Thanks to my current WIP, I've plunged back into a world I haven't been in since middle school: the world of fantasy. Specifically YA Fantasy, and specifically current kick-ass YA Fantasy books such as the much-anticipated SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo.
(Have to mention that the first draft of this post said "YA Fantasty," not "YA Fantasy," in true ironic typo fashion. Why yes, YA Fantasy CAN be quite Fantasty, Subconscious Me. I will explain why below.)
If you haven't heard of SHADOW AND BONE, um, do some serious googling. Like now. I'll wait.
*glares through computer screen*
Did you google? I trust you.
Now aside from Leigh making me feel severely inadequate (did you read her bio? CLEARLY YOU DID NOT GOOGLE. *glares harder*), SHADOW AND BONE is in and of itself quite a revelation for YA Fantasy/Fantasty books. I mean, a Russian-based fantasy world? Name one other YA Fantasy/Fantasty Russian-based world. YOU CAN'T, CAN YOU?
And if you've been chilling out on my blog for awhile, you might remember that a few years ago I worked for a brilliant little Russian travel agency, which re-awoke within me the bright-eyed twelve-year-old who watched the movie Anastasia and vowed to someday dance through Peterhof Palace. Russia is every bit as magical and glittering as Anastasia depicted it, and SHADOW AND BONE is every bit as magical and glittering as Russia itself is.
Which brings me to a few things.
One: seriously, go read Leigh's bio so I'm not the only one who feels like I need more hobbies.
Two: Good YA Fantasy/Fantasty stories have certain elements. Certain elements that SHADOW AND BONE very passionately incorporates, and certain elements I am beating my laptop bloody to incorporate into WINTER.
True to the OCD Writer within me, I shall outline these elements for you.
1) A glittery world. Yes, glittery. (Is this just me? Maybe?) A world so enriched in magic all its own that you enter this world feeling like you both have known it your whole life and have never seen it before.
2) Fighting. Bloody, gruesome, edge-of-your-seat fighting. My constant struggle with WINTER is feeling like a scene is boring if no one is getting attacked. Luckily, in SHADOW AND BONE, LOTS OF PEOPLE GET ATTACKED. Which is a really weird thing to like in books. Don't judge me.
3) Hello, YA Fantasty. The highly appropriate typo should speak for itself -- there should be tasty things. People, more specifically. People like Mal in SHADOW AND BONE. Mmm, Mal. And the Darkling. Mmm Darkling. Mmm. What? Oh, right.
4) Finally, the most important element (I feel) of a good YA Fantasy/Fantasty book -- culture. A culture so rich and unique and beautiful, so deep and thought-out and original, that you when you leave the book your world feels a little less complete for not having the same kind of traditions/methods/rhythm. No surprise at all, basing your fantasy world on such an already rich, magical culture as Russia is a sure-fire way to bring about a beautiful word.
So, yes, this post was more of a rave about SHADOW AND BONE than a post strictly about YA Fantasy/Fantasty elements (I think I might just start calling it YA Fantasty). But Leigh's book is one of the most original worlds to come along in quite awhile, and it feels like a door of sorts has opened in the YA Fantasty world. Could it be that Fantasty books will be the Next Big Thing? As someone with a huge bias toward the future of YA Fantasty should I commit to finishing WINTER (and it's looking good, folks), I certainly hope so. If SHADOW AND BONE is any taste of things to come, we're in for some killer worlds.