I thought it would be fun to have some guest writers on my blog, so I asked a couple of other authors to write me some “favorite books” posts. This one, unsurprisingly, is fantasy. Liz McCraine writes romantic fantasy AND suspense novels.
My First Fantasy Love
By Liz McCraine
When Marty C. Lee asked me which fantasy books were my favorite, I wanted to reply, “Why, yours, of course!” But I suspect most people reading this post are already familiar with Lee’s phenomenal world building and character development, so I went in a different direction. Instead of telling you about my favorite fantasy books, I will tell you about the fantasy author who inspired me to write my Kingdom of Aggadorn series: Robin McKinley.
I was first introduced to McKinley’s work when I was in my early twenties. I was headed on a long bus ride, and because I had forgotten to visit the library beforehand, my roommate kindly handed me her copy of The Blue Sword. Initially, I was hesitant to read the book. You see, one of my deepest, darkest secrets is that I prefer reading suspense to fantasy. (I hear some gasps… stay with me.) This is because as a youth, I couldn’t find YA fantasy books that met my two requirements: romance and a satisfying ending. At least with suspense, you are guaranteed conflict resolution.
The YA fantasy genre has come a long way since I was a teenager, and now there are several exciting books on the market that, had they been published twenty—erm, I mean, “a few”—years ago, they would have met my criteria. But it’s too late, the damage is done. Had someone handed me a Robin McKinley book back when I was a starry-eyed youth craving magic and true love, I’d have different preferences.
McKinley entwines adventure, danger, romance, and magic into fascinating plots with strong main characters who are both smart and brave. Addittonally, McKinley demands engagement through emotion-evoking conflict and descriptive details that leave readers dreaming of her worlds. While The Blue Sword (Newbery Honor Award winner) and its sequel, The Hero and the Crown (Newbery Medal winner), are my favorites, all of McKinley’s YA books are fantastic. She even has a few fairytale rewrites that enchant readers with their unique twists (Beauty is popular).
After reading McKinley’s stories, I finally learned that YA fantasies could have both romance and a happy ending. With this in mind, I began spinning the threads of adventure, magic, and happy-ever-after’s into the type of stories I wish I had discovered years earlier. In short, Robin McKinley’s work changed my life, and it could change yours too, if you let it. I recommend finding one of her stories ASAP and discovering for yourself what you’ve been missing.
I didn’t ask her to say that about me… She asked if I like Robin McKinley, and I said, “Duh, what kind of bad taste do you think I have?” Like her, I’ve been a long-time fan of McKinley (probably longer, since I’m older and was lucky enough to find her in my youth).
I totally agree that McKinley’s work affected Liz’s books. Like her, Liz writes good characters with a bit of romance, a lot of adventure, and a happy ending. I always squeal when a new one comes out. (Her suspense is good, too.) If you want to check out her work, let me know how you like it.
Marty C. Lee