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Things don’t get no better, better than you and me March 20, 2010

Posted by dolorosa12 in books, childhood, fangirl.
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Months and months ago I mentioned on Livejournal that I was intending to write a series of posts about my favourite literary couples – although I planned to expand that to include platonic couples, groups of friends, and families. Now I’ve finally got my act together and started working on this, and so I bring you the first of what will be a series of posts. This one is a rather arbitrarily-selected group of couples (in the romantic sense of the word). When selecting them, I had three criteria:
1. That they be a couple from a book or series that means or meant a lot to me
2. That they not be the sort of people usually found on such lists (no Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy)
3. That they be characters from books

The last criterion was simply to avoid massive headaches as if I’d included other types of texts, I’d be here still writing this after I’d finished my PhD!

Looking at the couples I came up with, I feel a bit disappointed at the heteronormativity of my list, and I know it’s more through my own fault than that of existing literature: There are great stories with GLTBQ couples, but I haven’t read many of them (with the possible exception of Written On The Body by Jeanette Winterson). But I certainly don’t blame the straightness of this list on the ‘lack of good GLTBQ couples in literature’; that’s an unfair argument, and the fault is entirely my own.

At this point, I should warn you that there are spoilers for:
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
The Crossroads trilogy by Kate Elliott
Galax-Arena and Terra-Farma by Gillian Rubinstein
Romanitas and Rome Burning by Sophia McDougall
The Space Demons trilogy by Gillian Rubinstein
The Troy Game series by Sara Douglass
The Tomorrow series and Ellie Chronicles by John Marsden
The Roma Sub Rosa series by Steven Saylor
The Obernewtyn series by Isobelle Carmody
The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

1. ‘I touch the place where I’d find your face’: Breaking my heart into tiny, tiny pieces, every single time
Lyra and Will from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.

They save the multiverse together by falling in love and acting on that love. Then they realise that they can’t live in the same universe, and they have to close all the windows between all the universes, or all consciousness will leak out of the entire multiverse. I cried for three days straight when I read how their story ended, and it’s still heartbreaking to think about.
Theme song: ‘Set the Fire to the Third Bar’ by Snow Patrol.
I find the map and draw a straight line
Over rivers, farms, and state lines
The distance from ‘A’ to where you’d be
It’s only finger-lengths that I see
I touch the place where I’d find your face
My finger in creases of distant dark places

Even the video clip is Lyra and Will-esque.

2. ‘What’s that waiting about?’: An (arranged) match made in Heaven (Together, they fight crime!)
Captain Anji and Mai from the Crossroads trilogy by Kate Elliott.

The best thing about this pair is how practical they are, and how well matched. Anji is a shrewd military leader and manages to gain a great deal of prestige simply by showing up with his band of mercenaries at the right time in a threatened kingdom. But his success is almost equally due to Mai’s talents as a merchant – most particularly, her ability to negotiate and drive a hard bargain.

I’ve written before about how much I love this series because it’s a fantasy series that makes middle-class talents and middle-class occupations heroic, which is a very rare thing. I also love it because of the central couple. Anji and Mai marry for diplomatic and economic reasons, but they share a mutual respect that eventually blossoms into a practical, adaptable, generous kind of love. It’s not an all-consuming, country-destroying passion, and sometimes, you know, it’s nice to recognise that love doesn’t have to be that way.

Theme song: ‘Yours and Mine’ by Calexico’ (the song only comes in at 3.50, but it’s the only Youtube clip I could find).
Horses are chomping at the bit
The gate is nearly busted down
Moment before the calm of the storm
And everyone’s blood goes wild
Except yours and mine

3. ‘Everyone’s got a theory about the bitter one’: Kid-lit’s very own Spike and Dru
Presh/Wai-Chan and Allan ‘Allyman’ Manne from Galax-Arena and Terra-Farma by Gillian Rubinstein.

