Ranking Fanfic Tropes

Fanfic has definitely been my main way of coping with the pandemic, so I decided I wanted to expose myself by ranking my favourite tropes using a tiermaker that went around twitter/booktube a few months ago!

Read on to find out my justification for my rankings. Not for every trope, because that would make for a very long blog post, but I’m never going to miss the chance to defend my chosen Hills to Die On.

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Tier maker available here.

 

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Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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Isolated in a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller discovers a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger.

Why did I want to read? This book was discussed in the portal fantasy episode of the Be the Serpent podcast, and I love portal fantasy!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a unique fantasy book, but weirdly for me, the things I liked most about it were its least fantastical elements. While I picked this book up seeking out a portal fantasy, the parts that took place in other worlds ended up being the least interesting for me: instead, I loved January’s character, as well as her growing awareness of her own worth and place in the world.

 

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The Desperate Hyperfixations Brought On By Quarantine: Villainess-as-Protagonist Manga

Hey pals! How is 2020 going for everyone? Or… is that a dangerous question?

*screeches into the void*

Reading (and blogging) in the context of a UK lockdown has definitely been a struggle for meHence the hiatus. Despite having observed quarantine from March to July and not doing very much at all in my spare time (apart from writing fanfic), I have only read 14 books. In April and May, I barely read anything, before finally breaking through with some novellas in June that have caught me up to the total I now have. Which is very low for me, although not quite what I would consider a reading slump. I’m actually really proud of these numbers, because concentration in lockdown is hard to find!!

However, because of the lack of brain power – that I think everyone in 2020 might be suffering from – I have definitely been gravitating more towards easier, fluffier reading. Fanfic, webtoons, and manga have all been my go-to comforts in this time. In particular, I’ve rediscovered a slightly trashy, completely enjoyable genre that has kept me happy through many months of lockdown: ‘oh no, I got reincarnated as a Villainess!’ manga.

You would think this is a niche genre, but it’s really, really not! There are hundreds of stories dedicated to the concept of being reincarnated as the villainous character or a side character in either a fantasy novel or a romance novel/otome (romance) game, and having to work out if you want to change the plot or simply try to survive it. And I’m not ashamed to admit I’ll read every single one of them! It really checks two of my favourite genre trope boxes:

  1. portal fantasies
  2. genre savvy protagonists, here in fantasy land just to have a good time, and fuck shit up.

Another thing that this genre offers is strong female characters. I often struggle with the feminine ideals women in manga are meant to portray. Not only does ‘villainess’ manga provide some very active and angry female protagonists, it also offers feminist (and sometimes even queer!) revisions of what a ‘villainous’ woman looks like, and what might drive her to be villainous in the first place.

 

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Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in a one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

Why did I want to read? I really love urban fantasy that involves gods in modern(ish) times, so this exploration of Mayan mythology/Mexican folklore in 1920s Mexico seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Wow! I absolutely adored Gods of Jade and Shadow, which become another five star read of 2020. The hauntingly beautiful writing style, the no-nonsense practical heroine, and the PINING. THE YEARNING!! This was such an exquisite book.

 

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Review: The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

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In 1000 AD, a young Inuit shaman and a Viking warrior become unwilling allies as war breaks out between their peoples and their gods-one that will determine the fate of them all.

Why did I want to read? I didn’t initially pick this up even though I liked Jordanna Max Brodsky’s Artemis trilogy. But it was then recommended to me by friends whose tastes I trust!

The Wolf in the Whale was the first 5 star read for me in 2020. It’s such a wonderfully written, jam-packed standalone novel, that covers so many themes in the space of just one book (admittedly a 500 page book, but still!) I would describe it as historical fiction verging on magical realism, but even then the description doesn’t quite fit. There is definitely magic which is read exclusively as magic in this book, but I’m not sure where it sits on the fantasy spectrum, exactly. This is mostly because it seems much more focused on the society and power structures at play within the chosen historical setting, rather than solely the mythological elements.

