Friday Five: Five Books with Awesome Plot Twists

I’m in the middle of patching up my new home, so I completely neglected the whole Friday Five hosted by NerdyGeekyFanboy. This week’s theme is my own idea, however, so I figured I’d need to find some time to write a contribution of my own.

So, without further ado: Five books with awesome plot twists!

Note: I’m trying to be as vague as possible regarding spoilers, but read at your own risk anyway. Something might have slipped in anyway. Also, with ‘awesome’, I mean devastating, heart wrenching, or otherwise stuff that had me reeling or left my mind blown. Basically stuff, I hadn’t seen coming.

 

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
An obvious one if you’re familiar with either the book or the movie, but this book starts out as a ‘simple’ disappearance of a woman. Her husband claims innocence but his behaviour makes him seem very guilty. Without spoiling anything (or at least trying to), I can say that this book deals with unreliable narrators, a media circus surrounding certain crime cases, a very toxic marriage, horrible people, and an ending that leaves you…disgusted.

The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey
There are two in this book; one somewhere in the first half that I hadn’t quite seen coming, and another at the ending. It’s very difficult to say anything about this book without spoiling anything, but it’s about a girl who, every single morning, is taken out of her cell, strapped in to a wheelchair to attend class with other kids — also strapped into wheelchairs. The staff seems to want to steer clear of them, except for one of their teachers.

A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
I suspect most would mention The Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords, but I hadn’t fully caught up with either the books or the series yet, so getting spoiled by the internet outrage at the time was inevitable. As a result, it didn’t have as much impact as it could have. Instead, I’m going to list the first book, because I hadn’t been prepared for the ‘everyone can die’ thing. In my innocence, I hadn’t expected a certain character to actually die. Up to the last moment, I expected he’d be saved. Surely, such an important POV character wouldn’t die? He wasn’t, and I learned the lesson that, in A Song of Ice and Fire, no one is safe.

The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
Despite having read all books available in The Song of Ice and Fire series, I don’t necessarily expect others to pull a George R.R. Martin, especially not in the first book of a series. Though I expected something to go south, I hadn’t expected that it would go south to the extend it did.

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
I suppose I can’t not mention this one on a list like this. It’s about a man who is the last human who hasn’t yet succumbed to the vampire plague, and the resulting isolation and loss of humanity. I didn’t love it as much as some other people do, but I definitely appreciate the twist at the end (which had me reeling) and what the author was trying to do with this.

There we have it, five books with awesome plot twists. Are there any you feel I’ve missed? Feel free to share them in the comments!

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Friday Five: Five Happy Books!

This week, I’m participating in Nerdy Geeky Fanboy‘s Friday Five again! Thank you for hosting this, by the way!

This week’s theme of mentioning five happy books was….difficult for me. Still, if you want to ready something that makes you happy, this list might be just the thing!

While putting together this list, I realized how many of my (favourite) books don’t qualify. Sure, they have happy moments. Even happy endings, occasionally. Unfortunately, they also come with character deaths, heavy themes and/or issues the character(s) have to overcome — or just flat-out stuff that will have you reach for a pack of tissues. I don’t really read comedies or fluffy (love) stories, I suppose?

Regardless, I’m happy to say that I’ve succeeded in putting together a list! Without further ado: five happy books!

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
This one came to mind first when thinking of which books to put on this list. This book left me with warm and happy feelings after finishing it. The ending was so cute! I also really enjoyed Albertalli’s writing and the fun characters she had created. I definitely want to see the film, Love, Simon, so hopefully it’s still being shown after I’ve finished moving!

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
An apocalypse has never been so hilarious! The novel puts a hilarious spin on typical apocalypse tropes (such as misplacing the antichrist) and witches. It also has very charming main characters. Also, there’s a Hell hound named Dog.