I have a huge soft spot for these two. Galax-Arena was the first book where I realised I was utterly uninterested in the heroine and wanted to read only about the villains of the piece. And what villains they are! Presh is from the streets of China, Allyman’s from the streets of Birmingham. They are among the ‘peb’ (‘people’) of the Galax-Arena, a circus arena in outer space that functions more like the Colosseum in Ancient Rome. The performers, all talented acrobats snatched from homeless, forgotten existences in the poorest cities of the world, believe they’re performing for aliens. In actual fact, their adrenaline is powering the immortality of wealthy, impossibly old people. If a performer dies, the rush of adrenaline is even greater.

Allyman eventually ends up as a recruiter for the Arena, with Presh initially as a sort of enforcer, and later, after falling pregnant, is abandoned in Terra-Farma, a place where the female children of dispossessed people are given away to wealthy men in countries with low female populations (such as China). The pair are profoundly messed up, with morality that is grey at best, and yet they are much more compelling than the mousy heroine of the story, Joella. I love them to bits.

Theme song: ‘To the Moon and Back’ by Savage Garden
Love is like a barren place and
Reaching out for human faith
Is like a journey I just don’t have a map for

5. ‘We spoke in tongues we never wanted spoken’: Across the barricades
Noviana Una and Marcus Novius Faustus Leo from the Romanitas series by Sophia McDougall.

Do I really need to explain this one? I adore stories about star-crossed lovers, particularly when they come from opposite ends of the social spectrum. Marcus is heir to the Roman Empire (but a Roman Empire which never ended, and is roughly contemporaneous with our own times). Una is a fugitive slave. But they met one another when they both possessed nothing but their lives – and even those were threatened – and they are delightfully co-dependent as a result.

I love them because they’re both such introverted, private people, and yet both of them find extroversion thrust upon them against their will: Marcus because, well, he’s of the Imperial dynasty and lives his life in the spotlight, and Una because she can read minds and thus hear the thoughts of everyone around her. They are so similar it’s uncanny, and I really hope things work out for them in the third book.

Theme song: ‘The Sea’ by Van She (the most introverted band I know).
And you said
Time would change these things
For you will always be the same
[…] Now that I’m awake
You know that we are broken
The tiny hand is past with doors
Were shut that now are open
.

6. ‘Why don’t you close your eyes and reinvent me? We can unwind all our flaws’: This is so messed up I need my head examined
Asterion/Weyland and Cordelia/Caela/Noah/Eaving from the Troy Game series by Sara Douglass.

This couple spend the first two books of this series hating (Asterion) and fearing (Noah) one another, mutually antagonistic. Noah (or Cordelia and Caela as she is then, wishes only for the love of Brutus. Asterion wishes only for Brutus’ ‘kingship bands’, which Noah has hidden. This being a Sara Douglass series, Asterion does some unspeakably awful things to Noah involving her womb (he plants an imp in it and causes the imp to be ripped out through her back), and then this is the start of a beautiful love affair of great epicness.

Theme song: How could it be anything other than ‘Mezzanine’ by Massive Attack?
We can unwind
All these other flaws
All these other flaws
Will lead to
We’ll see to
All these other flaws
Will lead to mine
We can unwind all our flaws
.

7. ‘No one’s gonna take me alive’: Love is about compromises
Ellie and Lee from the Tomorrow series and Ellie Chronicles by John Marsden.

And oh, what compromises! These two fell in love while fighting a guerrilla war (as 16-year-olds) against invaders of Australia. Living rough in the bush, leading raids on their former home town, blowing up airfields, being condemned to death, Ellie and Lee find the time to fall spectacularly in, and then out, of love, while coping with PTSD, bullet wounds and having to grow up way too fast.

Their on-again, off-again relationship spans the entire war and its aftermath, and I’ve always appreciated that Marsden had the guts to show with these two that love is not easy, it’s not the cure for everything, and it’s not necessarily empowering or a protection against depression and other kinds of psychological illness. It just is.

