I enjoy a fun book tag, and when I saw Tanja’s Bookish Memory Check over at Where Stories Lie, I knew I wanted to have a go. I like to think my TBR and my shelves are fairly curated, so I should know what all these books are about, right? Yes, well, let’s find out!
Tanja’s rules are delightfully straightforward:
- Go to your Goodreads ‘read’ shelf
- Sort by random
- Test your memory on the top five books
As it’s Wyrd and Wonder, I decided I would only look at fantasy books – but then I couldn’t find a way to randomise my shelf on Goodreads (any ideas?). In for a penny, in for a pound: I ordered based on date read for maximum memory work-out (in practice, these are books I read before I uploaded my catalogue to Goodreads in 2015)… Let’s do this!
What I remember
The Elf Queen of Shannara by Terry Brooks
The third book of the second Shannara trilogy (wait, I think it had four books), this one had awesome cover art of a blonde with her arm in the air that I used as a character image for Baldur’s Gate. She was an Elf (obviously), who lived in a cool Elvish city that definitely never gets mentioned in the original trilogy and she flew on a giant bird. But I’m pretty sure she wasn’t a Queen and I have no idea what the plot was about. And that’s still more than I remember about any other book in this series. Amazing.
Oops, she’s not an Elf, she’s an Ohmsford (I should probably have guessed that) – who Allanon (wait, isn’t he dead?) instructs to find the long-vanished Elves. A blind witch tells her to light a fire on the coast and wait, and somebody else entirely (called Tiger!) flies in on a giant roc and takes her to a jungle island which may or may not be where the Elves are hidden. But apparently there’s a hedgehog cat, so who needs Elves, anyway?
Hidden Warrior – Lynn Flewelling
The sequel to The Bone Doll’s Twin sees our hero/ine summoned to court and trained to be a royal prince. After all, (s)he’s a spare heir. As I recall, there’s familiar school tropes of shitty classmates being mean, a complicated relationship as Tamír grows to love her best friend (who maybe doesn’t know Tamír isn’t a boy at this point? I’m not convinced this subplot is brilliant on handling of gender or sexuality) and a slow arc towards rebellion as Tamír grows critical of the usurper king and his heir.
Not bad – I got the broad strokes, but there’s an awful lot more detail (the book is nearly 600 pages after all). The gods have sent plagues to ravage Skala (because the best way to punish a usurping king is by killing … other people?) and the king’s right-hand wizard is cunningly blaming everything on rebellious wizards and persecuting them. Tamír’s loyalty to her uncle is literally killing people, so she’s under all the pressure to come clean about who she is. And there’s still the vengeful ghost of her dead brother to deal with…
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld – Patricia McKillip
I remember this as a gorgeous fairy tale of a young woman who is all grace and beauty (and maybe mute?) in a remote house visited by (or living with?) magical animals who adore her. Eventually she is forced to go down the mountain and live with normals, who maybe she’s related to, and that’s quite sad and maybe a little threatening. But it all works out okay, somehow. Yep, I’ve got only the vaguest fairy tale haze here – I should reread it, I know I loved it.
Absolutely a fairytale of power and family and love and revenge. Sybel is a sorceress, unloved and unloving, who lives on a mountain with fantastic beasts. One day a man called Coren brings her a baby boy, which doesn’t really fit her lifestyle, but luckily she takes to the little boy – which is awkward when she’s asked to give him back. I’m going to stop being flippant: yes, I should definitely reread this.
Voices – Ursula Le Guin
Okay I cheated and looked on my shelf because I couldn’t actually remember if Voices was the first or second Annal of the Western Shore. It’s the second! So I recall the second had a female protagonist living in a city that gets invaded. Sadly that’s all I recall (although I know I enjoyed it). I should reread this whole series…
<insert screaming> okay, the invaders HATE BOOKS and believe demons hide in words and make reading and writing punishable by death. Ye gods, Le Guin knew how to hit where it hurts. A tale of resistance and hope, as a poet arrives in the conquered city and inspires its people to stand up to their oppressors. Yep, time for a reread!
A Darkness at Sethanon – Raymond Feist
Full disclosure: I didn’t love the Riftwar trilogy. I loved the Empire trilogy, and I enjoyed the Serpentwar books (or at least the early ones). But Riftwar? Eh. The first half of Magician was so derivative it hurt, and I don’t remember the rest of the series. At all. As this is the final Riftwar book, I will guess Pug returns (I’m assuming he helps save the day), and there’s lots of battles and some politics and I want to say Arutha and Jimmy the Hand are around. I liked them a lot but I’m not even sure which series they were from. Ahem.
Hooray, Arutha and Jimmy are in this one! And so is Pug! Look, I’ll take my points where I can get them. Sounds like Pug probably did his day-saving previously, as this time around he’s sent off with Tomas to find legendary magician Macros the Black. Meanwhile Arutha fakes his own death to sneak off and disappoint the evil sorcerer who is trying to get to Sethanon to get a MacGuffin (…so I’m taking a point for battles and politics, as I assume politics are why he has to fake his own death to go save the world).
Snark aside, I’m actually tempted to reread most of these (yes, even Raymond E Feist; old-school epic fantasy can be fun even if it makes me gnash my teeth) – except Shannara. I revisited Elfstones and Wishsong a couple of years ago, and it hurt (and I recalled liking them a LOT more than I ever liked the Heritage of Shannara books).
So given how bad I am at remembering books I’ve actually read, now I’m curious about what’s lingering in the lower reaches of my TBR. Expect another memory check soon…
Fancy a go? Tag yourself in and link back to Tanja’s post!