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci vol. 1 by Diana Wynne Jones
This book might not be necessarily funny, but there’s a certain lighthearted sense of wonder in the first two stories (‘Charmed Life’ and ‘The Lives of Christopher Chant’) that made this first installment quite enjoyable. I have yet to read the other stories, though.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
I feel like I’m cheating a bit by including another Pratchett, but this Discworld-novel proved to be hilarious as well. The books are satirical, using fantasy fare to put a hilarious spin on issues prevalent in our own world. Why this one? Well, it’s the only one I’ve read. Yes, I know, I need to continue reading them.

Golden Age and Other Stories by Naomi Novik
This one is only fun if you’re familiar with Novik’s Temeraire series, but it contains some pretty lighthearted and even heartwarming short stories set in its alternative universe. My favourite is the titular ‘Golden Age’, which is an alternate retelling of the meeting between Laurence and Temeraire, which gave me the same warm feeling as their original interaction in the series did. There are some very short drabbles as well that are hit-and-miss.

There we have it: five books that at least made me happy. What about you? Any books that made you happy? Do feel free to leave the titles in the comments!

Friday Five: Five New Books I’m Looking Forward to

It’s been a while! My apologies, but with vacation and life happening, my book blog ended up on the backburner for a bit. When NerdyGeekFanboy announced that he was looking for more people to participate in The Friday Five, I felt this was a good opportunity to breathe some life into this blog again. I have some other plans, such as deciding on a posting schedule.

Basically, this is a weekly item where bloggers post a list of five books each Friday, all with a certain theme. This week’s theme: five books I’m looking forward to.

SpinningSilverNovik
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

I’m a very big fan of Naomi Novik. I loved her Temeraire series and the fairy tale-like Uprooted happened to be an awesome read as well. Novik’s works tend to feature extensive world building and interesting characters — needless to say, Spinning Silver is very high on my wishlist. It seems to be somewhat similar in its fairy tale-like quality as Uprooted, but it’s a completely new story with new characters.

ThornofEmberlainLynch
The Thorn of Emberlain, by Scott Lynch

I love the Gentleman Bastard series, and this will be the fourth installment. The adventures of Locke and Jean have been a joy to read and I honestly can’t wait to accompany these two deceitful con men once more on their extensive schemes. Other than two very lovable main characters and an interesting supporting cast, there is also the extensive world building and the stewing of war and conflict that will turn out to be quite big. Unfortunately, there is no release date for this book yet.

WindsofWinterGRRM
The Winds of Winter, by George R.R. Martin

Everyone and their dog is waiting for this latest installment in A Song of Ice and Fire, it seems. I’m not even sure if there’s a release date, but even if there is; with all the delays I’m not bound to trust it until it has been actually released. A Dance With Dragons ended with quite a few cliffhangers (and no, I’m no longer interested in the tv series), and I would also really like to know how this will end. I’m worried Martin has written himself into a corner, but hopefully we’ll get The Winds of Winter some
day!

EmpireofAshesRyan

The Empire of Ashes, by Anthony Ryan
The third installment in The Draconis Memoria, this book should resolve that pesky cliffhanger The Legion of Flame ended with. Furthermore, I have the feeling that the second book was building up towards the events that will take place in this one, so I’m really looking forward to find out how Ryan will resolve the conflict since this will be the final book in the trilogy. I also just really want to know more about this world, its characters, and the dragons. It would seem I’ll have my answer in July, so I won’t have to wait too long any more!

TheOutsiderKing
The Outsider, by Stephen King
Something that isn’t fantasy? I’m a big fan of Stephen King, so I’m always looking forward to new books of his (even there are plenty of books by King that I haven’t read yet). The synopsis of this book sounds especially interesting about a baseball coach who is falsely blamed for a gruesome murder. It will be released by the end of this month, but as I’m in the middle of a move by then, I probably won’t get this immediately. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to it!
And there you have it: five books I’m very exited about! At least three of these have release dates, and I hope the other two will be published some time in the future. What about you? Are there any books that have yet to be released that you’re looking forward to? Feel free to share them in the comment section!

