Next stop on the FEARSOME JOURNEYS tour: Ysabeau S. Wilce reveals her favourite fantasy book

From dragons to quests, from battles to magic – epic fantasy has never been more popular and now it has an exciting new series showcasing its best from Locus Award-nominated anthologist, Jonathan Strahan!

All this week, we'll be hearing from some of the authors involved in this fabulous new anthology, which is out now in paperback and ebook, so sit back and relax as they take you through their favourite fantasy worlds...

Tonight, Ysabeau S. Wilce discusses her favourite fantasy...

Favorite fantasy: one of the first I ever read: Hamlet. From a traditional standpoint, I suppose Hamlet isn't really a fantasy, but Shakespeare's Denmark existed only in his imagination, and Elsinore is certainly a fantastical hothouse of intrigue, plotting, poison, and dithering, so to my mind it qualifies. 

Plus it’s full of fantasies: Hamlet’s vacillating imaginings, Polonius’s vapid hopes for his children’s future, and poor Ophelia’s delusional gardening. And, let’s not forget that wonderful vengeful wrathful ghost, not a fantasy at all, but actual horror from the grave. 

As a reader, I identified with Hamlet’s desire to do right and yet lack of will to know what that right was. And as a writer, I learned that I learned a writer does not have to be a slave to history, but can rather shape it to her liking, mix horror with humour, and the easiest way to wrap a plot up is to have everyone die in the end. Except, of course, for the epic hero, who sweeps in at the last minute to carry on what’s left. To me Hamlet is the ur-fantasy, the well-spring from which almost all my creative energies have flown. I think I just keep trying to rewrite it, over and over again, although my pale imitations will never match the true brilliance of the original.

But if you want a more traditional fantasy pick, I’d have to go with Winterlong by Elizabeth Hand. This is a book that hits all my buttons: crazy green-eyed tormented boys, weird baroque post-apocalyptic futurist setting, a punkish unsympathetic narrator, an insane general leading a troop of feral children deeper and deeper into some kind of mystical madness — it’s all good, no better than good, downright brilliant. I remember getting the paperback from the library; reading it in one go, and then rereading it again immediately, and since then I’ve probably read it at least ten times. Liz has a way of describing the intersection between the heavenly and the hellish where the divine dwells like no other author I’ve ever read. She is also a huge inspiration to me, and also a writer I could never even hope to match.

For me the hallmark of a truly great fantasy is that it takes the reader to a world they’ve never been to before, never even imagined before, and makes them want to explore that world, learn everything there is to know about it and the people who live there, maybe even more there yourself. I’m not sure I want to live in Elsinore or the City of Trees, but I will never tire of being a repeat tourist in both places.

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