Theme song: ‘Knights of Cydonia’ by Muse
No one’s gonna take me alive
The time has come to make things right
You and I must fight for our rights
You and I must fight to survive

8. ‘Where small birds sang and leaves were falling’: Love is not just for the young
Gordianus and Bethesda from the Roma Sub Rosa series by Steven Saylor.

These two are in their fifties and have known one another since Gordianus was a starry-eyed, penniless young Roman traveller and Bethesda was a surly Egyptian slave. (I admit, the beginnings of their relationship are a bit…troubling, and I have heard of the argument that any relationship between a master and a slave is non-consensual, as the power imbalance makes consent impossible. BUT! Gordianus frees Bethesda and they then enjoy what appear to be thirty very happy years of marriage.)

I love Gordianus and Bethesda because in most of the books I read, adult couples are either absent or not discussed, and I find their relationship really heart-warming. After 40 years, Gordianus still thinks Bethesda is the most beautiful woman in the world, and remains both impressed and terrified by her subtlety of mind. For her part, Bethesda seems to love Gordianus, although the books are told from his point of view so it’s difficult to know what she’s really feeling.

Theme song: ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’ by The Pogues
Take my hand, and dry your tears, babe
Take my hand, forget your fears, babe
There’s no pain, there’s no more sorrow
They’re all gone, gone in the years, babe
.

9. ‘The will to greatness clouds the mind, consumes the senses, veils the signs’: Awwwww
Domick and Kella from the Obernetyn series by Isobelle Carmody.

I adore Domick and Kella because they’re just so adorable. He’s a Coercer, she’s a Healer. He’s a bit arrogant, a bit of a loner, and a bit at odds with the non-violent ideals of the rest of the Misfits. She’s compassionate, sociable, chatty, and totally horrified by any thought of violence. All together now…AWWWWW!

Of course, the fact that I loved Domick and Kella so much made it inevitable that Carmody would kill Domick off. I’m still bitter about that.

Theme song: ‘The Farthest Star’ by VNV Nation
Redeeming graces cast aside
Enduring notions, new found promise,
That the end will never come.

We live in times when all seems lost,
But time will come when we’ll look back,
Upon ourselves and on our failings.

Embrace the void even closer still,
Erase your doubts as you surrender everything:

We possess the power,
If this should start to fall apart,
To mend divides,
To change the world,
To reach the farthest star.
If we should stay silent.
If fear should win our hearts,
Our light will have long diminished,
Before it reaches the farthest star.

{Bonus awesome – the final lines of this song seem very Elspethy: Wide awake in a world that sleeps
Enduring thoughts, enduring scenes.
The knowledge of what is yet to come.
]

ETA; Jordan pointed out that I forgot to include my Space Demons couple. Well, you can find them here!

10.’Why don’t you play the game?’ : Best ‘It could never be, but I wish it would’ couple
Mario Ferrone and Elaine Taylor from the Space Demons trilogy by Gillian Rubinstein.

These two would never work. Even Rubinstein herself admits it in the epilogue to Shinkei, the third book in the series. Elaine grows up to be a famous dancer, touring the world. Mario grows up to be a ‘live fast, die young’ computer game writer, who occasionally phones up Elaine to tell her his life will be incomplete unless she marries him. ‘So far,’ Rubinstein writes, ‘she remains unconvinced’.

I shipped these two before I knew what shipping was. It seemed inconceivable that they could go through so much (being sucked into computer games and forced to work out whatever issues they might have – hate in Space Demons, fear in Skymaze and dreams (and the breaking thereof) in Shinkei) and not fall in love. Oh, how naïve I was!

I like Elaine and Mario because it’s a partnership of equals, and because the books are all about the need to work together, be less isolated and insular and live as part of a community. And, let’s face it, if you’ve travelled through an alternate reality built out of one another’s fears and dreams, you don’t really have much to hide from one another.

This pairing would never work out, and it’s not written for us to interpret it as working out, but I can’t help liking it quite a bit.

