This Friday for Hype or Like Fridays, a meme created by Jill @ Rant and Rave Books, Larkin @ Wonderfilled Reads and Britt @ Geronimo Reads, the subject was favourite world-building in books. In order to keep this relatively short, I omitted entire series and come to you with 7 books that had exceptional world-building.
Rook by Sharon Cameron
History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?
Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.
As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.
Usually I associate world-building primarily with fantasy but the world of Rook is certainly fascinating enough to be a worthy rival. I’ve rarely come across a dystopian novel with the that level of attention to the details making up the world.
Graceling by Kristin Cahore
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight – she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.
She never expects to become Po’s friend.
She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…
I don’t remember all that much about Graceling, but the world itself was incredibly intriguing and the world building was done really well. While the main character was very much part of the world, discovering it was central to the plot so the world-building adapted to that style, which was something I’d rarely encountered before, at the time.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.
Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
People might disagree with me on this one, since Red Rising was rather dense to get the action going, but I felt like it was utterly justified in the way the story was set up. While info-dumps aren’t my favourite way to reveal information, the sheer amount of it that Darrow has to remember in a short amount of time also serves to make the reader just as disorientated, a feeling fairly central to the first part of the book.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.
The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…
Beautiful Creatures meets Daughter of Smoke and Bone with an infusion of Latin American tradition in this highly original fantasy adventure.
Honestly speaking, Labyrinth Lost has some of the best world-building I’ve come across recently, since it introduced me to an entirely new mythology (I’d never read anything that dabbled in latin-american myths/folklore before) and I came out of it with a comprehensive understanding without having to do extra research.
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counter-plots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
Do I really need to explain why A Game of Thrones is on the list?
Granted I;ve only read the first book but, going off that, the tv series, and the sheer amount of videos that exist on youtube (which I have definitely not watched while procrastinating literally everything, what are you talking about?), the sheer complexity of the world in ASoIaF deserves a spot on this list.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin-one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin-and his world-forever.
I’ll admit, I have a thing for anything involving faeries and faery courts, but most books all take up the usual shakespearian and/or celtic legends without delving much deeper into it. Not ACoTaR though, which went so far and beyond my expectations its probably my favourite faery book at the moment. I’ll admit, I had my reservations when I went into it (I found Throne of Glass to be pretty bad in terms of world-building as well as other aspects of it) but I wa delighted to be proven wrong!
***ATTENTION SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC***
A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab
It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift – back into Black London.
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.
If V. Schwab decided to write an encyclopedia/atlas/textbook on this universe, I would probably devour it (I am the supreme nerd, I know), but I guess I’ll resign myself to AGoS where the world building is just spectacular!
What are some of you favourite books in terms of world-building?