I live in my own world. I genuinely believe in magic, and if you ask me, God and the Universe are one and the same. My most trusted confidante is the Grim Reaper, and my happy place is that little hour in the morning where you can still see the stars, but the sun’s starting to rise—that space of time where polar opposites merge and create a little thing called magic hour.
Confusing? Maybe. But considering fantasy novels have shaped my belief system and helped me cope with fears within me that I have yet to fully understand, it makes sense that my head works a little…. oddly.
Out of the endless pit of fantastical creatures such as vampires, werewolves and witches, my fantasy home is the faerie world. Three years ago I picked up a random book at Indigo, by an author called Sarah J. Maas. It was Throne of Glass, a novel about an assassin that was enslaved and later taken to compete against other assassins at the castle. I will not spoil, but A LOT HAPPENS.
The series was made up of 10 books in total, and every single one is worth it.
Throne of Glass then introduced me to A Court of Thorns and Roses by the same author––a series consisting of three giant books, and a smaller tale of “the time after.” I read this series three times in two years, in two different languages. I will be reading it again in Spanish this summer. I cannot get enough.
Here’s the thing about fantasy novels—they’re a perfect balance between a reflection of egregious real-life politics, the inevitable evil that haunts us in our world, and escapism.
Fantasy is a genre that not only feeds your imagination and trains you to see things in ways that are otherworldly, but it also allows you to draw parallels with real life and understand things from a different perspective.
Game of Thrones sets a rather clear theme: the use politics for personal gain—at one point I was sure that Cersei was the fantasy version of Trump. Daenerys represented the left, and Jon Snow… well I’m still not sure what exactly he represented, but something to do with being in a perpetual state of conflict between doing the right thing and not wanting to get involved seems about right!
In books, you’re allowed a peek into a character’s mind—everything is humanized, even if the characters aren’t human. Emotional struggles, political situations, plans, secrets, all are things you as a reader are exposed to, and made to relate to.
Being able to deconstruct a situation in a fantasy novel and pinpoint similarities within your own life is a skill that breeds a better understanding of human relations. When a character is described, their thoughts and emotions are there. There is reasoning behind every decision, even the ones that are wrong. What that showed me was that everything people do is a reflection of who they are, what they’re going through. In other words, it simply taught me to not take things personally. Or at least to always try not to!
Reading about dark and creepy creatures haunting my favourite characters and the way they deal with them helped me deal with my own—I have a severe fear of inherent evil, I refuse to believe that anything is just evil, even magical creatures. What I loved the most about Maas’ books is that true to real life, there isn’t a clear line between good and bad—bad characters do good things, and good characters do bad things.
Simply put, fantasy novels show you a world that is so fundamentally different than yours, but creates links and bonds that shatter whatever preconceived ideas you had, and forces you to see things in a different light. Grim Reaper? Not always evil. Suriel, the monster from A Court of Thorns and Roses? Okay, kinda evil, but also restores balance.
Teaching you to break down preconceived notions and forcing you to understand a different kind of creature, even building fundamental similarities—fantasy novels, in so many ways, teach you to be accepting, non-judgemental and to appreciate even the things you hate or fear.
Well, how did I come to have the Grim Reaper as my closest confidante? That, little faeries, is a tale for another time.
Graphic by @justineprovost.design