As I’ll be moving in the near future, I’m planning a bookshelf tour for my next post. I will probably work out a proper posting schedule after I’m finished moving, but until then, you’ll at least have the bookshelf tour and these Friday Five posts to look forward to.

 

Essential Vacation Planning: Which Books to Take Along….

I’m one of those people who nearly always has a book in her bag. I do a lot of my reading on the train, but I also bring a book when I have an appointment with the dentist or the hairdresser.  It goes without saying that I also bring a book whenever I’m going on vacation!

Of course, I’m not going on vacation just to read. Whenever I visit a place, I want to see and do a lot of things. Still, there are the inevitable ‘dead’ moments, such as in the evenings on your hotel room or while waiting for your plane on the airport. It’s nice to have something to read with you, even if it’s just to pass the time, especially if you’re travelling alone. Thus far, my trips were usually short — a few days, at most. I’d make a conscious decision to bring one (and only one) book; a fairly thick mass market paperback to save space/weight, but wouldn’t finish too quickly.

Next month, though, I’ll be taking my very first long trip — to Japan, in case you’re curious. A long trip, in the sense of both flight time (11 hours), and my actual stay (2 weeks). Obviously, I’m quite excited and I’ve already made the majority of my intended preparations. However, being the geek that I am, I already find myself attempting to decide on which book(s) I’ll be taking with me.

This is actually kind of interesting for me, since a vacation is usually the only time where I decide which book to read prior to actually reading them. I’m very much a mood reader, after all.

Of course, the easy solution is to buy an e-reader so I can bring multiple books without having to worry about space or weight constraints (especially on the way back, because I’m pretty much certain that I’ll buy stuff in Japan). I’m reluctant to buy a device I won’t use much (I’m not even sure if I’d even use it again in the future), however, so I’ve decided to stick to physical books anyway.

Still, there are some obvious constraints. To save space/weight, I’d want to bring as few books as possible, and they’ll have to be small and relatively light. However, I don’t want to bring something I’d finish too quickly, so nothing too thin, easy, and/or sporting large font. I don’t expect to be able to buy something I can read in Japan, after all. The genre of the book(s) won’t matter much.

I just pulled some mass market paperbacks from my shelves to see if they were a viable option to bring with me. I’ve selected them based on their size, page number, and font size. I won’t be taking all of them; they’re just up for consideration.

The Stand (Stephen King)
My copy has 1436 pages, so it’s a brick. It’s also the heaviest out of the bunch, but on the other hand: I’m pretty sure I’d only need to bring one other book with me since the font is really small, there’s very few empty spacing and Stephen King isn’t necessarily quick reading with all the building up he does. Then again, this one might be a bit of a pain to drag along my Shinkansen rides. On the other hand, maybe I could just read this one during my flight/in the evenings, and use the other one as my ‘take along’ book?

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, volume I (Dianne Wynne Jones)
With 593 pages, this one is pretty decent size. It’s a brick, but not as much of a brick as The Stand. It’s not heavy, either, and I’ve had it lying around on my shelf for ages. A nice fantasy might be just the thing to take on vacation! It’s also the lightest on the list in terms of weight, I think.

Watership Down (Richard Adams)
Yeah, it’s  a classic. Never read it before, though, and it’s been on my TBR for a while so it might be a good opportunity to read this one. My copy is nearly 500 pages with tiny font and it’s not heavy. I’m roughly familiar with the synopsis though, so I’m not sure if this is suitable for vacation.

NOS4R2 (Joe Hill)
Another one that’s been on my TBR for ages (looks like that’s a theme). One might question the decision to take a horror novel with me on a vacation alone, but with nearly 700 pages it’s also a brick. It’s not as heavy as The Stand, though, so it’s easier to carry.

Assassin’s Apprentice (Robin Hobb)
With 480 pages, this one is the thinnest option, but it’s still not exactly something I’d expect to finish in an hour or two. Pretty much the same reason as The Chronicles of Chrestomanci; a nice fantasy might be just the thing!

