I love atmosphere. Something about the feel of a place and the characters who live there draws me in and holds me tight in its grasp. There doesn’t have to be dread, just mood and…atmosphere.
So now my new favorite subgenre is atmospheric fantasy. It started when I read The Bear and The Nightingale, and couldn’t. get. enough. I devoured the trilogy, then found Sisters of the Winter Wood and The Hazel Wood.
I’ve been dying for more lush and dark books ever since. When The Bone Houses came up in a bookclub discussion and surprised me with how atmospheric it was, I knew I was hooked.
Some of the best atmospheric, lush, and moody books I’ve read recently have this ephemeral atmosphere that I so love to get lost in, but never know quite how to describe. These are the books I easily give 4 and 5 stars to, and recommend them to others any chance I get.
What I’ve found to be similar elements across these atmospheric books are:
- A woodsy setting with magic that factors in as a character in and of itself
- Bonds between the characters, either sisterly or siblings bonds, and, moreso, the bonds between the main character and the woods
- Magic that the main character grows into and uses for good
- Winter setting, which also factors in as its own character
- The main character, because of their magic and/or heritage are misunderstood, or even hated, by townspeople
- The magic is feared or neglected, leading to negative consequences
- Once the magic is respected, order is restored, or at least managed
- The writing itself has an ethereal quality, which is hard to pinpoint or mimic
What else have you noticed make a book feel lush and atmospheric? I’ve been writing a new novel and I’ve been trying to add in that atmosphere, so any details you can think of would be helpful!
What are YOUR favorite atmospheric and lush books? List them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to read them.