TW: rape and misogyny (both in the book and discussed in this review)

 

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March 2020 Wrap Up

Well, guys, how we doing? 

Bad? Bad.

As a UK based blogger, I think it’s safe to say that March has been a stressful, depressing, and generally anger-inducing month, as we watched our government make terrible decisions at the beginning of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak. We ended the month in lockdown, I’ve moved back in with my parents temporarily as my mum is in the high-risk group, I’m working safely from home while all my PhD application results have been inevitably postponed, and spending a lot of time with my cats.

(Cat pictures below, because let’s face it, 2020 needs more cat pics.)

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Social distancing is hard, because I’ve had to uproot my life, and leave a lot of friendships that were only just beginning to form after months of already being a hermit during application season. However, I’m safe, my family is currently safe, and I’ve been privileged enough to be in a job that easily transitioned to work from home. I honestly couldn’t ask for much more than that.

I hope everyone is safe and looking after themselves as best they can!

 

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Review: The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso

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Queen Talyien’s husband left her the night before their coronation, and now she rules alone, known by her people as ‘the Bitch Queen’. When Talyien receives a message from her husband, she travels across the sea to find him. What’s meant to be an effort at reconciling the past becomes an assassination attempt.

Why did I want to read? The Wolf of Oren-Yaro promised me strong, morally grey female characters and political intrigue.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro was a bit of a weird one for me. There were some aspects of this book I absolutely loved, and others I hated. In some ways, it almost didn’t feel like a fantasy, because magic features so rarely in the plot until the very end. I found the plot convoluted and wished it had been streamlined into something a little cleaner, but loved Talyien as a heroine. While I wouldn’t actually consider her an anti-hero – the whole point of the book is to show you how being regarded as the ‘bitch queen’ has taken its toll, in comparison to the plot, her character development is clean and well-written.

 

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Review: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

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Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died.

Why did I want to read? This science fiction book has a main f/f pairing, and after finishing This is How You Lose the Time War I wanted more sapphic speculative in my life.

A Memory Called Empire is my first hard science fiction book in a long time, as I tend to stick mostly with fantasy, and hot damn it hit me like a freight train. The first few chapters were so dense with worldbuilding that for a second there I genuinely felt like I’d forgotten how to read. While the writing was in many places wonderful, it was also dense, and I think that initial experience basically summarises my experience with this book. I could tell, as I was reading it, that it was very lovingly crafted. But my own difficulties reading it – and my own personal disconnect with the science fiction genre – meant that this was just not the book for me.

 

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January/February Wrap Up

Wow, I’ve been on a rather accidental blogging hiatus!

Part of this is because I’ve been reading less. I set my 2020 Goodreads challenge much lower than I normally do – 50 books (it’s typically been 100+ in previous years). But my PhD application stress of January/February, and my gleeful return to the real world following that, has meant that I still haven’t kept up with it. As of mid-March, I’ve only read 8 books this year! I’m trying not to beat myself up about it, but unfortunately fewer books = less blogging content.

The other reason is I got a new job! I’ve joined a small academic publishing company in Glasgow as a Development Editor, on a six month contract that will hopefully take me up until I start a PhD. My (dog! friendly!) office is full of wonderful, nerdy people and I actually really like being an official editor. However, it’s quite an intensive job which means I’ve had less time (read: less time in billable work hours) to write reviews or blog posts.

 

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Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

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Why did I want to read? It was recommended by a friend!

Although I am first and foremost a fantasy (and then sci-fi) reader, I have a real love for heist stories – it’s a weird genre obsession that came about from me being obsessed with Ocean’s 11 as a child? So fantasy heists, are, obviously, 100% my favourite thing.

Lots of people have billed The Gilded Wolves as ‘basically Six of Crows’, and while there are similarities because both are in the same genre, I think Gilded Wolves does a lot of what Six of Crows did thematically, but better. Although I have a couple of issues with the writing, I think this book builds on a lot of what I love about heist stories, and adds some new interesting twists too.

 

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