I’ll probably end up bringing 2 to 3 of these books with me at most — one in my hand luggage, the remaining one(s) in my suitcase. I think that should carry me over for two weeks! I don’t expect to finish reading 2-3 books while in Japan since I have plenty of stuff planned, but I’d rather not get bored on my flight back.

Thankfully, I still have some time left to decide which books to take with me!

How do you decide which books to bring with you on vacation? Do you bring any? Do you decide beforehand, or do you pull something random off your shelf five minutes before leaving? How many books do you usually take with you on vacation? Or do you own an e-reader? What do you think of my options? Let me know in a comment!

Favourite Reads of 2017!

I hope everyone has had a nice Christmas! I’ve been a bit scarce the this month due to the busy holiday season, but we’re nearing the end of the year already! This is usually the time for reflection, and though 2017 has been a mixed bag with ups and downs, the second half was pretty busy (hence, the fewer posts). Thankfully, I did get a lot of reading done this year. I’ve read 52 books so far, excluding a bunch of manga and Western comics. I don’t think I’ll finish more books this year (other than maybe the fourth volume of Fables), so I’m going to go ahead and post a list of my favourite reads of the year!

To be fair, this list was a little difficult to put together. I’ve read a lot; stuff that I liked and even <i>really</i> liked, but for one reason or another, they are just barely short of becoming a favourite read of the year. I’ve also read some books that I found ‘okay’ or even outright horrible, but I’m not going to be talking about that. Either way, I’ve managed to put together a list of books that really resonated with me and kept getting excited about even after I had finished them.

This list excludes books I’ve reread. Also: the ones I’ve listed are in no particular order and they are not necessarily released this year. I don’t think any have been released this year, actually.

 

thewakingfirefinalThe Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria #1)
Anthony Ryan
Genre: fantasy

Yeah. If you’ve read my review earlier this year, this shouldn’t be a surprise. There are dragons in this book. There’s no point in repeating my own review, but in short: this book has a very intriguing setting with interesting characters who offer different perspectives on what’s going on. Moreover, the mystery of what exactly is going on makes this book a real page turner. Did I mention it has dragons? I loved its sequel, Legion of Flame, as well, but The Waking Fire was a little better and it’s definitely one of my favourite discoveries of 2017.

 

alittlelife_hanyayanagihara

A Little Life
Hanya Yanigahra
Genre: contemporary fiction

Where do I start? A Little Life follows four friends throughout their lives in New York City after graduating from college until they hit their middle ages-ish. The friendship between these four men changes over the years by success and addiction. The friendship, and the novel, heavily center on Jude, a broken man who deals with the physical and mental trauma of his abusive childhood. It’s not a very happy novel, as you might have gathered, but it’s beautifully written and I really felt for the characters (especially Jude). I keep meaning to review it but I haven’t yet been able to convince myself that I’d do it any justice.

 

Monstress_LiuTakedaMonstress (Volume #1: Awakening)
Marjorie Liu (story) & Sana Takeda (art)
Genre: comic, fantasy

I bought this comic for the stunning artwork and the story immediately pulled me in. It’s about a one-armed girl dealing with demonic possession and the mystery of what exactly her own mother has put her through, and various creatures and factions hunting her for the demon she harbours. All the while, she tries to maintain control over herself. The art is stunning and really shines with the amazing world building this comic has. It has a bit of a steampunkish fantasy setting. The main character, Maika, is a well-written character, and the supporting cast plays off her nicely. Monstress also deals with very mature themes such as prejudice, racism, slavery, and war trauma.

 

The Treesthetrees_alishaw
Ali Shaw
Genre: magical realism

Like I said in my review, I was impressed by the way the characters — and especially the main character, Adrian — were depicted in this apocalyptic novel. What I liked even more was its premise and the eerie yet fairytale-like quality of the woods. Though I would have liked it if Shaw did more with the mysterious Whisperers and the eerie atmosphere, which prevented me from giving The Trees a rating of five stars, this was a very intriguing novel that definitely stood out among all the other things I’ve read. So yes, it deserves a mention on this list.

