28 August 2010


Locus Focus: Take Sixteen!

My original plan for this weekend was to return to the Subterranean Setting theme and tell you about another great book which totally gets the underground . . . but then my friend Jillian of Random Ramblings gave me an even better idea.

She has her own meme, Top Ten Picks, which I don't get to join as often as I'd like because I take my time making lists and when I'm finally done she has posted a new topic. But this week, she is writing about her Top Ten Fictional Places--which is so right up my alley--that I was inspired to do my first crossover post. Today, Locus Focus meets Top Ten Picks and goes crazy!

A Tenner:
Fictional Places

(Note that this is a spur-of-the-moment thing only I am really doing. Please feel free link up your own pre-planned Locus Focus; it doesn't have to be a "Tenner" as well.)

J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth

What Tolkien has left us with is an entire cosmos, with its own mythology, language, and races . . . and the most amazing thing is that he meant it to be our own. Middle-earth is Earth, and Tolkien's Silmarillion, Lord of the Rings, and other tales set in this realm are just our long-forgotten, never-again-to-be-reclaimed history. Here we have the scars of the Fall and the anticipation of the Incarnation, just as surely as in the past we do remember. It is Christian Fantasy at its best.

Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea

I've never heard or read anything to suggest that Earthsea is also either a lost history of our world or a future in which our times have been completely forgotten, but I always think of it that way because that is how it seems. This is a realm of scattered islands and cold seas, in which wizards are an elite social class, dragons are real, and the key to magic is knowing one's true name. And when I read A Wizard of Earthsea, it becomes a world more real than our own.

Kresley Cole's Lore

There is a reason Cole is the only Paranormal Romance author whose books I still buy. (If she persists in "going Showalter," however, I'll have to reconsider even that.) I love her entire Lore, another sub-creation related to our own world and in which our world is the most prosaic substratum. Think of all the myths and legends you've ever been told: in Cole's books, all of them are true, though not in the ways they leaked out into our stories. My favourite parts of the Lore are the parts that are most "human"--spirited social settings enough like our own to convince us we'd be at home hanging out there . . . if only a friendly Lorean decided to break the rule of secrecy and extend us an invitation.

Brian Jacques' Mossflower Country

I would definitely live here, if I could--even if I had to be a mouse or a hedgehog for the rest of my life. (No, there don't seem to be any raccoons!) It is a world where existence is both simple and lush, like a big bowl of fresh, juicy fruits in season. In this world, Jacques blends the rustic charm of the English countryside, the matter-of-fact dignity of medieval abbeys, the high fantasy of fiery mountains and their secret caves, and in later books, even the adventure of the high seas.

Norman Juster's "Tollbooth" World

Oh, how could I not??? It's a world in which the meanings of words can be literally mapped out. It is Wonderland to anyone who has ever cracked a smile at a pun. (How strange that it doesn't seem to have its own name.) While drafting this post, I was torn between the two rival city-states of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis (and believe it or not, the numbers were winning over the words); but picking just one--or even picking both--would have left out the rest of this glorious land in which idioms find form. And that would have been wrong.

Johann Wyss' New Switzerland

Let's step out of our rather modern world of Fantasy for a very short while and remember what it was that sang to the blood in the Age of Exploration. In The Swiss Family Robinson, a whole family is shipwrecked and marooned on an island--and it turns out to be the best thing that could have happened to them. For their new home is a rough paradise that only needs a little polish--a second Eden with everything that an Adam and Eve with more practical knowledge of the physical world need to be happy. For many years of my city-girl childhood, Wyss' book was one of my favourite novels. He just made it look so easy to escape the worst of the city, while rebuilding the best of the city around you.

Neal Shusterman's Downside

Speaking of cities, The Downside probably the most amazing fictional urbs we have. As Shusterman's narrator explains, every city is an answer to a problem--and the Downside is the most unique answer ever made to the most common problem of every city. I loved this setting enough to feature it in Locus Focus: Take Thirteen; so if you'd like to know more, please take a look at that earlier post as well. =)

J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Although I still haven't read the entire Harry Potter series (Don't hate me!), my love for Hogwarts is strong and true. Who wouldn't want to go to school here? (Hate them instead!) Yes, even I would gladly be a student or teacher again if I could find a place here. For Rowling understands that more real learning takes place outside of the classroom than inside it, and she manages to turn every nook, cranny and alcove of this school into an educational setting. No one graduates from Hogwarts without having learned something, which is why the award for Best Fictional School will likely go to . . . *uproarious applause drowns out announcement*

C.S. Lewis' Cair Paravel

Believe it or not, Narnia wasn't even close to making this list . . . until I remembered how much I love its great castle. And although most of the stories have the characters traveling over miles and miles of terrain, rather than staying in one place, it is clear that Narnia's heart is more stationary. This is a setting in which prophecies are fulfilled, evil is vanquished, virtue is crowned . . . but I'd better stop now because this is also a setting that deserves its very own Locus Focus post.

