Hey, wizard fans! It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me about The Wizard’s Circus, but rest assured, it’s still on its way! The first draft is over halfway finished, with plenty of bears and Pentalion (and if you have no idea what any of that means, find out in Book One, The Wizard’s Way).
In the meantime, here are some reads for you to check out while you wait! These are all books that have influenced my writing of The Wizard’s Quartet series thus far – or, in a few cases, books that spurred me along when I needed that extra touch of inspiration.
The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
Okay, first of all, if you’ve never read any Terry Pratchett, you need to drop everything right now, take a few weeks off, and delve into the brilliant fantasy comedy satire that is the Discworld series (and then check out all the BBC miniseries, too, because they’re legit).
The Color of Magic is the first in the series and follows the hapless wizard Rincewind and tourist Twoflower as they go on adventures and get into trouble involving everything from dragons to Death himself to a sentient luggage with feet.
The amazing thing about Terry Pratchett is that he wrote better books while suffering from Alzheimer’s than most people can with a fully functioning brain. You can’t go wrong with any book from the Discworld series, but if you’d like a little direction, some of my other favorites include Interesting Times, Hogfather, The Wee Free Men, Going Postal, Making Money, Monstrous Regiment, and Thud!
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
This was the first of Gail Carriger’s books that I read, and I’ve solidly gone from skimming the ARC to wholeheartedly recommending everything else I’ve read of hers (which, at this point, is Curtsies & Conspiracies, Waistcoats & Weaponry, and her two adult series starters, Soulless and Prudence). Gail Carriger is my go-to author when I need some steampunk writing inspiration; her works are a perfect blend of steampunk comedy, magical technology, and Victorian prissiness. Etiquette & Espionage in particular is a fun girl-spy-in-training-on-a-floating-airship-school novel, with an engaging cast of characters and also a hot werewolf and a robotic weiner dog named Bumbersnoot. If you’re into audiobooks, Moira Quirk’s readings of The Finishing School Series are also fantastic.
View from the Imperium by Jody Lynn Nye
JEEVES AND WOOSTER IN SPACE, Y’ALL. That is all.
The Jeeves and Wooster series by P.G. Wodehouse
All right, I can’t mention Jeeves and Wooster without mentioning the actual Jeeves and Wooster books. Pentalion and Chaucey were loosely written to be a steampunked version of the two wherein Jeeves was a swordfighting pug and Wooster was less of an imbecile. (Oh sure, Chaucey still gets himself into trouble, but it has more to do with his being a precocious teenager with some truly wild issues, as opposed to someone who’s just basically dumb.)
Admittedly, the A&E TV series starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie as the title characters influenced The Wizard’s Quartet more so than P. G. Wodehouse’s original books (primarily because I’d marathoned the whole series before I even touched the books), but the books naturally hold as much charm as the series. When I needed some extra inspiration (for Pentalion in particular) I’d pick up any book in the Jeeves and Wooster series.
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
I could write a whole blog post devoted to Philip Reeve and his fantasy worlds. In fact, I’ve already reviewed Mortal Engines in more detail and a review of Larklight (mentioned below) is forthcoming. Aside from Gail Carriger, Philip Reeve is easily my favorite steampunk author because his worlds are so delightfully imaginative and so effortlessly steampunk. As much as I love it, I find that a lot of steampunk reads like it’s trying so hard to be steampunk, bless its heart. Reeve’s work doesn’t feel like it’s trying at all; it feels like he put pen to paper and magic just happened because some divine being thought readers needed some good in this world. Mortal Engines’ good, in particular, is a tale of traveling cities that eat other cities, amongst plenty of moral dilemmas.
Larklight by Philip Reeve
Where Mortal Engines explores the dark post-apocalyptic underbelly of a steampunk world, Larklight takes readers in the exact opposite direction – into outer space, where pirates and lizard people and giant robot spiders in bowler hats await. Readers who love the whimsical side of steampunk will have a hard time finding a better book.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl was one of those pivotal series that I read before I even knew I wanted to write, and that worked its way into my writing style like a force all its own. I owe my current approach to fantasy humor to Terry Pratchett, but Eoin Colfer was the first to show me the possibilities of magical action comedy and even fantasy linguistics. The series-titled first book is a clever, sassy, devious thing that combines young criminal geniuses with magic, fictional languages, and wonderful puns. (Turns out that the word “leprechaun” is just a misunderstanding of “LepRECON,” which is an organization of militarized magical folk.) The second book, The Arctic Incident, takes these basics and then ramps up into a full-on action-adventure story, and the series only spirals into more exciting mayhem from there.
Airman by Eoin Colfer
If you like reading about Chaucey because he’s building a flying machine, here’s a book for you. Historical adventure that is far more adventure than history*, it follows young inventor Conor Broekhart as he goes from being born in the midst of a hot air balloon crash, to building one of the first powered flying machines, to being framed for a crime he didn’t commit…and all the rollicking mayhem that ensues. It’s a fun, fast-paced read that often gets lost amidst Colfer’s avalanche of other work and guided the writing of The Wizard’s Way’s many flight scenes.
*I was disappointed after reading to find that the history of the Saltee Islands was completely made up for the story, so this book is to historical fiction as Indiana Jones is to archaeology.
The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater
I discovered this series too late for it to actually shape the world of The Wizard’s Quartet, and truly, it doesn’t have much in common with the series other than magic. When it comes to editing rough drafts, though, the audiobook adaptations of this series were my go-to inspiration material. Maggie Stiefvater has a majestic way with words, and Will Patton’s reading imbues each character with unique life.
Paranormal urban fantasy isn’t usually my cup of tea, but this series not only made me like this tea, but savor it.
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff
Swordfighting? Check. Globetrotting? Check. Flying ships? Check. A lady adventurer who escapes from dungeons and fights tigers and robs a pirate’s treasure like it ain’t no thang? Check. A Turkish lieutenant…er…inadvertent traitor who just wants to survive it all and drink some tea? Check.
I returned to this book again and again when I needed some inspiration for The Wizard’s Way because, even though it’s not about steampunk magic or pug butlers, it hits all of the stylistic notes that I wanted the novel to hit – namely its sense of high-stakes derring-do and effortless wit. Its sequel, Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, expands nicely upon the first, and a third, Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules, is forthcoming (and eagerly awaited on my part!).
Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus series by Lydia Sherrer
I literally finished the first book in this series a month before writing this entry, but I can solidly say that fans of The Wizard’s Way will find everything to love in these books. There are wizards, witches, plenty of sass, two wonderfully complex and well-designed magic systems, and (in later entries) a talking cat.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
I’ve spread the gospel of this one, too, and put off reading the last chapter of its sequel forever just because I don’t want it to be over. Akata Witch isn’t steampunk, nor does it feature talking animals – but it is the standard to which I hold my fantasy worldbuilding. In Leopard Knocks and its magical Leopard People, Okorafor has created a truly original magic society, albeit one with strong echoes of the familiar (There are a lot of surface similarities to Harry Potter, even though they’re spiritually different). Anytime I’m bummed about writing and need some inspiration, I come back to Nnedi Okorafor’s books.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
What? I’m a millennial. For me, every wizard thing goes back to Harry Potter, and in its earliest stage, The Wizard’s Way literally goes back to me saying, “I want to write a story about a wizard, but I want wizardry to make his life suck so it’s different from Harry Potter.” (Sorry, Chaucey.) 😛
That’s all for now! Readers, what books have been getting you through the wait for The Wizard’s Circus? 😀
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