Theme: How could it be anything other than ‘Digital Love’ by Daft Punk?
You wrap your arms around too
But suddenly I feel the shining sun
Before I knew it this dream was all gone

Ooh I don’t know what to do
About this dream and you
I wish this dream comes true

Ooh I don’t know what to do
About this dream and you
We’ll make this dream come true

11. ‘The gentle genocide in your eyes’: Token Every Woman Loves a Bad Boy couple
Nick and Mae from The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Because come on, if you’re not shipping them, you’re insane!

Theme songs: ‘Gentle’ by Strawpeople, just for that above quote, and
‘Love is a Stranger’ by Eurythmics
Love is a stranger in an open car
To tempt you in and drive you far away
[…]And love, love, love is a dangerous drug
To take you away and leave you far behind
.

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Comments»

1. dolorosa12 - March 20, 2010

Please note that the lyrics of ‘Mezzanine’ could equally plausibly read
All these half-flaws
Will lead to mine
etc, and in fact make more sense in light of the song’s title.

In my opinion, both versions still represent Asterion/Noah very well.

2. Jordan - March 21, 2010

Where’s my Space Demons couple????

Or are the spoilers for that series contained, for some reason, within the spoilers for one of the other series I didn’t want to spoil?

dolorosa12 - March 21, 2010

Ooops. I should add them in…I think I lost control of the list somehow.

dolorosa12 - March 21, 2010

And now edited to add them in. You can find Space Demons at number 10.

3. you know who this is :) - March 23, 2010

I know this may reignite past hatreds, but seriously, I still maintain that if Lyra and Will wanted to be together, they could have been. They made that choice, each on their own! Which makes them a terrible couple!

dolorosa12 - March 24, 2010

Yes, but if they’d stayed together, one of them would’ve died at the age of 20 (if they’d chosen to stay in Lyra’s world or Will’s world) or the entire multiverse would’ve died if they’d selfishly chosen to keep doors open and visit one another.

They made the choice that their own love was not more important than the fate of the multiverse – which makes them a brave, strong, and (most importantly) unsentimental couple.

But this is one of the many things on which we disagree, and, as always, we will simply have to agree to do so.

4. Jordan - March 24, 2010

Thanks!

And yes I assumed you meant that couple. I guess since they’re pretty much the only thing approaching a couple to really feature in the series (Andrew and Midori don’t count, as their relationship is more or less a postscript.)

But I wanted to see it in print, and find out what you liked about them. I think I agree with your assessment – although the optimist in me maintains they have some chance at eventually making something work between them, perhaps once they (read: Mario) have matured a bit more.

dolorosa12 - March 24, 2010

I’m not a very optimistic person, but I do agree that Rubinstein leaves things open enough in the epilogue to imply that they could’ve worked out. (It’s written when they’re in their mid-20s, after all, and they’ve presumably got a whole lot more life left in them.)

I’m glad you agree with my assessment of them!

5. Lol - March 24, 2010

Clare Ferguson and Russ Van Alstyne from ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ and sequels by Julia Spencer-Fleming
She is a 35 year old Episcopalian priest, fresh from the seminary, who previously flew helicopters in the army. She is also a self confessed adrenaline junky who wants to help everyone. He is a 49 year old atheist, who has retired from the army to take up the position of police chief in his old home town. He is also happily married. He, too, wants to save everyone. They are drawn to one another from the first, sharing an army background and sense of humour. By the time they realise what is actually happening, they’re in over their heads. I love their friendship, their fights and the slow growing emotional and physical attraction as they solve crimes and get themselves in and out of life threatening situations. I love their morals and their struggle with temptation and the way their story is played out in a small town where people are always watching. I love how painful their attachment to one another is – reading the series is sometimes like watching a car crash in slow motion – and how you have no idea whether or not they’ll get a happily ever after. It feels so right and so real. I especially love Clare, who never, ever evangelises. I kind of want to be her without the religion.
This series is my current obsession. Can you tell? 😉 The last book should be out within the next month. *bites nails *

Thomas Mendip and Jennet Jourdemayne from Christopher Fry’s play ‘The Lady’s Not for Burning’
He is an ex soldier who wants to die. He turns up at the mayor’s house, confesses to a bunch of crimes and demands they hang him. She is an alchemist’s daughter who turns up at the mayor’s house with a witch hunt after her and demands to be saved. The mayor and family refuse both of them and they end up saving one another, as his love for Jennet causes Thomas to reluctantly relinquish the prospect of friendly death.
Girl, you haven’t changed the world
Glimmer as you will, the world’s not changed
I love you, but the world’s not changed. Perhaps
I could draw you up over my eyes for a time
But the world sickens me still.

