Top Ten Books That Would Be In My Syllabus For Worldbuilding 101

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

There are few things that can make or break a novel for me the way worldbuilding can. I love me a beautifully developed setting, and as a huge fantasy fan I’m always nosing about for original, creative universes. Here’s the top ten books I’d totally force on students if I were teaching Worldbuilding 101.

  1. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Few books I’ve read have actually gone so well into setting that I understand the culture and the thinking of the book’s entire society. Seraphina does this fabulously without skimping out on character development and charm.
  2. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Hey, I have to mention the greats sometime, right?I read The Final Empire only recently, and though it’s a bit of a whopper, the setting it paints is breathtaking in its detail.
  3. The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. I adore the way this series goes into worldbuilding without ever info-dumping. I mean, we even get a popular gambling game!
  4. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. This Red Riding Hood retelling gives a nod to medieval France, where the story originated. The world of Crimson Bound is so rich in detail and folklore, I love it!
  5. Shattered Sea series by Joe Abercrombie. The biggest reason I love the world of these novels is Abercrombie’s spin on pagan religion. We have Mother War and Father Peace, amongst several other mother and father gods. It’s astonishingly simple, but so inventive all the same.
  6. Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. Why? Well, I can’t make a top ten list without featuring these books on it. No, kidding. Lynch actually devotes entire chapters to descriptions of setting – which seems like it’d be an infodump, but instead works like a montage of the casinos from Ocean’s Eleven with a narrator telling you how difficult it is to break in. It’s perfectly in keeping with these con novels, and really immerses you in the setting.
  7. Fairyland series by Catherynne Valente. Seriously, these babies are aimed at middle schoolers and yet the setting is so magical and charming and inventive. So it won’t come as a surprise when my next pick is…
  8. Deathless by Catherynne Valente. Valente adapts revolution-tossed Russia to fit the classic myth of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, and boy, is it amazing.
  9. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Granted, Martin has had like, tens of thousands of pages to detail his setting. But what a setting. I mean, I reread the history of the ASOIAF universe! It’s so engaging and well-thought out.
  10. Power of Five series by Anthony Horowitz. If there was ever a book universe that has sent shivers down my spine every time I read it, it’s this one. So original, and so, so creepy.

What books do you think have amazing worldbuilding?


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