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Why fantasy is a valid genre!

Today, I have the privilege of introducing you to Janet Ursel. I was introduced to her when I saw a post to do an advance reader copy of her book that was marked as Christian Fantasy. I immediately jumped at the opportunity and loved every last word of the book. I asked her to share with us about the genre of fantasy. Please welcome, Janet.
Janet Ursel

 

It was Local Authors Day at the library and I was doing the rounds, talking to the faces behind the tables, finding out what they had to say. I had stopped at the table of a memoirist, a woman who had published her story, set up a women’s writing circle and did indeed have an interesting story. But when it came to fantasy: “I don’t read fantasy,” she said. She was being polite and even gentle, but I caught the whiff of dismissiveness in her words, the unspoken “it’s not worth my time”. Now I’m not young, and she was older, and I knew the mindset of her generation, the one that Ursula LeGuin has been battling all her life. Fantasy is pulp fiction, escapism, somehow less than real life. And I have to admit, there is fantasy out there that lives down to those expectations.

I have this bad habit of trying to expand people’s thinking. And so I tried to tell her how fantasy could be so much more. I like to think I made some headway. She had a thoughtful tilt to her head when I left.

What I told her was that fantasy has the potential of opening people’s eyes to reality in ways they would never expect. By removing people from their normal frame of reference, separating them from all the buzzwords that make them assume they know what you’re saying as soon as you’ve said two words, you can get them to look at age-old issues with a fresh perspective. When Tolkien tells the story of Legolas and Gimli overcoming centuries of tension between Elves and Dwarves to build a life-long friendship, is he not making a commentary on racism? And he can make it more effectively because we do not belong to one side or the other, and we can look at racism for what it is, all on its own, without our feeling defensive or hostile. When Gimli brings Legolas to the Glittering Caves, where Legolas expected to see only rock, he finds beauty too great for him to express. And this is what fantasy has the power to do: to remove the blinkers we wear, and too often choose to wear, to encounter unexpected beauty and pain, to understand that our way of looking at the world is not the only one and that we are limiting ourselves.

By removing familiar labels, fantasy can help us grow into a fuller understanding and appreciation of reality. By dressing truth in different clothing, fantasy can smuggle it into our armed camps and disrupt our lives. And sometimes, you know, we need our lives to be disrupted.

About Janet’s book: (click on the book to find it on amazon)

Disenchanted+by+Janet+Ursel

In this Christian fantasy, one young wizard with a hunger for wisdom and some dangerous secrets finds himself pitted against another ready to reach for power with the darkest forces possible.

Wizards have never in the history of Coventree, renounced Wizardry. But Blayn Goodwin finds himself growing detached from the practice of Wizardry, even as he rises through the ranks to become the youngest member of the Supreme Council. He has lost interest in the usual gods in favor of a god without a name, not that he makes that fact public.

Edgar Savile has his own traitorous secrets and kidnaps Blayn’s eldest son to prevent Blayn from probing into them. Meanwhile the Supreme Wizard, suspicious of Edgar, sends Blayn to retrieve an ancient book from the Other World, hoping it will arm them against Edgar’s treachery.

What Blayn finds is not what anyone expects, and threatens to tear Coventree’s fraying system apart at the seams.

 

About Janet:

After raising five children and one husband, Janet Ursel came to the obvious conclusion that writing novels was an essential part of the recovery process. Her studies in languages and literature, along with her experience as a pastor’s wife, market analyst, and ESL teacher, made her uniquely qualified to explore the life of a wizard in a parallel universe, so she did. She can be found at janetursel.com and on too many social media sites in one universe, and alternating between Canada and the United States in another universe

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Twitter: @JanetUrsel

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Fantasy at it’s best

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.

Disenchanted+by+Janet+UrselThree 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.