Sue and Maud from ‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters
This is a book that should not be spoilt, so I’ll just say that you spend the book hurting for these girls, and the last few lines are so perfect they bring tears to my eyes.

dolorosa12 - March 24, 2010

I’ve been meaning to read Sarah Waters books for ages, and I think they’ll be next when I get back from my holidays. Would you recommend starting with Fingersmith?

Also, thank you for the characters you list above. As I commented on Livejournal, most of my favourite couples seem to be teenagers or in their very early twenties, and this disturbs me somewhat. I’m sure it’s not because I have such a cynical view of romance that I can’t imagine it lasting into people’s middle- and old age, but I need to read more books where the couples are in their 30s, 40s, 50s and above to convince myself that this is not the case.

Lol - March 25, 2010

Fingersmith is definitely the book to start with. It’s my favourite of hers. Please let me know your reactions.

Considering my love of kids’ and YA books, I was surprised that the three couples I wanted to talk about are all ‘grown up’. Ok, Sue and Maud are 17, but Fingersmith isn’t exactly YA lit. Some of the others I thought about are Taylor Markham & Johan Griggs, Howl & Sophie and Sorcha & Red. They’re all from YA (except perhaps the latter) but they weren’t as urgent to me for some reason.

I like the ones of yours I’d read, especially the two Gillian Rubenstein ones. Galax Arena is quite a unique book, isn’t it?

6. Lol - March 24, 2010

Oh, and while I do ship Nick and Mae, I feel bad about it. NO ONE should be in a relationship with Nick unless he can develop a little empathy. I hope he can, I really do.

Another nail-biting wait. At least you’ll get ‘The Demon’s Covenant’ when it comes out. Australians have to wait an extra month or so. 😦

dolorosa12 - March 24, 2010

Oh, I feel bad about shipping Nick and Mae, too, although I feel guilty mainly for being so vanilla. A quick glance around the fandom (I’ve just discovered Marmalade Fish) shows me that he’s more commonly paired with Jamie or even Alan (which, well, no…), and since there’s really nothing in Nick’s personality to suggest he’s either gay or straight, I feel bad about automatically shipping him with a female character.

Then again, as you can see from above (Allyman/Presh, Mario/Elaine, Asterion/Noah, Lee/Ellie) my kind of default/favourite pairing seems to be female character+damaged guy, so at least Nick/Mae fits in with that pattern.

7. dolorosa12 - March 25, 2010

Lol – for some reason WordPress isn’t letting me reply directly to your comment, so I’m doing so here. I’ve been wanting to read ‘Howl’ for ages, since pretty much every YA author I respect has said exactly the same thing you’ve said (they made similar comments about a Margaret Mahy book, but it’s so hard to track down copies of her work these days).

I love Galax-Arena. It’s one of my all-time favourite books, and looking back on things now, it’s clear that it helped define a lot of the things I came to believe about life, humanity, the universe and everything.

Lol - March 25, 2010

Which Margaret Mahy book? Pretty much everything she writes is awesome. I thought most of her stuff was still in print.

I read The Other Side of Silence for the first time a few years ago and it had a little more dark to it than most of her other books. Still very good, though. My favourite couple of hers would be Laura Chant and Sorry Carlisle from The Changeover.

dolorosa12 - March 25, 2010

The Changeover. I’ve only read one Mahy book, a book of short stories called The Door in the Air, which was one of the most lyrical and yet chilling things I’ve ever read, and certainly very unsettling to read as a child.

