Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Where to Start if You're New to Speculative Fiction

via Pixabay
I remember when I was seventeen years old and picked up Lord of the Rings. "I don't really want to get into the fantasy genre," I told my parents. "Just this one." We were new to the fantasy genre at the time and had hesitations. Was a wizard good? What about magic? Is the genre as a whole demonic....or is it creative Christian liberty?

As I've found authors I love and trust, times have changed. I attended my first Christian speculative fiction conference this July, and while I don't write speculative fiction, I enjoy reading several good authors from that field. The genre is full of creativity and imagination, and ultimately requires the same amount of discernment as any genre you pick up. I certainly respect those who still might wish to stay away from it. But today's post is about a couple of books that I think everyone would be comfortable with, if it's something you're considering.

Jules Verne wrote the 19th century equivalent of speculative fiction. While his books are so familiar to us as to almost feel like historical fiction now, they're still very much sci-fi. At the time, his inventions weren't invented yet. Man hadn't gone to the moon (From the Earth to the Moon.) Advanced weaponry wasn't a factor in their world (The Begum's Millions). Neither was advanced naval technology (Matthias Sandorf, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). His fiction, while not all of it proved true (there are no people in space) proved innovative and prophetic about the future. There can be a fruitful place for that in the world of innovative Christian writers today.

Today's stories I'm showcasing aren't sci-fi. But they are speculative, and whether you love that genre to pieces, or come at it with hesitations, I think both of these offerings provide quality storytelling and a comfortable introduction to the fantasy world.

Crowning Heaven
Emily Hayse's Crowning Heaven is a portal fantasy, a book that takes the character from Earth to another world and a new set of adventures. Heaven Cassidy, the protagonist, finds she is the queen of two kingdoms...one of which wants to crown her, and one of which wants to kill her.

photo via Goodreads 
I've loved following this dear friend from first draft to published book. Influenced by authors like Rosemary Sutcliff, the queen of historical fiction, Crowning Heaven could almost read like historical fiction if it weren't for the new land. Heaven Cassidy is a protagonist anyone could be proud of as an example and a friend. As she learns her new role, she tackles hesitant lords and warring queens with grace, fairness, and courage. Bringing a portrait of gentle strength to the pages, Heaven is for those wanting strong heroines who don't have to be brash. Full of men and women who understand and fight for nobility, Crowning Heaven provides not only adventure and battles, lords and ladies, but also characters who inspire their YA audience to embrace maturity and adulthood. Epic love and sacrifice crescendo in its final pages. Also, this book would provide the most beautiful castle (Skymere) to ever grace movie screens. If you like historical fiction and want to try speculative, you're going to love Crowning Heaven. You can find it on Amazon for the price of a coffee drink!

The Electrical Menagerie 
Mollie Reader's The Electrical Menagerie sold out at Real
m Maker's. Arbrook Huxley and Sylvester
photo via Goodreads
Carthage take their crew of robots into a circus competition to win a chance to perform for the queen of Celestia. If they win, they'll keep their sinking act alive--but a murder among the circus acts shows that someone will do anything to stop the competitors.

If you liked The Greatest Showman's circus themes (or even if you didn't) you'll love this book with steampunk flavors. Because I'm not familiar with spec fic, I didn't have a lot of authors to compare it to, but the general flavor and robotic inventions felt like Jules Verne for the next generation (skipping all the slow geographical bits). In The Electrical Menagerie, the characters travel on cool sky trains, and Huxley and Carthage's relationship filled my ever-thirsty heart for good character friendships. As Sylvester tries to hide past weakness and prove himself, he's a loveable protagonist to travel with, providing a great weekend read or family read-aloud. It's even on sale for 99 cents right now! 

If you're in the mood for an epic historical fantasy, or a really fun robotic circus competition, I think you'll love these 2018 releases. I can't wait to read more from both these ladies!


  1. Such good places to start! I haven't yet read EM but I'm dying to. I'd also like to throw out there that The Hobbit is good, smashing fun for a variety of ages. (So much better than the movies, of course!) It was actually intended to be written for children, and is not quite as heavy as LotR.

    1. I think you'll love EM! And YES, great suggestion on the Hobbit! That's such a good one. Adventurous and funny too--we read that all together and really enjoyed it.


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