Saturday, October 8, 2016

Top 3 Speculative Worlds (Laurie)

One of the things I love most about the fantasy genre is that anything can happen in worlds with elements both familiar and foreign. This summer, Elizabeth did a post on her favorite speculative worlds, which got me thinking about the fantasy worlds in the books I've read. Months later, I'm finally ready to share my top 3!

3. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

119322There are aspects of this series I didn't agree with, but the world-building was phenomenal. I enjoyed the idea of parallel worlds, and the fact that there were consequences for traveling between them. Pullman incorporated so many fascinating elements into these worlds, including armored polar bears, spectres, dust (invisible, mysterious particles), and the remarkable items the books are named for: the Golden Compass, the Subtle Knife, and the Amber Spyglass. Most of all, I loved the concept of daemons, an external manifestation of a person's soul in the form of an animal. I remember wishing I had a constant companion who could provide consolation and guidance like Lyra had in Pantalaimon. And since daemons take a permanent form once their humans reach adulthood, I also had fun speculating what animal form would be a good match for me. The complexity of Pullman's world-building and the way it interacts with the story really made this series stand out when I read it as a teenager.

2. The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy by Clare Dunkle

142776I already posted about this series as part of my top 3 couples, but I have to give it another shout-out for world-building. In the first book, Kate and her sister discover that a civilization of goblins lives underneath a nearby hill. When Kate marries the goblin king, she goes through an interesting series of initiations and learns a great deal about goblin history and customs. In the second and third books, elves are also thrown into the mix, and I loved the way Dunkle handled the suspicions and misunderstandings between the races. I also liked how well developed the goblin and elvin societies were, incorporating everything from fertility issues to standards of beauty. The reader gets a balanced look at each race's point of view, giving thought-provoking perspectives on how divisions and biases form, and how they must be overcome in an interdependent world where each race needs each other to survive.

1. Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
I've been waiting for an opportunity to talk about these amazing books, and world-building is the perfect occasion! The series is based on a planet where a small civilization of humans has settled. In this New World, men can hear each others' thoughts, creating Noise. One of the things I enjoyed most about this trilogy was how integral Noise was to the entire plot. As one would imagine, having their thoughts known by everyone around them has a huge impact on how the characters act, especially when dealing with secrets. In addition, women's thoughts aren't audible (but they can hear Noise), a distinction that creates a great deal of conflict and division. Over the course of the books, the main character, Todd, learns to control his Noise, to the point that he can produce physical reactions in others just using his thoughts. Ness's world also has a complex history including relations with an indigenous species called Spackle. The way his world-building elements come together makes the reader fully experience his speculative world, yet creates moral dilemmas that are all too familiar.

Have you read any of these series? What are some of your favorite speculative worlds? What elements make a fantasy world stand out for you?

Thanks for reading!


  1. I haven't read any of these series, but the worlds sound fascinating, especially the New World of Chaos Walking. I wish I'd had the idea of a society full of audible thoughts! :) My favorite fantasy world is, not surprisingly, Middle Earth. I also love Prydain, from the Prydain Chronicles and many of the planets from the Star Wars galaxy, such as Naboo and Endor.

    ~ Brenna

    1. Thanks for your comment, Brenna! I know, the audible thoughts was a stroke of brilliance - it hooked me right away! They're apparently going to turn those books into movies, I'm really curious how they'll handle the Noise aspect. Middle Earth is a phenomenal speculative world, no one does world-building like Tolkien :) I'm not familiar with the Prydain Chronicles, but I'll have to look into it!

  2. Wow! I have to say, I have only read one of the 9 books in your post, Laurie! I enjoyed the world of Lyra and Oxford, but never finished the series. . . and I haven't read any of the others! Maybe I will have to get my kiddos to read them. . .my "to read" list is getting ridiculous! : )

    1. Ha, I like the idea of getting your kids to read them :) I know what you mean, my "to-read" list is getting pretty out of control, too! Thanks for commenting!

  3. These sound like such interesting books! I love great world building - pretty much any flaw can be overlooked if the world is riveting for me. Thanks for pointing out such neat fantasy places!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Hannah! World-building isn't always high on my list since I enjoy a lot of fantasy books where the world is very similar to our own, but it's amazing how world-building that's really well done can make the reader feel transported into a new realm.


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