I have no doubt most of her stuff is still in print, but I can’t afford to buy books at all, and so I’m forced to rely on one of the worst public libraries I’ve ever encountered. It makes me yearn for the City of Sydney libraries!

8. Trin - April 5, 2010

Maybe these are a bit more along the usual types but they’re all books from my (rapidly disappearing!) youth…

1. Jo/Laurie from little women. Not only did I hate that they didn’t end up together, but I hated even more that he got stuck with stupid, selfish, vain Amy. How could you possibly say no to Laurie?
I think that the reason why it happened was more to do with Louisa May Alcott’s actual life (I think she also married an oldish professor type guy). But Laurie! And Christian Bale as Laurie!

2. Anne/Gilbert Blythe from Anne series (LMM Montgomery). Who isn’t secretly a little in love with Gilbert?

3. Trixie/Dan from the Trixie Belden books. There was no suggestion that this would ever happen in the books themselves, but I always thought it’d be nice for him to become included in the series properly. At least Jim (Trixie’s actual love interest in the series) got adopted by a nice family! Dan had… not very much in his life.

4. And for a little bit of fantasy – Joscelin and Phedre from the Kushiel series. They’re so unsuited and yet… so perfect.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

Dolorosa - April 5, 2010

Everyone always says Anne/Gilbert. I’m really going to have to read Anne of Green Gables, aren’t I?

I’m not the hugest fan of Little Women, but I’ve always thought that the way Jo/Laurie didn’t end up working was more true to life, somehow. I think it was the most interesting thing that Alcott was saying in the book: everyone expects them to end up together, because we bring certain assumptions when we’re reading, but Alcott shows with them that the couple who look perfect on paper might not work out in reality, and that sometimes people who ‘deserve’ happiness end up having to settle for something slightly less.

I love Joscelin/Phèdre. How far are you through the series?

Trin - April 10, 2010

I don’t know if you can read Anne of Green Gables as an adult, I have a sneaking suspicion it might be one of those childhood books. However, I totally recommend the first three books of the series. I actually think you might like the Emily series better (she’s a writer so perhaps you might empathise with her).

Actually, I sort of think Jo/Laurie would have been more true to life for the times. Rich boy rescues poor girl and her family from future poverty? Did Jo really have the luxury to chose NOT to marry the rich boy next door?
Anyway I’ve always felt it was sad that in the end Laurie marries Amy, the vain, selfish Amy. I feel like Jo could have made Laurie better, but Amy? Bleh. Maybe it’s just my hatred for Amy coming out.
Most ideal situation is for Jo to end up on her own and forging her own path solo! :o)

I finished the Kushiel series! Including the second lot she wrote from Imriel’s perspective. The first series is MUCH better. Have you read the Imriel ones? Pretty bad. She should have left the series as it was, perfect.
Am keen to read the other series though, I think the title is something like Naamah’s servant?

9. dolorosa12 - April 10, 2010

Trin, I can’t reply to you directly, so am responding here (wordpress seems not to let you reply to replies, for some weird reason).

I agree with you about the Kushiel books, although I tried to read Naamah’s Kiss (the first in the new trilogy) and couldn’t finish it. I just couldn’t make myself care enough. I suspect she should’ve stopped after the first trilogy.

When I said ‘truth’ in relation to Laurie and Jo, I didn’t mean ‘truth’ as in ‘true to the times’, but more as in ‘true to my own (decidedly unromantic) views about romance’. Jo and Laurie were an ideal that when faced with the cold, hard realities of life, may not have worked out. I don’t believe that love conquers all, and I don’t believe that it allows you to overlook one another’s flaws, and I don’t believe it’s inherently enobling or moral. That’s why so many of the couples I list up above are cynical, practical people who might be in love, but are under no illusions that love (and relationships) are difficult, and have to be worked at and involve compromises every single day. I don’t see that in Laurie/Jo at all.

10. Zier - May 4, 2010

I’ve been meaning to comment on this post for ages – I’m sorry it took me so long! I love how you’ve included the quote and type of relationship for each example, as well as the song lyrics at the end.

