Lavinia’s Book of the Month: March 2017

A Brief Word

First, an admission and an apology. I had originally earmarked this for Chapter and Verse’s February pick, but through indolence and negligence it got pushed back; I doubt anyone even remembers February by now, so I’m calling it Book of the Month for March.

This is not Lavinia’s fault, but mine. A thousand apologies.

Nick

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

I was given this book several years ago (three; so sorry) by a friend who I trust in all things. But because beneath this veneer of being a responsible citizen I am a deeply awful person I only just got around to reading it. A couple of things put me off.

Firstly, the last piece of “art” I interacted with about the circus was the film Water for Elephants, which was super dull, and I guess I thought this book would be full of people feeding elephants in the night-time. I also thought it was a children’s book, because of the gorgeous cover and decorated pages, and I just wasn’t in the mood for one of those.

night circus 1.jpg           night circus.jpg           night circus 2.jpg

Well, boy, was I sorry that I had put it off. The Night Circus is absolutely magical. The titular circus is a magical travelling affair, and the venue for a contest between two magicians of opposing schools of thought, carried out through their protégés. I’m not going to give too much away, but it’s an absolutely brilliant book. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

You’ll love this book if:
– You like magic and fantasy
– You’re keen on a “steampunk” aesthetic
– You enjoy fun

You might want to avoid this book if:
– You don’t like fantasy

lavinia collins authorLove Lavinia xoxo
Find this book on Amazon!

 

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The Guinevere Trilogy – Lavinia Collins

GuinevereFirst, an admission. Lavinia Collins is a good friend of this blog. You may have read some of her guest posts here and on the Chapterhouse website, and the more eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted her hiding in our header picture. That said, we felt that her books deserved our attention. Lavinia is the author of three fantasy/romance trilogies, each set in the world of King Arthur, each taking on a different perspective. This first trilogy is written from the point of view of Queen Guinevere, and tells the story of her marriage to Arthur and [SPOILER ALERT] her subsequent affair with Arthur’s greatest knight Sir Lancelot.

What separates Collins’ work from other interpretations of the King Arthur legend is her focus on female experience. As she argues here, in most modern versions the female characters are less well-developed, serving mostly to move the story along, and have little agency of their own. The characters of Morgan and Morgawse, Arthur’s half-sisters, are often elided together, while Guinevere herself often seems to have little personality to speak of. Collins’ books turn this narrative on its head, giving each of these characters their own take on the story. The Guinevere Trilogy itself contains lashings of drama and romance, and references pre-Christian religion and the occult. There is a sense of a country in turmoil, uncertain of how to join up its wild and varying factions, stuck between one world and another. This sense is reflected in the mercurial Guinevere, torn between her different lives, kind at one moment and cruel the next. Having been pulled from her native land to marry her father’s conqueror at the opening of the story, and having had to adapt to a new religion and new customs overnight, we see Guinevere as conflicted in all things from the outset.

Set in a world where women have little power or autonomy, it’s wonderful to read an Arthurian story with a woman at the centre. The major pull of the book is the idea of a woman’s struggle to define herself and live her own life in a world defined by male interests. If that sounds up your street, you should definitely check it out.

profile2Reviewed by Nick

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Author Guest Post! Ten Fantasy Novels You Must Read (Or Re-read) – Part 1

Lavinia Collins, author of Arthurian #1 bestselling fantasy romance The Warrior Queen, picks her top ten must-read fantasy novels. Expect Part 2 at the same time next week!

She regularly blogs here, and you can follow her on Twitter here

 

mists of avalon10. The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

I have to recommend this one. It’s like my moral duty. Oddly enough this book was something of a sexual awakening moment for me. I was only eleven when I read it, which probably goes some way to explaining why I have ended up writing in the genre that I’m in…

 

9. The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooperdark is rising

If you didn’t read this as a child, read it now! Seriously, go away now and read it. It’s dark, it’s engrossing, it’s perfect in every single way.

 

sabriel

8. Sabriel – Garth Nix

A great young adult fantasy, from before when YA was zeitgeisty. A necromancer’s daughter has to step into his shoes when he dies unexpectedly, helped only by a talking cat, and a naked man who has forgotten his name. Wonderful; a whole world to fall into, and the right mix of gritty “real life” YA drama along with the magic.

 

7. haunting alaizabel cray The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray – Chris Wooding

Ghosts and ghouls and everything in between in a fantasy Victorian London. Sure, it’s a tune we’ve heard before, but The Haunting of Alaizazbel Cray is a particularly fine version of that tune.

 

mirror_dreams_uncut6. Mirror Dreams – Catherine Webb

No one has ever heard of this book. As a child, I read it in one day on a camping holiday. It is, truly, one of the best books I have ever read. There’s a world we go to when we dream, and the dream wizards have to keep the nightmare people out. So far, so pedestrian. But enter the hero: Leanan Kite accidentally defeated the Lord of Nightmare as a young man, but now he’s getting older, and he wants to be left alone. When dark forces begin to threaten again, suddenly the pressure is on him to repeat what he miraculously managed before. It’s a subtle, skilful narrative of an unlikely hero who’s crippled by other people’s expectations. It’s touching, the magic world is immersive and I am so so sad that it seems to be out of print now. It is one of the best novels I have ever read.

Go to Part 2 now. 

lavinia collins authorGuest post by Lavinia Collins

Lavinia Collins is the author of Arthurian #1 bestselling fantasy romance The Warrior QueenShe regularly blogs here, and you can follow her on Twitter here