Madeleine L'Engle's Star-watching Rock

Based on a real rock outside L'Engle's Connecticut home, this seemingly ordinary land form proves to be a geographical centre for much of her time-travel fantasy. There already is a lot of time-travel romance in lying on one's back to gaze at stars: for we are not seeing the stars as they are now, but as they were thousands of years ago. The same breathless wonder contained in this fact is to be found in the fantasy of A Swiftly Tilting Planet, L'Engle's masterpiece, when Charles Wallace meets a unicorn who takes him to many "Whens" even as they remain in the same "Where" of the Star-watching Rock. And now I finally fully agree that this novel was what deserved to win my Madeleine L'Engle Novel Smackdown.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

Quick Links to the Other Loci Foci:

Richard Adams' Underground Warrens @ Birdie's Nest

Top 10 Literary Places @

Image Sources: a) The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, b) Mossflower (A Tale of Redwall) by Brian Jacques, c) Downsiders by Neal Shusterman, d) A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle


christopher said...

A nice and surprising choice with Phantom Tollbooth! (Surprising because no one seems to talk much about it anymore) I've tried to get Cezanne to read it a few times with no luck :( Maybe next year.

Enbrethiliel said...


The Phantom Tollbooth almost didn't make it, too! I added it at the last minute, when scrambling around for a tenth setting. Still, it's such a great place that it deserves its own turn in the Locus Focus spotlight. Maybe even two. Or three!

(Speaking of scrambling, there a voice in the back of my mind that is telling me I should have nixed Kresley Cole's Lore in favour of Ray Bradbury's Mars . . . but oh, well.)

PS--About Cezanne: does she like magical/fantastic elements in her stories? Some readers seem to prefer realistic fiction from the very beginning.

PPS--You could also try reading it to her yourself. That's the only way I can get my brothers to "read" anything that isn't a graphic novel these days. They usually react as if it's a chore and I'm an evil stepsister to make them do it . . . but as a bonding activity and teaching moment, it has it's rewarding aspects. =)

christopher said...

Yeah... she likes fairies and unicorns and, well, you know lol I did read the Lord of the Rings to her over the course of the year in 2008 I think. I'd like to Tollbooth to her but it's a little harder with Cecilia competing for attention.

Amanda said...

I hang my head in shame. The only book on this list I've even read is Harry Potter.

Birdie said...

Wow! Now I might have to go and do a top ten as well...

Enbrethiliel said...


@Christopher: I wish I could have seen the expression on your face when you typed "fairies and unicorns"! =P

Going by my grown-up, bookworm pace, I reread The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and then read The Silmarillion for the first time, all during the course of one Holy Week. It was an interesting experience, but perhaps I should have read Dostoyevski instead of Tolkien.

Anyway, what does Cecilia think of chapter books?

@Amanda: I've made the rounds of the other Top Ten Picks and feel your pain. There was one list in which all titles were new to me! =(

Thanks for visiting! I appreciate your comment.

@Birdie: I'll look forward to that! =) Thanks for playing again this week.

christopher said...

Yes, and I made the same face while reading those words now LOL!

That is one heck of an accomplishment reading all those books in one week. I've owned the whole Tolkien collection since I was a kid and I still haven't even been able to get through the Silmarillion!

As far as Cecilia and chapter-books, she's done pretty well several times when we all sat down together at bedtime but I don't think her attention span is quite ready for a full-length one yet. But I did catch her skimming through Machiavelli a few times... =O


Enbrethiliel said...


Well, it was the middle of summer where I live, so I had no students and nothing to do, and no one competing for my attention . . . so it was easy.

But as a "summer read" (LOL!) The Silmarillion was a little hard for me, too. I think I was able to get through it because I had banned myself from reading anything but Tolkien that week.

And I keep forgetting Cecilia is only four (or so)!

PS--Do you do voices? =P

christopher said...

Lots of voices. Even when I write in your combox, I'm speaking in all sorts of strange accents but sometimes it's hard to pick that up, I guess LOL

Bev Hankins said...

I was stuck in my mystery-lover's phase when I answered this. But love your answers--especially the star-gazing rock from L'Engle.

Jillian said...

Cair Paravel is a lovely place, I wouldn't mind staying there for a while, and I agree, I think you should write a post for that!

Oh, and you already know what I'm going to say.. you really need to finish the Harry Potter books ;) Haha.

Enbrethiliel said...


@Bev: Thanks, Bev! =)

@Jillian: Maybe next week? Or if I'm still stuck on School Settings, next month? =P

I will finish the Harry Potter books. Someday . . .