Art by: Lily Cohen ('20)
We have all experienced quite an upheaval in the past weeks. Everyone is (or should be) self isolating and, personally, cabin fever is setting in. We cannot go outside — but literature has always provided great escapism. I’ve tried to put together a list of books that will transport you to another world: mainly speculative fiction (fantasy and sci-fi) with a dash of historical fiction, I hope these books can distract you, if just for a moment.
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Red and Blue are on different sides of the time war. But when they start up a secret correspondence, notes written in bee stings and cod fish and letters that say “burn before reading,” they find themselves growing closer.
I don’t think any summary is capable of giving this book justice. This is How You Lose the Time War is so very strange and so very beautiful. The characters are well crafted and, though I’m someone who usually finds sci-fi world building too clunky, I loved the worlds the two inhabited.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Everybody knows about children who fall down rabbit holes or slip through the wardrobe into another world. But what happens when those children come back?
Simple. They go to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children — a place where parents can believe their children are being fixed and children can attempt to find the way back to their fantasy worlds. That’s where Nancy is sent when she gets back from the Halls of the Dead. And that’s also where a twisting murder mystery begins.
I love oddly-shaped magic. Boys who dance with skeletons and girls with nonsense on their tongues. There are currently five Wayward Children novellas, and all of them are technically standalones. They are all good but besides Every Heart a Doorway, my other favorite in the series is In an Absent Dream.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
Historical fiction meets fantasy in this series set in the early 1700s. Though Monty and his younger sister, Felicity, are both members of the upper class, they each yearn to break free from the expectations placed on them. Monty wants nothing less than to take over the family’s estate, Felicity wants nothing more than to become a doctor and Percy, Monty’s childhood friend and crush, is hiding something.
An entertaining and sometimes bizarre series, The Gentleman’s and Lady’s Guides are perfect for fans of historical fiction who crave just a little bit of magic.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Erin Morgenstern, author of the highly acclaimed “The Night Circus,” returned in 2019 with a book that is, in my opinion, even better. Zachary Ezra Rawlins had the opportunity to go through a magical door, once upon a time. He missed out and when he finds a mysterious book in his campus library years later, he’s intrigued.
Set half in the real world and half in a world below ours, it feels like a fairy tale sandwiched between an RPG sandwiched between another fairy tale. The world building is the type that makes you homesick for a place you’ve never been. It is a strange book — a book with the opening lines “There is a pirate in the basement. (The pirate is a metaphor but also a person.)” is bound to be a little odd. But the book is as beautiful as it is strange, making it very beautiful indeed.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Jude lives in Faerie but she isn’t one of them. She isn’t one of the humans plucked from the human world and made to serve the fae, either. She’s the pseudo daughter of a Fae general who brought her and her siblings to Faerie after killing their parents. Determined to prove herself worthy of a place in Faerie, and constantly attracting the ire of the youngest and cruelest prince, Jude has to navigate court drama and family ties just to survive.
Holly Black is pretty much the unofficial queen of fairy tales made modern. Her books are so full of intrigue and drama and magic that, even though I am always wary going into them, they still catch me by surprise.