Hey all, Dani here.
Welcome to the first recommendations post of 2020. I’ve missed doing the alternating series of recommendation and discussion posts. In just a few more hours when I get off work, I’ll be heading down to Columbus for the weekend because Damian and I are helping out our friends at Colorworld Books for their booth at Ohayocon. Yep, not even a couple weeks into the new year and we’re having a convention weekend already. Damian has been there all day since we are currently on different work schedules, but we’ll both be there all day Saturday and Sunday, so it should be a really cool time.
Anyway, speaking of Damian, I was struggling with trying to figure out what topic I should utilize for this recommendations post and Damian suggested something where a normal character from our world goes to another world. He was thinking about some manga and anime he likes, but I immediately started thinking of so many other portal fantasy options.
That is what the genre is called, where a normal person goes to another place that is different from ours. Now this could be a completely magical place or it could be very similar to ours. There are different manners in which this travel can be done. Some stories utilize doorways, some rabbit holes, some falling through stones, or even through a book or some sort of technology like a computer.
So, let’s talk portal fantasy.
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol, The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones are classic examples of portal fantasy.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. I actually just picked up the sequel to this one, but it is a Beauty and the Beast inspired story where a girl from our world is brought into this cursed other world in the hopes that she might be the one to save them. This story is fantastic, and I look forward to seeing what will happen next with Harper, Rhen, and Grey.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Naturally this book makes it on the list because it absolutely pays homage to Narnia (and also kind of Harry Potter) while standing as its own unique tale. I recently re-read the first book in the trilogy, and I’m hoping to finally read books two and three soon. Oh, and I’ll have a review coming for this one soon as well.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. This is an interesting installment of portal fantasy in that one of the main characters if from a magical world, while the other main character is from ours. But what makes it especially fun is that the other “worlds” are actually parallel versions of London. I own two copies of this trilogy because I think it’s fantastic. I also just realized that I never wrote up a proper review post for this book. I guess I need to re-read and then review.
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Okay so this is a series I need to get further into, but it follows a woman who is a spy for a mysterious Library that collects fictions from different realities. The first installment in the series has her trying to collect a book in an alternate London filled with dangerous creatures, magic, and secret societies. The sixth book in the series was just released, and that means I have a lot of reading yet to do.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. Here’s a book I read last year, and there are a lot of doors to a lot of different places in this one. It is a wonderfully convoluted and complex adventure, and I definitely enjoyed reading it.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Yes, this book technically can be counted as portal fantasy, though unlike other books where the main character goes to another world, this book sends our leading lady into the past instead. There is so much lovely description and historical detail in these books. It is obvious that the author spends a lot of time researching and then writing each book, and the outcome is just incredible. This is another series that I’m dreadfully behind on. At least I know I won’t run out of reading material.
Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire (Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Beneath the Sugar Sky, In An Absent Dream, and Come Tumbling Down). I’m reading the newest installment now, but I dearly adore this novella series. It is impressive how much can be put into a 200 page story. This series includes so many fantastic and authentically diverse characters, while also being incredibly diverse on the types of portals and the variety of worlds. Seanan McGuire is a master of portal fantasy, and hope this series contains many more installments to come. They are all utterly fascinating, and whimsical, and complex, and intriguing. I love reading them, even if they feel like they’re over so soon. Also, how in the world have I only reviewed every other book in this series? That makes no sense to me.
Then, since this all started with Damian thinking of anime and manga, I’ll throw in a few examples for it as well, because why not. Both How Not to Summon a Demon Lord and Overlord are very similar, with the main difference being that one is focused on attraction (it is a harem style manga story) and the other is honestly a lot more layered and complex. But both are still interesting in their own ways. Then there’s That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime which is a bit of a different kind of portal fantasy because the main character dies in our world and then wakes up/is reborn as a slime in another world. However it is still an absolutely fascinating series, so I definitely recommend it.
Well, that’s all I have for you today. What sort of recommendation post would you like to see next? Is there a particular genre, sub-genre, or theme/trope you’d like me to delve a bit deeper into sometime soon? Give me some suggestions in the comments, and I’ll be back soon with more bookish content.