As a freshman in high School I read the Sabriel trilogy by Garth Nix for the first time and I was absolutely hooked. It was everything I could have wanted in a series of books and to this day is still my favorite series. I don’t think I can even count the number of times i’ve read these books and their covers and binding certainly back me up on that.
Sabriel remains one of the most influential series of books i’ve ever read and my love for the series has defined my taste in books to this day. Each book has a unique setting all nestled in this fascinating other world just beyond our reach, each book reveals to us not just aspects of the world of magic but also the human world. I can’t get over my love for these books, they certainly set a high standard.
I’ve recently been thinking about what kind of books I really like the most. This may sound dumb to other avid readers but i’ve never really thought about my reading habits. I love so many different styles and genres that finding a book I liked to read wasn’t ever difficult for me. A great example of just how easy it is for me to pick up books is the comparison between myself and my best friend Brooke on our trips to the library. Given twenty minutes and a tote bag I could go through the shelves and find at least 10 books to occupy my time for the next few weeks most of the time having done nothing more than look at the cover and the back of the book, only sometimes even the inside cover. Brooke on the other hand would spend the same twenty minutes agonizing over the shelves, reading the publisher’s page, the inside cover, the back cover, scrutinizing the art on the actual cover of the book and then eventually settle on picking up the same Vivian Vande Velde book or another depressing Lurlene McDaniel sobfest she’d read 10 times. I can’t tell you how many times she’d read Heir Apparent at this point but there she was checking it out again.
I have never been picky when it comes to books. Sure I prefer certain things like YA Fantasy but i’ve always pretty arbitrarily picked up even those. As a matter of fact i’ll freely admit that i’m a hugely guilty of mostly picking books by their covers. There. I said it, i’m shallow.
Now here I am halfway through my summer reading list and i’m starting to think about what really really gets to me as a reader. What is it that’s making me muddle through some of these books by sheer force of will and what is it that makes me so willing to toss aside other books from my list in favor of books that weren’t on there in the first place?
The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo is an excellent example of a series that just makes me throw whatever i’m reading out the window in order to dive in further. Ruin and Rising the final installment in this trilogy came out at the beginning of the summer and even though I was halfway into another book at the time I gladly tossed it aside and greedily devoured this one. I frequently finding myself describing this book as “Russian Avatar the Last Airbender” and I mean so much more when I say that. I absolutely love ATLA not just for the surface of “ooh cool powers” but for the amazing realtionships and the even better world building. So much effort went into ATLA in terms of world building and I definitely mean to make that comparison to this trilogy when I use that description.
Once I finished the Grisha Trilogy I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I loved it. How many of the things this series contained were things I loved. World building, strong characters, well rounded characters, fantasy, and each book standing on it’s own. Once I was done I knew it needed a special category on my good reads other than a lame “trilogy” shelf. I needed something to classify it as “I REALLY DIG THIS SPECIFICALLY” all these characteristics that make a book perfect for me somehow needed to be spelled out.
Thus the Sabrielesque shelf was born and that’s when it hit me. I like YA High Fantasy with strong female leads. DUH MEAGAN. How could I have been so blind!? All the things I loved all pointed to the same thing and it wasn’t just fantasy, it was high fantasy. You think someone who uses the words “world building” so much would have realized that by now but nope, I have been a giant dupe for 24 years.
So many series I have loved over the years just lingering and waiting for me to realize what ties them all together. The Claidi Journals by Tanith Lee, The Books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon, The Healer and Seer series by Victoria Hanley. All of these books just screaming HELLO HIGH FANTASY HERE and i’m just now realizing it. I think the biggest impetus to this realization is simply that I truly find most high fantasy to be tedious. For years the term ‘high fantasy’ has meant something totally different in my brain and I still don’t know what the distinction is between all the books i’m really not interested in that are considered High Fantasy and the ones that I am interested in. That intangible quality may never jump out at me but for now it feels good to know that those things I look for can be neatly categorized.
It makes it easier for me to understand why else I was so drawn to Laini Taylor’s series (which I like the UK covers of so much more so i’m using them here). I can look at what these books are and pretty much know that yes, yes I will like these and BOY did I ever. Like is putting it lightly. I’m actually seriously considering putting off my to read list even more and re-reading these suckers twice in one summer. I flew through this series at lightning speed, often staying up until 3 am to finish a book and it was all so worth it to be that tired the next day. I haven’t been so immediately captivated by a book series in a long long long time and it felt so good to find another that I so immediately clung to. It was automatically added to my “Sabrielesque” list on Goodreads.
Now i’m in a bit of a rut. It happens when you come down off such a great series. Luckily for me I got to finish 2 amazing trilogies that were perfect for my tastes this summer and i’ll count that as a success. Unfortunately the only thing i’ve got that’s coming close to being this perfect is Rachel Hartman’s follow up to her glorious debut novel Seraphina.
That sequel however won’t come out until the spring so I guess i’ll just have to keep waiting.
Overall i’m a sucker for world building, i’m a sucker for books that stand on their own in a series, i’m a sucker for just good writing about well rounded characters who live in worlds that are not mine and do things I could not do. I’ve always read for escape, especially growing up, and these are the books that have allowed me to escape myself the most.
Do any of you have any recommendations for me based on these amazing series? Have you guys read these books? What are your thoughts on YA High Fantasy? Hit me up!
Until next time,