What is fantasy? According to the book Children’s Literature Briefly by Tunell and Jacobs, there are six main motifs or elements to fantasy writing. The first and most important is magic or a violation of the physical laws of nature. From there a book can contain any of the other five: another world; good versus evil; heroism often with the hero leaving his home, going through various trials, and returning a more mature person; special character types; and fantastical objects. If a story contains all six, it is either a fairy tale or an example of modern high fantasy.
Janet Ursel‘s Disenchanted comes close to being an example of modern high fantasy. She has most of the elements of fantasy, from magicians, sorcerers, and witches to another world or even universe, to a definite good versus evil. Her hero goes through many trials where he becomes a much more mature character. There aren’t any special character types–everyone is some form of human–and there are no fantastical objects that I can remember. Here are my thoughts.
Three nations, three generations, three religions, two worlds collide in Disenchanted by Janet Ursel. At first I wondered what in the world all the different characters and story lines had to do with each other. As the story moved along, though my thoughts of a disjointed story changed to awe at the author who had pulled it all together. It was like looking at a tapestry up close and personal. All you can see are the individual threads. When you back away, you see the pattern. About three-fourths of the way through the book, I saw the pattern. Janet Ursel is a master weaver. Instead of threads, she uses words. Instead of a tapestry, she weaves a complex story of revenge, redemption, and love set in a different world. The epilogue introduces you to travelers who have arrived on a new world and are ready to set out to colonize it. Chapter one jumps ahead four hundred years. The story spans thirty-two years following the life of Blayn Goodwin. Welcome to a world of witches and magicians, wizards and wizardesses, black arts masters and kings. It is a world where multiple gods rule. The people are never sure if the gods will be satisfied or answer their prayers. Blayn finds a god he calls the sky god. His encounter on the beach reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ “joy”. Blayn searches until he is able to find the true name of this god who produces joy, peace, and confidence. When Blayn does find the truth, he must decide how much to give up to serve his new master. It has all the elements of fantasy: magic, heroism, a mentor, fantastical objects, other world and good versus evil. Come, welcome to Coventree, and join Blayn on his journey.
Go check it out! (Just click on the photo to go to amazon.) It is one of the best reads I have had this year.