I haven’t read most of the books/series included here, but I love the points you’ve made about those I have (Ober, Tomorrow series), and looked at the songs for the others, but tried to deny my curiosity to read the rest. Which books/series/authors would you most recommend out of the others on your list?

dolorosa12 - May 23, 2010

Zier, I am so sorry it’s taken ME this long to reply to your comment. My recommendations depend on what sort of stories you like to read.

I highly recommend the Crossroads trilogy by Kate Elliott. It’s fantasy, but instead of drawing on the usual medieval Celtic/European sources, it’s based on Ottoman, Chinese and Mongolian culture, and is pretty cool.

Sara Douglass is one of my favourite authors, but her stories do tend to be quite violent, and the characters are all pretty unlikeable, so only read The Troy Game if you think that you’re able to read that sort of stuff.

I can’t believe you’ve never read any Gillain Rubinstein! I was under the impression that her books were pretty much standard fare in all primary schools in the 90s! You should definitely read Galax-Arena and the Space Demons trilogy. The technology and society that they’re about have kind of moved on, but as long as you accept that they’re set in a late-80s-early-90s context, you should enjoy them, I think.

I always recommend Romanitas (mainly out of selfish reasons, as I wish I had more than two people with whom to discuss it!). Do you like Roman history? Do you like alternative history? You might like Romanitas in this case. It’s set in a world where the Roman Empire never ended. The main characters in this story are the heir to the Emperor and two runaway slaves with amazing supernatural abilities. I adore it.

Hope that helps! I’d recommend all the books on this list, since they wouldn’t be on this list if I didn’t like them!

11. Zier - May 24, 2010

No problem – you were still quicker than me, and I understand having issues with time from having done my honours. *shudders* Thanks for the recommendations – at least it gives me a better idea of where to start! I meant to say I have actually read Space Demons, but somehow not Galax Arena – I’ll have to check out it and its sequel!

Romantis sounds really interesting. I think I’ll have to check it out, if only to see where you’re coming from! 😉 I do like alternative histories and have some interest in the Roman Empire, so I guess we’ll see. ;D

I started The Troy Game and must admit it wasn’t really my thing, but I do love Sara Douglass’s Threshold. Maybe I’ll try her other books again sometime, but there’s others I’ll try first. 🙂

Kate Elliott rings a bell – turns out I bought her King’s Dragon secondhand, but haven’t got to it yet. Have you read that series, or should I try to read the Crossroads trilogy first?

dolorosa12 - May 24, 2010

I did read the other Kate Elliott series first, and I think it is equally good, although the characters didn’t grip me as much as Anji/Mai. I loved Mai so much because she was so different to normal waifish/fey fantasy heroines: she was deeply practical, quite cynical and very, very clever with money. That was why I loved that series so much: it took middle class occupations and values and made them heroic, whereas normal high fantasy novels are all about the honourable nobility and heart-of-gold peasants, and merchants, traders and artisans are usually cowardly and money-hungry, if they’re present at all.

To be fair, the appeal of Romanitas is again mainly due to its heroine, Una, who is awesome because she, like me, is an extreme introvert who is forced, due to circumstances, to be extroverted.

So many of the books I recommend here I seem to like because the heroines resemble me in some way…

Sara Douglass is…difficult. I often feel that she tries to be deliberately shocking in order to provoke some kind of outraged response. I count, so far, in her books numerous occasions of incest, rape, domestic violence (hello, Threshold!), bestiality and downright brutality. I put up with all this because I love her take on history in the Troy Game books (which tie together the story of the Minotaur/labyrinth, the fall of Troy and the history of London from prehistoric times to World War II) and the Crucible series (which is an alternative version of the 100 Years War where the action is compressed to 10 or so years, if I remember correctly). But if you’re not in it for the history, her books can be pretty difficult reading. I detest her non-historical works, especially the Axis series, because without the historical framework, her stories tend to be quite cliched.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy at least some of the books I’ve recommended!


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