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Culture Books

Four fantasy novels


Four fantasy novels

In Calabria

Peter S. Beagle

For Italian farmer and poet Claudio Bianchi, solitude and unvarying routine are his greatest desires. Yet when a unicorn suddenly appears almost on his doorstep, Claudio falls in love with her beauty. When a mobster tries to make the beautiful unicorn serve his own wants and needs, Bianchi defends the unicorn, learning that to love is to sacrifice and that beauty is found in communion with others. This novel shows that beauty is more than an idea. Christians understand beauty is made real in Jesus Christ, who often arrives without warning and with unforeseen consequences. (Caution: an affair)

The Bear and the Nightingale

Katherine Arden

Vasya’s devoutly Orthodox stepmother is destroying the ancient rituals of hearth and home that previously kept the family safe from winter’s terrors. Frightened by her increasingly insane stepmother, Vasya can call upon an ancient power to defeat a vampire and ensure the winter-king’s bear-demon brother remains bound, or watch as everyone she loves dies from winter’s bite. Arden uses her extensive knowledge of Russian folklore and history to craft a tale of a young woman finding her way in a dark and dangerous world.

The Heart of What Was Lost

Tad Williams

Duke Isgrimnur has pursued the defeated Norns to their last citadel, but they do not give up. As he besieges them, he confronts questions about the morality of genocide and the price of victory. Meanwhile they confront their inability to change, their nostalgia for lost glory, and their undying hatred of all things human. Williams’ story explores the moral vagaries of war through the eyes of generals and soldiers and explains the ultimate fate of the Norns in this bridge novel between his classic trilogy Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn and his forthcoming The Last King of Osten Ard trilogy.

The Facefaker’s Game

Chandler J. Birch

Trust is elusive for Ashes, an orphan living in the slum of Burroughside, where evil Mr. Ragged runs the gangs and the night is filled with walking terrors. When the rebel Artificers recruit Ashes, he soon discovers magical abilities that may allow him to tip the balance of power. Overthrowing the entrenched Mr. Ragged is more difficult than he expects, and Ashes will have to learn to trust others—even in the face of betrayal. Birch’s debut novel is an exciting adventure tale of likable rogues and evil noblemen. (Cautions: swearing and implied pederasty by an evil character)



James Thurber (MLM/AP)

James Thurber is chiefly known as the American humorist who wrote “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” a staple story for high-school English classrooms. A few have gone on to read collections of his columns for The New Yorker, but one of his best but overlooked works is The 13 Clocks. Recently released in a new edition including the original Marc Simont color illustrations (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 2016), this not-quite fairy tale about a prince who saves a princess is, as Neil Gaiman writes in his introduction, full of “magical, wonderful, tasty words.” On one level, it is a predictable fairy tale that any reader of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen would enjoy, but on another, it is a raucous play of words that sounds like poetry, reads like prose, and narrowly skirts the line between the ridiculous and the profound. —J.O.