhaps? Here is Deinonychus, which is a Dromaeosaur, related to Velociraptor, as you can tell immediately from the feathers, the gracile build, and especially the one supersized claw on the foot:

A Deinonychus would count as an oversized pet since they weighed something on the general order of 200 lbs.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, KES is not available online in serial form any more, so hopefully it will indeed be published. When it comes to McKinley, I don’t count my books till they’re actually in my hands, Goodreads pages don’t count. When an actual cover image appears, I’ll take that as a good sign. She gives no information about when it should appear or from what publisher.

THREE — She says the second half of Pegasus will be published. I’ll believe that one when when it happens.

Now, while we’re on the subject of McKinley’s possible upcoming releases: What is your favorite McKinley story so far? Not just from this century, but ever. In case you can use a reminder, here’s a list:

The Blue Sword
The Hero and the Crown
Rose Daughter
Spindle’s End
The Outlaws of Sherwood
The Stone Fey

Then a bunch of shorter work:

The Hunting of the Hind
The Princess and the Frog
The Stolen Princess
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
The Healer
The Stagman
Touk’s House
The Sea King’s Son
Water Horse
First Flight
A Pool in the Desert

There are a few shorter works I’ve never read, but I do have most of the collected stories. Here’s how I would personally rank all these:

1. The Blue Sword. A perfect story. Just love it. Also, I recommend this one all the time as an example of the simplest, plainest, most invisible writing style — the kind of writing that just vanishes off the page, allowing the reader to fall directly into the story.

2. Sunshine. Another perfect story. I think it works beautifully from beginning to end.

3. Beauty. The first McKinley novel I ever read, it made a big impression on me and instantly became my pick for definitive Beauty retelling. In my opinion, the ending is weak. The ending of most Beauty retellings is weak. It is just hard to end this particular fairy tale well. Nevertheless, delightful story. Best retelling of any fairy tale ever.

Surely most McKinley fans will put these three at or near the top. After that the rest get harder to sort out.

4. Chalice. Yes, it’s short and simple. It’s also just a lovely little gem.

5. “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” One of my favorite fairy tales, beautifully re-told.

6. “Buttercups.” Lovely original fairy tale.

7. Deerskin. When I re-read this one, I skip that one bit toward the front. You know the part I mean. I read the very beginning and pick back up when she finds the cabin in the woods. But it’s a good, well-told story with a good ending.

8. The Hero and the Crown. Loved it, but not as much as The Blue Sword.

9. Dragonhaven. I know it’s slow. I really liked it and thought McKinley did a fine job with the voice of the protagonist.

10. “A Knot in the Grain.” I liked it a lot.

11. Outlaws of Sherwood. I like Robin Hood and I enjoyed this book very much, but I think it’s impossible to end this story well and I don’t think McKinley managed to do it any more than anyone else.

12. “First Flight.” Too repetitious, imo, and too predictable. Still a great pleasure to read.

13. “Touk’s House.” I liked it a lot.

14. Shadows. I liked it a lot, but it felt unfinished.

14. “Hellhound.” I liked it a lot, but (a) I didn’t believe in the magical cure for what happened to the brother; and (b) the ending, where Miri and the others explained what had happened, felt repetitious and unnecessary.

15. Spindle’s End. The ending was totally unsatisfactory imo, so much so as to nearly spoil the book, which I otherwise liked a lot.

16. Rose Daughter. I think I resent this title on behalf of Beauty, which may not be fair, but there it is.

17. The Stone Fey. Forgettable.

18. The rest: I haven’t read them or they didn’t leave that much of an impression.

Feel free to argue! Which do you think I put in completely the wrong place?

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The 50 Best Fantasy Books of the 21st Century (So Far)

Here at Paste’s blog, this: The 50 Best Fantasy Books of the 21st Century (So Far)

Problems with this list:

a) It is too long. Fifty is just too big a number.

b) It was compiled thus: We’ve gathered Paste editors and writers to compile a list of our favorite books in the genre…

So you don’t mean best, then. You’re saying popular. Or maybe Our personal favorites. Neither of those strikes me as the same thing, but this We Liked It, So We Included It criterion does explain —

c) Some of these choices are just peculiar. Why on Earth would you pick out Spindle’s End by McKinley? I mean, seriously? That’s your pick? Four other books of hers came out this century, not counting Pegasus, which was half a book. Spindle’s End was not without charm, but really?

d) You list two Game of Thrones books and two Harry Potter books. Also two books by Patrick Rothfuss, Terry Pratchett, NK Jemisin. For heaven’s sake, that is just pure laziness. Can’t you stretch far enough to fill out this list without depending on such pointless repetition?

e) I personally found a few of these books seriously flawed and I loathed others that were successful at what they were trying to do, so obviously your list is faulty. Plainly I should in the future be given veto power over all titles included in every such list.

…All right, maybe (e) is going a little far. I am not ambitious enough to try creating this kind of list, plus I’m under no illusions about whether I read broadly enough to have any hope of picking out the very best titles anyway (even if that weren’t inevitably a personal judgment).

I have never yet gotten to Patrick Rothfuss. The Name of the Wind has the distinction of possibly having been on my TBR shelves the very longest. Any number of people have pushed me to read it. One day, one day. I’ve read a good many of the rest of these, though. Here are the ones I think may well belong on a list of Best Of The Century (So Far):

1. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrill by Clarke

2. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Valente

3. Night Watch by Pratchett

4. The King of Attolia by MWT (Or would you all pick The Queen of Attolia?)

The others I either haven’t read or thought sufficiently flawed that I wouldn’t put them on such a list. If you’re interested, you can click through and see what you think.

I listened to Clarke’s book on audio and I don’t imagine I will ever feel inclined to repeat the experience. Loooong and slow. I sort of enjoyed it, but really I only found myself engaged right at the end. However, I think it’s extremely impressive. Similarly, I personally didn’t really care for The Girl Who. But I admire it. Night Watch is imo the very best of Pratchett’s books. And The King of Attolia actually is my pick from that series, though I think a lot of people would select Queen as their favorite.

What else occurs to me as an obvious choice for a FIFTY BEST list? Let me think about that…

I’m expecting some pushback for any choices ever made for such a list, but I would be inclined to select (in no particular order):

5. A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear.

6. Ombria in Shadow by Patricia McKillip. I’d entertain other titles rather than this one, but — not to be judgmental here — your list is a total failure if it doesn’t include a title by McKillip.

7. Declare by Tim Powers. Again, your list may as well pack up and go home if it doesn’t include something by Tim Powers — even though he’s not a great personal favorite, I can perfectly well tell that his books are very impressive.

8. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

9. The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

10. The Curse of Chalion by LMB

11. The Goblin Emperor by “Katherine Addison”

12. Powers by James Burton

There, that’s an even dozen, so I’ll stop there. Argh, no I won’t:

13. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

14. Archivist Wasp by Kornher-Stace

Now I feel like I need a fifteenth just to bring this list to a conclusion, but I’m drawing a blank.

15. ???

I can see that this list started skewing toward Rachel’s Personal Favorites, but whatever. I think everything here is genuinely better, more interesting, more worthy of note, and more successful for what it was trying to do than almost any of the picks on Paste’s list. I would be happy to defend my picks against all comers.

What one title would you pick out for #15? Remember, you’ve got to pick something published this century.

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