 

 

fables_billwillinghamFables (Deluxe Edition, Volume #1)
Bill Willingham (story), Lan Medina (art), Mark Buckingham (art), et al.
Genre: comic, fantasy

Another comic, but I couldn’t not mention Fables. I got interested after playing the video game The Wolf Among Us by Telltale because of the premise and its characters. It’s about fairytale characters who are banished from their homelands and now live in modern Manhattan. It’s a bit gritty, but an interesting take on famous characters — my favourite being Bigby Wolf, a.k.a. The Big Bad Wolf who is the community’s sheriff. This edition contains ‘Legends in Exile’, a whodunnit with Bigby as the lead, and ‘Animal Farm’, which deals with a revolution brewing on the farm housing the nonhuman exiles, as well as Snow White’s relationship with her sister.

 

There we have it, my favourite reads of 2017! The list is a little shorter than last year, actually, even though I’ve read more books. There are a few honourable mentions (It by Stephen King, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman) that I really liked as well, but I had one or more reasons to decide against actually listing them here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! What are your favourite reads this year?

Horror: Scary Books for Halloween!

So, with Halloween around the corner, it’s time for some scary books! There are, of course, the classics such as Dracula or Frankenstein. You can’t go wrong with works by Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft, either. If you want something more modern, Stephen King has quite the list of scary books to choose from — I’m currently reading It myself. Still, there’s a lot more out there, and these horror novels certainly deserve a bit more time in the spotlight.

Without further ado: here’s a short list of scary books for Halloween!

BirdBox-JoshMalermanBird Box – Josh Malerman
This was definitely one of the most tense books I’ve read in my life. ‘Things’ that drive people mad and eventually lead them to commit suicide when they see them cause the world as we know it to end. People board up their houses and only dare to go outside blindfolded. This book follows two timelines: a pregnant woman immediately after the outbreak as she finds shelter, and the same woman trying to raise two kids as she prepares to leave their safe house. The scary part of this book is that the threat can’t be seen, which makes the characters nervous whenever they venture outside. Are the rustling leaves caused by the wind or something else? Do characters imagine a touch on their shoulder or did something really touch them? Bird Box has some very tense scenes that kept me on the edge of my seat.

HEX Thomas Olde HeuveltHEX – Thomas Olde Heuvelt
I’ve read the 2013 Dutch version of this novel (the ending was changed in the 2016 version when it was released in America), but it’s still a very well written horror book that is somewhat reminiscent of Stephen King’s work. You can read more about it in my review, but basically it’s about a witch haunting a small village. Her eyes and mouth have been sewn shut and she appears and disappears at will. When her eyes and mouth are opened, disaster is supposed to happen. No one can leave the village either way, though. The threat mainly stems from what the villagers perceive the witch to be, but having a lady with sewn eyes and mouth standing next to your bed, whispering words that drive you to suicide, is bound to be a scary experience.

LettheRightOneIn-johnajvidelindqvistLet the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist
A vampire novel done right, taking place in Stockholm, Sweden. Twelve-year-old Oskar is bullied, but when a girl moves in the apartment next to his, he ends up befriending his strange new neighbour who only comes out at night. In the mean time, people are gruesomely murdered; their corpses are emptied of blood. This book is creepy, has some very unsettling and even disturbing scenes, but the evil and creepiness doesn’t stem from the novel’s resident vampire. No, humans are actually the source of disturbing creepiness. It’s also one of the better portrayed romances between a vampire and a human, just don’t expect the sparkly teenage love kind of romance. The main characters are very well written and the atmosphere is amazing.

sladehouse_davidmitchellSlade House – David Mitchell
The entrance to Slade House opens only once every nine years, and only under certain conditions. People who are lonely or different make for easy victims, so in several short stories the house’s residents ensnare their victims, playing off their desires, fears, and emotions. These short stories combine in an overarching plot that spans several decades, and it’s definitely interesting to learn more about the two residents of Slade House. The ending can be a little anticlimactic, but the excellent first few sections definitely make it worth checking out, especially because it’s a little different from the usual haunted house story. It’s bizarre, creepy, and a little different from ‘usual’ horror. The victims themselves are very well written as well. Apparently, it takes place in the same universe as The Bone Clock, but it’s definitely possible to read Slade House without having read Mitchell’s previous works.

