Since Visit England has made 2017 the Year of Literary Heroes, I thought it only fitting to list my top literary heroes. Or at least, my top heroes in 2017 as my list tends to change all the time. For this list, I have given myself only two rules:
- Prose writers only. I could do an entire list just for scriptwriters.
- I need to have read at least two of the author’s books in order to give myself a good enough overview of their work.
So in no particular order, these are my top literary heroes of this year:
- J.R.R. Tolkien
Of course, how could I be a fantasy writer and not mention Tolkien? There’s a reason he was responsible for inventing the modern fantasy genre; he wrote some of the best fantasy books ever. His prose is rather outdated and his writing does have some problematic aspects from a modern viewpoint (the whitewashed movie casting certainly doesn’t help), but they are still amazing, immersive stories that I could never hope to beat.
- Rachel Caine
I’ve previously made a long gush about how much I love Caine’s Great Library series. It’s rare for a work to be so creative that I actually have dreams about being a part of it. Plus it has a well-rounded cast who I feel I would follow to the ends of the Earth and back.
- George R.R. Martin
It’s odd that I’ve included both Martin and Tolkien on my list as in many ways their works are the complete opposite of each other in regards to sex, violence, and general tone. But I also like how a fantasy series can be more adult and frank with its mature themes. The world of Westeros is far from the Christianised idealism of Middle Earth, yet that makes us root for the characters within it even more. While the huge cast of characters can be frustratingly confusing at times, I still admire how Martin can balance them all and make even minor characters feel fleshed out.
- Terry Pratchett
He wrote a hilarious parody of the fantasy genre which ended up becoming an integral part of the genre itself. That and I’m impressed by just how much literary output he could produce, even after being diagnosed with an illness which limited his writing ability. All of that and his stories are still hugely entertaining to read. I sort of think of them as the perfect cure for a gloomy day.
- Phillip Pullman
His Dark Materials isn’t just a great work of literature and an exciting fantasy adventure. I also admire how Pullman deeply respects his child audience and isn’t afraid to make them ask deep questions about religion, morality, and authority. Oh and armoured polar bears.
- Carole Wilkinson
Caine is one of the few writers who can make me dream about living in her fantasy world. Wilkinson is the only one who can make me salivate with her lush descriptions of food. That and her Dragonkeeper series is a fantastic story which has clearly had a tonne of research put into the historical China setting, blending real life history with folklore perfectly.
- Philip Reeve
Reeve is a great example of how diverse a single author can be. Most of his books I have read are steampunkish (even though he supposedly hates the word steampunk) and yet can range anywhere from childlike whimsy to a post-apocalyptic hellhole. The Larklight trilogy has such a cool concept that it is hard not to get sucked into it, while The Mortal Engines series is just as imaginative but isn’t afraid to show how couples in love can still do horrible things to each other out of anger.
- Tove Jansson
The rest of Finland would hate me if I didn’t include Jansson, but after being paid to write some articles about her, I came to appreciate her on another level. The Moomins series works on idyllic Finnish nostalgia while also being hugely ahead of its time and delving into themes of depression and forbidden love. Did you know that one of the books included a same-sex couple when homosexuality was still illegal in Finland? One of her literary novels The True Deceiver is also one of my favourites, which is saying a lot considering how little I read literary fiction, and even in translation it comes across as masterfully written.
Who are your literary heroes and why do you idolise them? Tell me in the comments below!