Life Happenings increased and Murphy’s Law decided my door step made a great place to sunbathe, but I got the Maguffin and banished the evil overlord. For now, at least. I sense a sequel in the works.
Ah-Ha moment: Two of my favorite novels (the ones I’ll have to re-cover once their spines fail from re-reading so often) have a good bit of setting in their openings. The Hobbit (I’ve already re-covered that one after it ended up in three pieces), Magic’s Pawn, …. Well, I guess more specifically they start with houses. The Hobbit has a cozy house, Magic’s Pawn has a crazy one. Ashkevron Manor has been re-styled, remodeled, and added onto so much it’s like a maze, and I thought that was really cool. I guess moving 25 times really leaves a mark on someone XD
The Hobbit resonates because it’s so quiet, so peaceful. I’ll go with Option B on the homework and pick Magic’s Pawn, instead. Mercedes Lackey.
“Your grandfather,” said Vanyel’s brawny, fifteen-year-old cousin Radevel, “was crazy.”
He has a point, Vanyel thought, hoping they weren’t about to take an uncontrolled dive down the last of the stairs.
Radevel’s remark had probably been prompted by this very back staircase, one that started at one end of the third floor servants’ hall and emerged at the rear of a linen closet on the ground floor. The stair treads were so narrow and so slick that not even the servants used it.
The manor-keep of Lord Withen Ashkevron of Forst Reach, was a strange and patchworked structure. In Vanyel’s great-great-grandfather’s day it had been a more conventional defensive keep, but by the time Vanyel’s grandfather had held the lands, the border had been pushed far past Forst Reach. The old reprobate had decided when he’d reached late middle age that defense was going to come second to comfort. His comfort, primarily.
Not that Vanyel entirely disagreed with Grandfather; he would have been one of the first to vote to fill in the moat and for fireplaces in all the rooms. But the old man had gotten some pretty peculiar notions about what he wanted where–along with a tendency to change his mind in mid-alteration.
Vanyel goes on to describe this crazy huge manor that kind of reminds me of the Winchester House with windows everywhere, hidden rooms, relatively inaccessible balconies, and my immediate thought is that I want to go exploring this place. Admittedly Vanyel only spends the first few chapters here and the rest of the book is spent in the capitol city of Valdemar, but the story part, the conflict and character-driven part, take completely over once Van and Radev are outside of the staircase. The crazy layout of the house is used to give Van a hiding place near the library later that’s not likely to be found out, but there aren’t wild descriptions later.
The house caught my attention, but the story drug me off into Vanyel’s life, much like in The Hobbit where Tolkien started with Bilbo’s house and then went on an EPIC QUEST! Lackey’s story is more personal, more internal than Tolkien ((and a lot of hers are)) but they both start out with solid descriptions of a House, and those are really the only two books where I completely remember the first few pages. Most of the other books I’ve read, I remember climactic moments, little bits of scenery, and a general gist of the story, but those two are so firmly fixed in my mind that I can see them just thinking about the book.
I’ve moved so much that I pay attention to places, and houses specifically, so that’s probably why they resonate with me, but it’s also the “here’s where you are” vibe that really grounds me into the story. It also might be why I’m disappointed in a lot of modern fantasy. (though that might be mostly due to the fact that I have to read a lot on Wattpad, which is mostly first or second drafts and not professionally edited)
Apparently the going advice is to let the reader fill in the details, but we are more than just people walking around. We interact with our world and our surroundings and our surroundings shape us.
Knowing Van came from this crazily built and re-built house makes it make a lot of sense that he doesn’t get lost easily. He’s not just blessed with a good sense of direction, his upbringing and origins shaped his character. Him being able to find the secret corners of the place that no one uses anymore also shows a lot about how observant he is, which comes in handy later in the story, and using those spaces shows his isolation, giving me feeling that he doesn’t feel welcome in the more trafficked parts of the house well before we see that in action with the rest of the family.
Just like knowing Bilbo came from this secure, comfy, hobbit hole with lots of full pantries shows how much Bilbo grows through the story. From whining about a handkerchief to slipping through a cave and losing all his buttons.
………..I’m gonna stop before I go any further into soapbox mode. I really love scene and setting description and I’ll forgive a lot in a book that does good worldbuilding.
Author of Renn and The Springfield Chronicles