Here we are, my recommendations for Halloween. What about you guys? Any horror novels that are definitely worth checking out? Feel free to leave their titles in the comments — I might check them out myself.

Bookish Villainy’s Guide to Arthurian Fiction

With all my mentions of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur in previous posts, you might have gathered that I have a thing for Arthuriana. I’m not a romantic type, but when reading bits and pieces of this text during my first year as an English major, the adventures of knights still struck a chord in me.

Ever since, I began reading more books about King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, and there’s a lot of it out there. Some are great, some not so much, and there’s a ton in-between. So, where do you start? Well, you can start anywhere. I’ve started with Le Morte D’Arthur, but you can also start with something more modern. It’s up to you and whatever sparks your interest.

But what about the original text?
Well, here’s the thing with Arthurian fiction — and a lot of folk tales, legends, and mythology, for that matter — there is no original text. These tales used to be told orally, which meant that storytellers would change things depending on their audience or memory — or even their interpretation. It’s only later that these tales were written down and began taking a more ‘definitive’ shape, but even then there is a lot of variety between these sources. It’s a matter of interpretation.

lemortedarthurmalory

There are a couple of famous old texts worth mentioning, however. I’ve already mentioned Le Morte D’Arthur, which is probably the most influential on what we know as Arthurian fiction today. It gives a very solid basis on the events, characters, and recurring themes of chivalry, courtly love, and morality. Unfortunately, it’s not a very easy read — I daresay that it’s even a bit tedious to get through simply because Malory doesn’t have a very nice and fluid writing style. There’s a lot of repetition and lists you’ll have to slodge through which can get quite long-winded. There is also Chrétien de Troyes’ Arthurian Romances, which is a bit easier to read, but it’s unfortunately unfinished. It does offer more detail about certain famous tales, such as ‘The Knight of the Cart’ (which, by the way, can be credited with the first appearance of Lancelot). The Vulgate Cycle is also a major source, but a bit tricky to acquire. Finally, there is The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, but only the last couple of pages deal with Arthuriana. It’s still interesting to read because of the story of Merlin and Vortigern, and the text also serves as a starting point for a lot of the later texts. And it has giants.  Needless to say, you should take the ‘history’ part with a grain of salt…

51gUAtquKjL

Anyway, because there is no real ‘original text’, there are a lot of different interpretations and sources. The texts discussed in the previous paragraph are very Christian, but the legend has its Welsh and Briton roots as well. These influences, as well as more historical angles, can be found in more modern adaptations. Even outside of religious, historical and cultural contexts, focus and genre tend to vary a lot as well. A story can be a traditional ‘knight saves damsels in distress’-stories or Arthur himself keeping the Saxons at bay. It can be a coming-of-age story of whatever character is the focus — each story different in their portrayal of famous characters and events. Mordred is or isn’t the villain, and the same goes for Morgan le Fay and Morgause. There are the traditional romances, incestuous romances, and even romances on the LGBT-spectrum. There are even gender swaps, such as a female Arthur and Mordred in the Japanese Fate-franchise. I’ve even heard of a high school romance, though that doesn’t pique my personal interest. The point is, however: as long as you can justify it, it probably qualifies as Arthurian fiction. I personally think that’s one of the fun things about Arthuriana: the different forms the characters and events will take, and there are a lot of creative interpretations out there.

The same seems to go for names, though.

