Pastoral fantasy

Here’s a nice post at Book View Café by Sherwood Smith.

Anyway, for whatever reasons, pastoral fantasies largely went out of fashion, at least I hadn’t seen any until this month when two came out within days of each other. They contained a lot of similar elements, they were not set in an idyllic England, and they are very, very not twee.

These are Crimson Bound, by Rosamund Hodge, and Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

Before I talk about them, I want to address what I think pastoral fantasy is. This is an old form that resurfaces every few generations, in art, poetry, and fairy tales. It’s not always twee or cute, though there is an emphasis on natural beauties. But pastoral fantasy can explore beauty that is dangerous, inspiring but unsettling, powerful and even subversive because it has not been neatly clipped into box hedges, cemented over, and civilized into an urban pretense of order.

Let me tell you, I am so looking forward to Uprooted. Even though I see that Sherwood says it flirts with horror and has a “Die Hard” body count. Good to know, I guess; now I won’t be taken aback.

For me, Cruel Beauty was okay but not out-of-this-world. I liked “Gilded Ashes” better. But I’ve been hearing good things about Crimson Bound. We’ll see.

Anyway, given this post’s take on pastoral fantasy, I hereby declare that The City in the Lake totally qualifies. Enchanted forest, check. Humans not the most powerful force, definitely check. Quick take on this concept of “pastoral fantasy” — I wonder how thoroughly it intersects with my conception of “fairy tale style fantasy”.

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3 thoughts on “Pastoral fantasy”

  1. I’ve always liked pastoral fantasies. A friend once teased me about my fondness for bucolic fantasies. Rather hilariously, he got his words muddled and instead accused me of liking “bubonic fantasies” (a somewhat smaller sub-genre, I suspect)!

  2. Then there’s Simak who managed to write pastoral SF. I remember seeing the original post go by at BVC, which is one of my regular stops. She didn’t name any other pastorals an d I’ve been trying to come up with some besides McKillip (SERRE, for instance) and our hostess’ CITY. I don’t think they are the same as fairy tale style fantasy, although the fairy tale style works well for them. But Pierce’s DARKANGEL is very fairy tale style and not pastoral, IMO. I think you need more nature than those have, for one thing.

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