Fantastic Five: Wyrd & Wonderful Beasts

ARTWORK by chic2view from 123RF.com

This week for Wyrd and Wonder’s Fantastic Fives it’s all about magical creatures. Five to be precise: the dragon, the phoenix, Pegasus, the raven and the wolf – creatures that have each stood as mascot for Wyrd and Wonder, or the Spooktastic Reads mini-event, over the years.

Dragon

Must be a bit bloody cold up there with so little clothes on

There are, unsurprisingly, a lot of options here for me. There’s The Hobbit, of course, and there’s Pern and Temeraire. Guards!Guards! has a lot of dragons, and so does James Barclay’s underrated Heart of Granite. Aliette de Bodard’s wonderful Dominions of the Fallen is rich with Vietnamese dragon lore and was nearly my choice, but I went with Katherine Kerr’s A Time of Justice, which features a rather imperious and fascinating sample of the breed.

Phoenix

I’m afraid to say I had a one track mind here, although others have reminded me I should revisit Kuang’s The Poppy War. Where my mind led me is Sir Pterry’s Carpe Jugulum. There the phoenix is an interesting mix of myth and possible reality, a symbol of the book’s themes and intriguing actor all at once.

Pegasus

This one was a struggle until Imyril reminded me there’s a winged horse in The Fionavar Tapestry. It’s a bit of a spoiler for our fellow intrepid travellers between worlds, but not much as it is on the cover. And it’s the only one I’ve got, so copy Imyril’s homework it is.

Raven

Well this one was pissing hard. Fantasy contains a ton of ravens. But they’re mostly in books I don’t like, with the exceptions being authors I’ve already used. This is weird to me as I like ravens a lot in mythology, but they seem a sure way of getting me to dislike a book. I don’t understand. Anyway, thankfully, Bryan Wigmore’s The Empyreus Proof features a raven spirit guide that fits the bill, and I do really like the book.

Wolf

My genre brings all the wolves all the yard and they’re like,
it’s better than yours,
I could teach you but I’d have to enchant

A Song of Ice and Fire. The Fionavar Tapestry. Pratchett’s fantastic The Fifth Elephant. Tolkien had them, Eddings had them, Anna Stephens and John Gwynne have them, Hobb and Carter and Pierce and and so do a great many stories, without even considering shapeshifters or books with anthropomorphic characters. They’re maybe the most fantastical creature of all other than the dragon. I decided to go with a classically wolf obsessed fantasy in The Wheel of Time, but it could have been any and all. Keep making fantasy wolfy, my friends.

And that’s it! Let me know what you thought of.

4 thoughts on “Fantastic Five: Wyrd & Wonderful Beasts

  1. Now I’m curious about the books with ravens that you didn’t like! Have you read Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower? Or George McDonald’s Lilith? And of course there’s the Raven King in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

    For dragons: I love Guards, Guards! I think it’s one of the best Discworld books. For Tolkien’s dragons, I think Glaurung has the edge over Smaug for me. Nienor facing off Glaurung in The Children of Hurin (“You lie. The children of Hurin at least are not craven”) is *awesome* and makes me really appreciate that the long version of the narrative was published, because the corresponding chapter of The Silmarillion completely skips over it.

    As for wolves, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken is a classic, but I didn’t end up finishing it. Too low stakes, I thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t remember all of them, but I recall searching for lists of books with ravens in and going down the long list of recs going “damn it damn it damn it”. I bounced off of Strange & Norrell fairly quickly, just found the prose too thick, and The Raven Tower is probably one of my most disliked books among books I actually finish. It had some cool ideas but nothing ever really came together into a story I was interested in. Haven’t read Lilith yet – I am working my way through The Princess and The Goblin slowly, but haven’t tried MacDonald’s other stuff.

      You make a very good case for Glaurung and remind me I need to revisit those works.

      And never read Willougby Chase – honestly, it’s one I’m barely aware of!

      Liked by 1 person

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