With all that out of the way, here are some recommendations of Arthurian fiction. If you really want to start with an old and famous text, I’d say go with Le Morte D’Arthur for reasons I’ve already mentioned, but if you want something else? Keep reading, because below is a list of Arthurian fiction that I feel are excellent.

43545The Once and Future King by T.H. White
This is also quite a famous book (Disney’s Sword in the Stone has been based on its first story), but I do feel that it’s important to mention. It deals with familiar themes of chivalry and knighthood. To be fair, I almost gave this one up. I felt the first two stories were a bit too whimsical and even childish to my liking, but by the end of the second story its tone picks up a lot. It’s almost as if the story and its themes mature as the book progresses. The fourth and final story, ‘Candle in the Wind’, is actually amazing and has one of the best endings I’ve read in fiction. Ever. There’s a fifth story, ‘Book of Merlyn’, but it was published posthumously. It wasn’t included in my copy and I don’t even dare to read it because I fear it will ruin the book’s beautiful ending.

Gawain-and-the-Green-Knight-tolkienSir Gawain and the Green Knight
This is actually a medieval chivalric romance poem, but I love it. It’s about my favourite character, Sir Gawain, who embarks on a quest and finds himself conflicted between chivalry, honour, temptation, and his nature. The most famous modern translation is by J.R.R. Tolkien himself, but it is actually written by an anonymous medieval poet. There are a lot of different interpretations about this poem, ranging from Christian, Feminist, Postcolonial and even homoerotic views.  Its ambiguity is very interesting, but what I like so much about this text is that Gawain is portrayed in a human way without necessarily taking away from his knightly virtues.

fdaa13c5-f644-4036-8a49-4a1dc2cf03fdimg100The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
The first installment of The Warlord Chronicles, this is actually a more gritty and historical take on the Arthurian legend. In this trilogy, Arthur is an idealistic warlord capable of keeping the invading Saxons at bay. Some characters such as Nimue play a bigger role in this rendition, while more famous characters are dramatically changed, placed in the background or even removed altogether. It’s a very compelling story told from the point of view of a soldier under Arthur’s command with interesting characters. This trilogy has my favourite portrayal of Guinevere ever.

The-Crystal-CaveThe Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
The first installment of a series, the first three starring Merlin. The Crystal Cave is a coming of age for Merlin as he deals with his powers and the politics surrounding Arthur’s ancestors. The books afterwards deal with Merlin orchestrating Arthur’s birth and ascension to the Throne. The setting is very detailed, and I like the roman and pagan influences. The only downside is that the portrayal of gender in this book series is…a bit of a product of its time, in a way. The fourth book in this series, The Last Enchantment, is also worth checking out, by the way, because it has a great and layered portrayal of Mordred. The fifth one was a bit disappointing, though.

692969The Road to Avalon by Joan Wolf
If you like romance, this is probably the most interesting book on this list for you. It’s about the forbidden romance between Arthur and his half-sister Morgan le Fay (incest happens a lot in Arthurian fiction, especially between these two). What I especially liked was the portrayal of Arthur himself, which is far less perfect and idealistic than what he sometimes turns out to be. Morgan’s portrayal is a bit bland by comparison, however, but she definitely isn’t terrible. I also like how Mordred’s innocence in this book is in stark contrast to the usual interpretations of Arthur’s illegitimate son.

buriedgiant_ishiguroThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Wait…what? This is probably the more loosely defined Arthurian book on this list, but I do count it as one (even though I hadn’t expected it when I began reading it). It’s actually a very calm story about an elderly couple looking for their son in a post-Arthurian setting, with some mythical/magical realism thrown in, such as mist that causes amnesia. Gawain makes an appearance, and Arthur himself is mentioned, but the Arthurian legend is not the focus in this story. Still, I wanted to include this because it’s a bit different from what you’d usually expect on a list of Arthurian books. That, and it’s a wonderful and interesting story that’s a bit unusual. Just don’t expect a typical fantasy.

Any other great Arthurian books you feel I’ve missed? Do feel free to share them in the comments!