My first fantasy book was the Firebird edition of Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown, around the time I was eight or nine years old. Later I picked up The Blue Sword, which remains one of my favorite books to this day: a reluctant heroine, an adventure, a coming of age… these were typical elements in a children’s fantasy book, yes, but The Blue Sword felt so perfect in its simplicity. (And I had a bit of a crush on Corlath.)
Then there were others: Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones (Howl’s Moving Castle, another favorite), Lloyd Alexander, Sharon Shinn, Juliet Marillier, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip (The Riddle-Master trilogy, yet another), T.A. Barron, Isobelle Carmody, Alison Croggon (ah yes, Pellinor), and who can forget Harry Potter… What a good time to be consuming fantasy novels!
I haven’t read any of the current trending YA fantasy books. I think the last one I’ve read and enjoyed was the Hunger Games (though Mockingjay was a little… exhausting) and I have younger cousins who’ve been trying to convince me to read Divergent. My tastes certainly run in a different direction nowadays, but the days of back-to-basics adventures and whimsical stories are also over, it seems. Even on the adult fantasy side, things are either very GoT or heavy on the gods and goddesses or both.
I re-read The Blue Sword recently in a fit of nostalgia and a part of me did notice that Robin McKinley gleaned over the political situation in the story — colonization is a gold mine of material — but it didn’t bother me. It’s a pleasant thing, reading a fantasy novel that doesn’t try to invoke too much realism. Sometimes you just want to read about magic and a motley cast of characters and a happy ending.