In the Spotlight: Intisar Khanani's Top 5 #Fantasy Worlds

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Intisar Khanani's 
 Top Five Fantasy Worlds
I should start by saying that I mostly read young adult fantasy, and that while I read epic fantasy on occasion, it’s not my subgenre of choice. So, you know, I liked Lord of the Rings, but only after the movies made it worth wading through the trilogy (it’s also not YA, which was probably part of the problem). Thus, you won’t see it here.

Here goes!

          5. The Princess Bride
Okay, Buttercup needs to get a clue, but when push comes to shove, she does typically step up to the plate. Thank goodness for that. For scenery, don’t forget the Fire Swamp filled with all kinds of unique dangers, including Rodents of Unusual Size. And, finally, this is the book that gave us Inigo Montaya. His words have been echoed in the annals of history, and even resulted in hilarious airline dress code snafus. But what makes the book so much more fun than the movie are the double authorial asides. Not only does the author of the original text make some outright strange asides (I’m thinking of one about chocolate in particular), but William Goldman, who revised out the miserably boring bits for us, provides his own hilarious asides as well. Priceless.

4. Damar
I couldn’t choose between “The Blue Sword” and “The Hero and The Crown,” but, fortunately, they were both set in the same land (if a few centuries apart). I’m actually not sure what it is about this world that draws me. Of course Robin McKinley is a master storyteller, but I think it’s the balance of magic and character development that holds me: the dragon and the girl who must find her own strength to defeat him not once but twice. This is fantasy at its best—a fantastic world, and characters who breathe and grow and change.

Would any list be complete without a nod to J.K. Rowling’s exceptional world building? Don’t get me wrong: I loved my boarding school. But give me Hogwarts any day. Of course it’s not just Hogwarts, it’s also the whole wizarding world, the brilliant word plays, the depth and breadth and vitality of it all. And lets not get started on character development, or characters at all. I’ll never stop. I’ll only say that I’m really glad to see diversity and a recognition of a wider, multicultural world in this series—something that is often missing from fantasy.

I so, so want my trashcan to turn into a binja and take out home intruders. Okay, that doesn’t happen in the book (strictly speaking), but I absolutely love China MiĆ©ville’s story of the “unchosen” one, the underground not-London cityscape, the awesome lost-and-broken-household-item creatures we come across, and the tongue-in-cheek commentary on standard fantasy tropes.

1. Fantastica
Better known as Fantasia. Now don’t go pulling out your (or your parents’) VHS to watch “The Neverending Story,” because, while I liked the movie when I saw it (20 years ago? Or was it 25?), it doesn’t do the book justice. Not at all. Michael Ende is a genius, and nowhere is his genius more clear than in this masterpiece of a novel. I’ll admit the Childlike Empress can annoy the heck out of me on occasion, but the world? The (double) hero’s journey? The pure horror of the encroaching “Nothing,” and the link between the human world and Fantastica? Incredible. This book also has an amazing wealth of non-traditional creatures and a story that can be read on so many levels.

Looking over this list, I notice a few things…
  • I really like magical beasts.
  • I don’t like it when the one or two pivotal female characters in a story lack depth or strength of character. And why would there only be one female character in a story? Sigh. Let’s not even get into the problem with cutting women completely out of the stories that we tell ourselves and that define us as a society.
  • I will probably change this list tomorrow. In fact, right now I’m wondering how I left off The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede…

What are your top five fantasy book worlds? 
Are any of these new to you?

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Meet Intisar Khanani

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the cost of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. Intisar currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. 

Until recently, she wrote grants and developed projects to address community health and infant mortality with the Cincinnati Health Department—which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s latest projects include a companion trilogy to her debut novel Thorn, featuring a new heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife … and of course, she’s hard at work on the remaining installments of The Sunbolt Chronicles. 

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