I’ve already mentioned how I am loving atmospheric books. And some posts mention specific books that influenced my current writing voice.
In thinking about what makes a book stick around in my mind and convince me to convince others to read it, it’s typically the author voice. The author voice and using the setting as a character.
Some books do that with such near-perfection, it’s hard to let go of the story and the characters. And those are the books that impact my own author voice, for the better.
Here’s a list of 7 books that have influenced my writing in terms of voice and tone, and have taught me how use the setting as a major character, the plot as a dreamy wonderland, and the characters as beautiful creatures that are so flawed, they’re perfect.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The wintry setting in Russia’s woodlands, and the glittering cities in the Kremlin bring this book to life in ways I wouldn’t have expected. And with the wild and eerily magical Vasya, who is such a perfectly flawed character it’s hard to feel anything but riveted by her, The Bear and the Nightingale not only brought a touch of atmosphere to my own writing, but also opened up a new love affair with Russian folklore.
Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw
The woodsy setting and the moonlight magic had such an earthy and ancient, yet fresh feel to it that I couldn’t help but be drawn in. And though I thought the story was a typical people-fear-young-witch story, the setting and the magic itself brought a fresh air to the plot. Nora Walker’s magic wasn’t anything extraordinary, but her lineage, the recipes and pages of the Walker witch family magic book, and the feel made this story memorable. It also reminds me that setting is a character, and could be the most important one. Keep that in mind when you’re writing your own book! Read my full review here.
The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Again, the earthy, woodsy setting was its own character, and it brought a mystical and tactile feel to the whole narrative. And that bone goat – a good reminder that even a sidekick can bring a new twist to your story. The magic was beautiful – dark and necromantic, but with a human and reverent feel to it.
The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner
Again, those woods. earthy and ancient, the setting, once again, was its own character. And the sisterly bond made the story that much more human and heartfelt. The magic was old and raw, and though I don’t remember full details months after reading the book, I remember the feel.
A great book to learn how to bring in the folklore and mysticism of an existing culture, and making it your own.
Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi
Here’s how you take something dark, necromancy, and make it beautiful and magical. The setting here is not so much its own character as the townspeople are. The magic is the main focus, and, most importantly, character feelings are the plot-driver. The necromancy is such a beautiful take on the typical dark feel that magical system has, and it brought such color and light to the world that the unexpectedness of it all made me crave more. A good reminder that how characters feel is just as important, if not more, than what they do. This is a strong character-driven book and a great example of plush writing. Read my full review here.
Sabriel by Garth Nix
This is how you build a world so big and powerful, you can get lost in it for ages. Sabriel has such a strong magical system that it influenced all my books since reading it. Almost every fantasy book I have written for the past ten years has featured dark magic, necromancy, and a reserved yet caring female protagonist. I can’t imagine writing a story that doesn’t have those elements in it, simply because Sabriel influenced me that much as a reader and writer. The main trilogy is worth it, and are the subsequent books in the Old Kingdom series.
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
The necromancy is strong in this book, with an added twist: raising the bones of ancient creatures and then commanding them with thought. I tried writing a book using this concept and failed to do it right -it’s harder than it seems. And Rin Chupeco does it with such skill. The book takes historical features like geishas, adds a dark magical system, and creates a whole new world and cast of characters. A great example of using what you know and then adding a twist to it. The feel of the magic is everywhere, and you just know how the magic can be used for good or ill, and how much havoc can be wreaked without the skill to manage it. Read my full review here.
*Originally published March 5, 2020.